Louie's 'So Did the Fat Lady': What Did Critics Think?

12 critics weigh in on season four's 'fat girl' episode

by | May 13, 2014 | Comments

FX aired a double-header of Louie Monday night, but it’s the episode “So Did the Fat Lady” that has everyone buzzing today.

In “So Did the Fat lady,” Sarah Baker (Tammy, The Campaign, Go On) plays Vanessa, a waitress at New York’s Comedy Cellar where Louie regularly performs. After learning that Louie asks out nearly every waitress at the club in a previous episode, we see him get asked out by the one woman he didn’t hit on — Vanessa — who also happens to be overweight.

Vanessa calls out the double standard of heavy men who aren’t willing to date heavy women during the final scene of “So Did the Fat Lady.” From a distance, Vanessa says, she and Louie “totally match,” but the reality is that most guys like Louie wouldn’t be interested — or confident enough — in dating women like Vanessa. For most critics, it was a stirring performance by Baker, and a stand-out episode by Louie, although some conceded that the monologue, written by CK, may have been a bit heavy-handed. See the reactions below:

Matt Fowler, IGN: “So Did the Fat Lady” was, for the most part, charming. A sweeter offering that took a big risk at the end by entering into a lengthy discussion about body image and sexual double standards as it relates to fat people in our society. Fortunately, because the episode took the time to introduce us to the character of Vanessa (Sarah Baker from Go On), and her likable, engaging persona, we were more willing to go with her there at the end when things took a more serious turn.

Tim Surrette, TV.com: “So Did the Fat Lady” was a magnetic piece of television, and one of Louie‘s best episodes.

Alan Sepinwall, HitFix: If this is going to be the last standalone episode for a while (and I believe it’s multi-episode stories for the rest of the season, even after “Elevator” concludes), it was an awfully good one, as both an education of Louie piece and a showcase for guest star Sarah Baker.

Eric Adams, A.V. Club: Initially, I had some misgivings about the conclusion of “So Did The Fat Lady.” I felt like the rest of the episode says what the monologue says, only with a little more finesse. I really enjoyed the ambling, Woody Allen/Richard Linklater feel the episode takes on during Louie and Vanessa’s date… But “So Did The Fat Lady” isn’t an episode of finesse — it’s an episode about moving beyond finesse, about being able to approach tough, difficult topics of conversation without fear of upsetting someone.

Michelle Stark, Tampa Bay Times: I can’t stop thinking about episode three, in which Louie fends off the advances of a heavy-set waitress at a comedy club before ending up on a date with her. What results is a powerfully honest monologue about body image, written by C.K. and delivered beautifully by Sarah Baker… Funny as it is (and, don’t worry, there are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments), it’s scenes like these that make Louie so affecting, so different from anything else. C.K.’s show is grounded in a humanity that makes it hard to stop thinking about after the credits roll.

Danielle Henderson, Vulture: I mostly liked this episode, but it got a little heavy-handed at the end. Not all of us fat girls have a secret speech stored inside of us, or are content to replace the possibility of love with the immediacy of hand-holding. I like that Louie grabbed Vanessa’s hand, but I hate that he did it to shut her up.

Willa Paskin, Slate: A woman as confident and comfortable as Vanessa would not, I don’t think, imagine herself as the victim of her weight and blame guys like Louie as entirely as her speech suggests. As a guilt trip, her speech is perfect; as a character exploration, it’s a little bit too much of a guilt trip. Vanessa’s teachable moment, and the episode more largely, is as scathing to Louie as possible. But it’s also condescending to Vanessa: I mean, if all Vanessa wanted in life was to hold hands with a nice guy, a girl as cool as she is could do just that. Wonder if we’ll ever see a fat girl on TV who demands more.

Eric Deggans, NPR: We never see this on TV — an overweight woman calling out the hypocrisy of the dumpy guy in her life. That’s the kind of gutsy, perceptive revelation Louis C.K. regularly writes. And actress Sarah Baker, who plays Vanessa, knocks it out of the park. In a single, sweeping moment of television, he’s made us all consider the hypocrisy of how we laugh at fat men and shun overweight women, sparing no one. Especially himself.

James Poniewozik, Time: In the Louie episode “So Did the Fat Lady,” Louis CK doesn’t use the phrase “check your privilege,” because earnest slogans are the death of comedy. (Also the death of drama.) But the episode, easily one of the most thought-provoking episodes of TV this season, is as good an illustration as any on TV lately of the phrase in action: look at yourself, look at your circumstances, think about what it would be like to not be you.

Kelly West, CinemaBlend.com: It’s scenes like this one — in all its honesty and realness, not to mention a great performance by Sarah Baker — that really makes Louie one of today’s best television shows. It’s not meant to be laugh-out-loud funny. In fact, if it was laugh-out-loud funny, we wouldn’t be forced to consider what this woman is saying or consider the raw perspective of a “fat girl” for a few minutes. We have to embrace the tension, instead of awkwardly averting our eyes and ears as Louie tries to do at first. And then, because it is a comedy, it ends with a joke to relieve that tension before the credits roll.

Jake Cole, Slant Magazine: The self-contained nature of each episode likely means this lesson will stick with Louie about as well as Rick Crom’s dignified takedown of Louie’s “ironic” use of homophobic slurs, but for the time being, “So Did the Fat Lady” stands out as one of the show’s high-water marks.

Ben Cosman, The Wire: The end of “So Did The Fat Lady” wasn’t perfect, but if it didn’t wreck you on some basic emotional level, then I just don’t know.

Did you see “So Did the Fat Lady?” What did you think of the episode? Fresh or rotten?

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