Abraham Lincoln fretted over the timing of emancipation, General George McClellan’s reluctance to take decisive action, North-South reunification, and his wife’s mental instability.
Louis CK worries about sex, his kids, and the decline of his flabby, middle-aged body.
The tendency to dwell on weighty matters makes CK a fitting choice to embody our 16th president on the small screen. (A distinction shared by such luminaries as Lance Henriksen and Sam Waterston, though not at the behest of Saturday Night Live). Movie star Daniel Day-Lewis’ currently running portrayal may net him a Best Actor Triple Crown come awards season, but CK’s the one who takes Abe to another dimension, tailoring the Great Empancipator to fit the established template of his own critically acclaimed sitcom.
History comes alive in a whole new way as the stovepipe-hatted, pudgier-than-normal Lincoln trudges up from the subway, choking down an anonymous West Village slice to get him through a set at the Comedy Cellar. Abe’s routine on slave ownership has definite echoes of Louis’ Season One musings on bestiality, a there-but-for-the-grace-of-god-go‑I flirtation rescued by profanity-laced moral outrage.
No disrespect to Day-Lewis’ First Lady Sally Field, but there’s similar freshness to be found in Saturday Night Live regular Aidy Bryant’s interpretation of Mary Todd Lincoln. Particularly when one factors in a Director’s Cut that restores the petticoat peeling material cut from the late night broadcast.