I’m cheating a bit on this week’s Movie Monologue Monday. This week we’re looking at Garry Marshall’s fabulous performance in the TV show Louie. That’s right, I’m using a TV monologue in a movie monologue series. Sue me. I make the rules, I break the rules.
I think that Louie is among the best that television has to offer.
In this scene, Louie (comedian Louie CK, playing a fictionalized version of himself) is summoned to the office of the CBS chairman (Garry Marshall). There he learns that David Letterman is retiring and that Louie is being considered as his replacement. Louie falters in his response. Marshall counteracts with this stunning speech.
This is fantastic writing. It’s a pep talk. It’s a call to arms. It’s a put-down. It’s a pick-up. I think it summarizes what many artists feel after years of trying to get something going in their careers.
“Look, Louie. We’re talking about the big game here so I’m gonna use big terms…. You’re circling failure in a rapidly decaying orbit. That’s the reality we’re talking now. But you can change that. It’s in your power to change that. Yes, you’ll have to work hard, you’ll have to do things you haven’t done before — and still, your chances are very slim. But you could change it. I’m gonna ask you one more time: David Letterman is retiring. Do you want his job?”
Marshall’s performance is so powerful here. He is so calm, so in control. I’ve mentioned this before and it bears repeating: Strength is not yelling, or ranting and raving. Strength is still, it’s quiet, it’s calm.
From a staging perspective, notice how he’s always given the dominant staging position. Louie and his agent are sitting still while Marshall gets to stand and walk. Plus, he’s often being shot from a low angle giving him an imposing physical presence.
The clip is rather long but it provides a good amount of context. If you want to skip directly to the monologue it starts at about 4:40.