14 Louie Things to do in New York City
Arts & Entertainment
by Jonathan Zeller, 04/16/2014
- more in arts & entertainment/
- more in itineraries/
After a long wait—season 3 ended way back in September of 2012—Louie is set to return on May 5.
The show not only receives much critical acclaim, it also shoots mostly in New York City. As such, we figured we'd celebrate its 14 new episodes with just as many Louie-themed things to do in the five boroughs. Enjoy them below (if we left any of your favorites out, please feel free to air your grievances via Twitter, Facebook, email or messages in bottles).
1. Walk out of the West 4th Street subway station and get a slice at Ben's Pizzeria
Louie's opening sequence features sights familiar to NYU students, late-night revelers and anyone who's headed to see or perform a set at the Comedy Cellar: the West 4th Street subway station and Ben's Pizzeria, which is open until midnight. Louie digging into his preshow meal of a slice on the run doesn't have the swagger of, say, John Travolta folding two stacked slices, but he has definitely earned his place in the Pantheon of Great NYC Pizza Eaters on Film.
2. See a show at the Comedy Cellar, and hang out at the Olive Tree Café
At the end of the intro credits sequence, Louis C.K. ends up at the Comedy Cellar, where many of the series' standup comedy bumpers take place. If you go to a show here, you'll see a series of shorter sets—and maybe, if you're lucky, a drop-in from a well-known act. The Olive Tree Café, where Louie talks with other comedians from time to time, really is a popular hangout for comics who perform upstairs.
And in a moment of life imitating art imitating life: this guy who set out to recreate Louie's opening credits on YouTube during his trip to New York City ended up seeing Louis C.K. himself while taping his own footage.
3. Stroll through Washington Square Park
In "Night Out" (season 1, episode 13), Louie walks through this park and discovers that his date, a woman with kids, doesn't want to date him because he also has kids. According to whoever entered the fun facts on imdb.com for the episode, Louis C.K. shot this scene on the day of NYU commencement, undoubtedly supplying much inspiration for graduating film students. The park brims with students hanging out by the fountain, musicians strumming a variety of instruments, canines playing in the dog runs and street artists hawking their wares.
4. Have a late-night meal at Veselka
Later in "Night Out," Louie—spent after discovering that clubbing is not his thing—brings his daughters here for a very late snack or very early breakfast, depending on your perspective. The Ukranian diner is open 24 hours a day. It has operated in the East Village since 1954, serving pierogis, borscht and blintzes to the late-night drinking crowd.
5. Go to Madison Square Garden
In "Oh, Louie/Tickets" (season 2, episode 7), Louie wants to get Lady Gaga tickets for his daughter, and his only connection is Dane Cook. Unfortunately, the two have a well-publicized history in which Cook has been accused of stealing Louis C.K.'s material. Louie meets Cook in his dressing room in the bowels of Madison Square Garden, and their confrontation was one of the year's most talked-about scenes. In an interview with the A.V. Club, Louis C.K. talked about Cook's influence on the setting, which ended up adding an extra dose of tension. The interview also details the circumstances of the filming, which actually took place at a junior college in the Bronx. MSG's owners just fixed the place up, and there are plenty of games and shows to see there. There's even a chance you might have a fraught exchange with an old friend.
6. See a Late Show taping
In "Late Show" (season 3, episodes 10–12), CBS executives tell Louie he's a candidate to replace David Letterman, who's retiring. Jack Dahl—a late-night comedy guru played by off-center auteur David Lynch—whips Louie into a suit-wearing, relatively svelte, polished late-night host, only to have CBS snatch the show from Louie's grasp at the last moment. In the end, Louie's left staring at the marquee from the outside. You still have a chance to see Letterman live before he retires for real (visit our TV Show Tapings page for details), or check the show out when Stephen Colbert—not Louis C.K.—takes over in 2015.
7. Catch a set at Carolines on Broadway
Like the Comedy Cellar, this is the setting for some of the standup bumpers on Louie. Thanks to the cover and two-drink minimum, a night at Carolines will set you back more than, say, one at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre or People’s Improv Theater, but it can be worth it if the headliner is an act you really love—you'll see a full set in a relatively intimate environment.
8. Get dinner at the Russian Tea Room
Facts are facts: if you were going to meet an uncle named Excelsior at any place in New York City, it would be the opulent Russian Tea Room. As such, that's where Louie chats with said uncle in "Dad" (season 3, episode 8). In the episode, Louie has lost touch with his father. His uncle, a Mexican diplomat played by F. Murray Abraham, admonishes him for this: "For shame. Shame on you. Shame on you. Shameonyoushameonyou. Shame on you." Eventually, the guilt spurs Louie to fly to Boston—though he doesn't end up visiting his father after all. If "Dad" inspires you to go to the Russian Tea Room, though, don't bother ordering two Cornish game hens like Uncle Excelsior—they don't serve them. But you can certainly have a glass of water, just as he did.
9. Meet someone at Grand Central Terminal
If you pick up a friend at Grand Central Terminal (or arrive here by train for a visit), be sure to take a look at the main concourse's astronomy-themed ceiling, which features artistic depictions of constellations in the night sky that—while artfully painted—are not fully accurate. In "Niece" (season 2, episode 12), Louie isn't there to enjoy the scenery; his sister unexpectedly leaves her young teenage daughter to stay with him for an indeterminate amount of time.
10. Shop at the Community Bookstore in Park Slope
The Community Bookstore has been open in Park Slope for more than 40 years. In "Daddy's Girlfriend (Part 1)" (season 3, episode 4) Louie meets Parker Posey's character here while she's selling books, and—with the help of an awkward but endearingly honest monologue—secures a date with her. While you may not meet a new squeeze in this store, you're likely to encounter the cat and two turtles that serve as its unofficial mascots.
11. Gorge on appetizers at Russ & Daughters
When Louie and Parker Posey do go on their date—in "Daddy's Girlfriend (Part 2)" (season 3, episode 5), one sequence is basically a minute-long ad for Lower East Side appetizing institution Russ & Daughters. As far as we can tell, they eat the following: Holland herring, some kind of smoked salmon, bagels with what we believe to be a whitefish and baked salmon salad and French trout roe, pickled tomatoes, glacé peaches and a slice of chocolate babka—according to the character Louie, it's the "best thing [he] ever ate."12. Eat at Zafis Luncheonette
Louie's on another date in "Bully" (season 1, episode 9)—one that's going quite well—when he peacefully defuses a confrontation with a teenage bully and thus costs himself his companion's affections. The setting is Zafis Luncheonette, a cozy, old-school diner on the Lower East Side. Drop by, have an omelet and don't feel pressured to fight any passersby who give you a hard time; if your companion can't see the benefit of peaceful conflict resolution, you deserve better. At least one online commenter has misidentified the scene as taking place at Chelsea's Donut Pub, which is, indeed, a Louis C.K. favorite. On the official Louie website, the comedian proclaims his love for their doughnuts (and he's not alone)—but also seems to indicate that the shop's proprietors made it tough for him to shoot there.
13. Ride the Staten Island Ferry
Louie follows that young bully home to Staten Island, where he discovers that the kid has a bad home environment. He gets there on this ferry, which has a lot going for it: it's free to ride, beer is sold until midnight and—if you'd like to use it as a sightseeing cruise—you can stand on the deck and look out onto the harbor and the skyline. The ship docks at St. George, a neighborhood for which our website has a handy guide.
14. Shop at Ikea
Louie accompanies a fellow parent (with whom he's previously had an unpleasant intimate encounter) to the Swedish furniture giant in "Ikea/Piano Lesson" (season 3, episode 7). Not surprisingly, things get uncomfortable and vulgar. A particularly engaging scene involves Louie defending his insufficient level of enthusiasm for a rug with language that won't make the cut on our family website. New York City's Ikea is located in Red Hook, a waterfront locale that makes for a good day trip in the spring or summer.