Which Louis Theroux Is The Best Louis Theroux?

We made them fight to the death (ish)

Everyone loves Louis Theroux. His nervous little giggle. His long arms and tousled hair combo that makes him look like the monster from Cloverfield if it studied at Oxbridge. His trademark rectangle specs which perfectly balance his otherwise slightly-too-long face… You’ll never hear a bad word said about the long-time BBC stalwart and documentarian. He’s a nice bloke who makes good shows - what’s not to love?

But there are levels to Theroux. And so there are levels to loving Theroux. Which Theroux is the best Theroux? Do you love light-hearted A Weekend With… Louis or hard-hitting grown-up doc Louis? Some sort of between-the-lines Louis or an otherwise unclassified Louis?

We all have our favourites. We’ve all argued about it in the offices and the pubs. We’ve argued long into the night and refused to surrender the morning after. Relationships have soured and great loves been lost deliberating which incarnation is the purest and most perfect Louis Theroux.

I set about settling the age-old debate once and for all.

THE RULES

The many versions of Louis were whittled down from 52 BBC documentaries to 16 distinct ‘Louii’. Some were obvious - Gay Porn Louis - and some were more abstract, but all Louii were chosen with love and respect for the premiere auteur of the modern light-ent documentary.

These sixteen Louii were then placed into semi-random order and given a number from (1) to (16). I then wrote these numbers on scraps of documents left near my desk and placed into a black coffee mug and drew the matches at random. I swear. Totally random. This is serious.

Whoever wins each “match” faces the winner of the one directly below them, and then the winner of THAT match… Okay, you know where this is going.

LouPac

Illustrations: Dan Evans

THE LOUIS THEROUXS

Quite Brave Louis (1)

[as seen in Drinking to Oblivion]

Interviewing Aurelie, a charming, sadly-doomed French alcoholic, Louis is accosted by her boyfriend - a block-headed ‘Nasty’ Nick Cotton meets Nil By Mouth by way of every aggravated-assault charge ever bully - but Louis stands his ground. Just about.

Repeating-Things Louis (2)

[as seen in several]

Talking to Louis Theroux sometimes feels like an infinite feedback loop - “I don’t like doing drugs but I do them anyway, Louis.” “So you… Don’t like doing drugs, but you do them anyway?” - but one that kind of lulls away defences as the sea erodes soft cliffs. Pretty sure Louis Theroux is doing some kind of mind control shit now.

Gentle Step Dad Louis (3)

[as seen in A Different Brain]

When Earl - a lad from the West Midlands whose personality has been altered by a massive brain injured sustained in a horrific car accident - comes in and has a go at his own mum in the kitchen, Louis is suddenly in his element. “Don’t you think you should say sorry to your mum, Earl? Did you just come in here and make your mum cry because you lost at FIFA?” Earl begrudgingly apologises and you just know he wants to hug Louis forever and never let go, or punch him in the face. Either way, it’s beautiful.

Oh No, Nazis Have Surrounded Louis Theroux Louis (4)

[as seen in Nazis]

Okay, Louis rightly messed his 36L chinos when he was gang-flanked by a crew of neo-Nazis. Carried on though, didn’t he? Didn’t let racism win. Good on Louis imo.

Quietly Losing Patience With Alcoholics Louis (5)

[as seen in Drinking to Oblivion]

Exasperated, breathing a little more terse, Louis bends over to pick up a poor guy at the end of his cosmic tether, asking him quietly not to drink so much vodka that it causes you to blackout. Louis shows himself to be a tremendous source of strength and calm, even in the toughest circumstances, like a Diptyque candle in a motorway service station men’s room.

eubank

Smirking At Chris Eubank Louis (6)

[as seen in When Louis Met… Chris Eubank]

Chris Eubank is the monocled avatar of working class self-hatred, essentially a black Milo Yiannopoulos with big arms and a cravat, and Louis just smirks at him. He just smirks straight through him. Attaboy, Lou.

Louis Theroux Doesn’t Know If Has To Bang The Hamiltons Louis (7)

[as seen in When Louis Met… The Hamiltons]

Christine Hamilton is nibbling at your ear. Neil Hamilton is whispering “More of this Chablis Grand Cru, Louis?” like a big Tory snake. Christine Hamilton is slowly unfurling a pearl necklace that’s become caught in her hair. Neil Hamilton has somehow procured a Harris tweed condom. Louis Theroux smiles - and shudders - and smiles some more, and gets on with his goddamn job.

Rapping Louis (8)

[as seen in Gangsta Rap]

Louis is, naturally, eternally, out of his comfort zone - and he THRIVES. “My money doesn’t jiggle jiggle, it folds/I wanna see you wiggle wiggle, fo’ sure,” he raps. “It makes me wanna dribble dribble, you know?”

Wrestling Louis (9)

[as seen in Wrestling]

Wrestlin

Just this picture.

Dancing To “Groove Is In the Heart” Louis (10)

[as seen in Adam & Joe With Louis Theroux Dancing To Groove Is In The Heart back in 1990

This one is probably cheating but Louis Theroux dancing his little heart out - and his little hat off - to Groove Is In The Heart with Adam Buxton and Joe Cornish - truly the Baddiel and Skinner that we deserved - is spellbinding.

Maybe it’s just the hair or the fact that his dancing mostly involves involuntary convulsions and extemporaneous robot arms - truly the holy ghost of Dee-lite flows through him - but it’s hard to deny we are watching a genius at work.

Straight Porn Louis (11)

[as seen in Porn]

While observing a porn shoot in a steamy locker room set, Louis - wearing the widest leather jacket you’ve ever seen, like if Giant Haystacks was a serial flasher, because 1997 was a disturbing time - leans over to the director like, “Is this real?” He’s watching an actual porno. A man and a woman are fucking less than ten yards away from his face. It’s adorable, sure, and he must’ve been incredibly humid, but this level of naivety is not only cloying but his interruption is also really eating into an earnest, low-key porno’s production budget.

Gay Porn Louis (12)

[as seen in Porn]

Louis shows up in gay porn film Take A Peak dressed in an army grey mountain police uniform to warn people of a prisoner who has escaped a local jail. He barely falters, expounding respect and raw “Hello gentlemen, I am truly a police officer, yes I am” gravitas, while five professional sex-actors watch on. And you are so proud of him.

Miami Jail Louis (13)

[as seen in Miami Mega Jail]

Louis Theroux excavated the notorious correctional facility with decorum and patience, but let’s just say that Louis Theroux would get so murdered - so very murdered that police show up and are just like “?????”, so murdered that grey faced newsreaders, when announcing the murder of beloved filmmaker Louis Theroux, just laugh and go “Fucking hell” - that it’s probably gotta be chalked up as a loss.

Shirtless Louis (14)

[as seen in several]

For a man who has such a soft body, with an oddly concave chest, little slumped shoulders, like a scared little boy standing on a high diving board, his skin a sort of milky grey, he doesn’t mind showing it off. He is the body positive charming documentarian role model that we’ve been waiting for.

Gently Nodding Louis (15)

[as seen in Transgender Kids/everything]

Louis has made the simple act of nodding and smiling into an art form, and for that he should be commended.

Very Beautiful Louis (16)

[as seen in Infomercials]

He looked very beautiful.

gimp

Illustrations: Dan Evans

ROUND ONE

Smirking At Chris Eubank Louis (6) vs. Gay Porn Louis (12)

Oh, man, shit. This is hard. Smirking At Chris Eubank Louis (6) had Theroux at his charming, quietly probing best - managing to worm his way into the psyche of a notoriously tough customer - whereas Gay Porn Louis (12) had Louis in a gay porn film. Gonna have to give it to (12) for the sheer reason that he’s dressed like a Mountie and doesn’t have to speak to a guy in a monocle.

Winner: Gay Porn Louis (12)

Quietly Losing Patience With Alcoholics Louis (5) vs. Gently Nodding Louis (15)

We’re in the first round’s Polite Louii clash - a tough one, for sure. I think I’m gonna give it to Gently Nodding Louis (15) for the sole reason that I want Louis’ infinitely understanding face to be the last one I ever see.

Winner: Gently Nodding Louis (15)

Dancing To “Groove Is In the Heart” Louis (10) vs. Rapping Louis (8)

Up yours, Fate. Up yours, this game. Two of my favourite Louii, drawn together in the very first round. This is bollocks. I mean, I guess I have to give it to Dancing To “Groove Is In The Heart” Louis (10) seeing as it is a much rarer Louis than Rapping Louis (8). Goodnight sweet gangsta rap prince.

Winner: Dancing To “Groove Is In the Heart” Louis (10)

Straight Porn Louis (11) vs. Shirtless Louis (14)

Shirtless Louis (14) wins in a dead-rubber because Straight Porn Louis (11) and his mad jacket are giving me a panico.

Winner: Shirtless Louis (14)

Very Beautiful Louis (16) vs. Oh No, Nazis Have Surrounded Louis Theroux Louis (4)

Louis gets points for surrounding himself with incredibly racist militiamen in the name of better understanding man’s capacity for ignorance, but Very Beautiful Louis (16) wins for his winning smile, feathered bob, and shining eyes.

Winner: Very Beautiful Louis (16)

Quite Brave Louis (1) vs. Gentle Step Dad Louis (3)

The battle of the New Louii, with both variants coming from his latest shows, but while Quite Brave Louis (1) makes a strong case - showing our hero as someone whose brass-nuts have swollen considerably since his early work - Gentle Step Dad Louis (3) nearly made me cry. In a good way.

Winner: Gentle Step Dad Louis (3)

Miami Jail Louis (13) vs. Repeating-Things Louis (2)

(2) is my least favourite Louii - sorry there, Lou - and Miami Jail Louis (13) would, as mentioned, get soooooooo murdered. This is tough, but I think I’m letting Repeating-Things Louis (2) go through by default since being really dead is a natural disadvantage.

Winner: Repeating-Things Louis (2)

Louis Theroux Doesn’t Know If Has To Bang The Hamiltons Louis (7) vs. Wrestling Louis (9)

HE NEARLY BANGED BOTH CHRISTINE AND NEIL HAMILTON, TWO PEOPLE WHO - I THINK - DON’T EVEN EXIST ANYMORE. Sadly, despite Wrestling Louis (9) having Louis being nipple-crippled by a man who looked like a giant haemorrhoid, it is (7) that advances.

Winner: Louis Theroux Doesn’t Know If Has To Bang The Hamiltons Louis (7)

ultimateworrier

Illustrations: Dan Evans

QUARTER-FINALS

Gay Porn Louis (12) vs. Gently Nodding Louis (3)

(12) nearly nicked it at the end thanks to the extra-long pause at the end of the scene - a pregnant “We are going to have sex now” pause in its most literal form - but I think I’m gonna have to let Gently Nodding Louis (3) squeak through with a split-decision win just through sheer number of nods.

Winner: Gently Nodding Louis (3)

Dancing To “Groove Is In The Heart” Louis (10) vs. Shirtless Louis (14)

You know what would be terrible? If Louis Theroux got fit - like, if he went back to the wrestlers or the bodybuilders or went to live with Mr. Motivator or whatever, and he just came back hench. You wouldn’t trust him. He would’ve lost his everyman allure.

His relatability is inherently tied to his smooth, milky body - like someone made a man out of candy cigarettes - and his whole shtick would be screwed. I think I’m gonna give the win to (10) since I’ve been thinking about how awful all our lives would be if Louis got really ripped and none of us ever got to have sex ever again because he’s just doing all of it.

Winner: Dancing To “Groove Is In The Heart” Louis (10)

Very Beautiful Louis (16) vs. Gentle Step Dad Louis (3)

Take my eyes, please, but don’t make me choose. (16) with his contoured cheekbones and “Wow, I look beautiful!” climax or (3) and Louis at his most heart-warming? You know what? I think I’m going to have to give it to Very Beautiful Louis (16) just for the fact that he got mad kawaii-fied by his stylist cum guru Chesiree.

Winner: Very Beautiful Louis (16)

Repeating-Things Louis (2) vs. Louis Theroux Doesn’t Know If Has To Bang The Hamiltons Louis (7)

Yeah, getting into an awkward threes-up with a disgraced politician and his sexually aggressive wife is infinitely better than repeating stuff all the time. Unless that thing you’re repeating is a threesome? Although, I can only imagine how weird having to simultaneously pleasure Christine and Neil Hamilton more than once can be.

Winner: Louis Theroux Doesn’t Know If Has To Bang The Hamiltons Louis (7)

pretty boy

Illustrations: Dan Evans

SEMI-FINALS

Whoever thought we could make it this far? Not my editors, that’s for sure [Ed’s note: kill me].

Gently Nodding Louis (3) vs. Dancing To “Groove Is In The Heart” Louis (10)

There are no easy matches when you get to this stage - every single one is a heartbreaker. And it is with the heaviest, most broken heart that I concede that (10) must fall at this noble juncture - I just can’t do it to that (3) face. (10) has that gormless smile, the flailing arms, the Jack-in-the-Box neck - I can’t hurt him. (3), though… You know he’ll understand. He will just carry on, smiling at you, and, yes, gently nodding - nodding so gentle it’s like a warm Dublin breeze through the last barley fields on an August dusk - and knowing that you only did it because you had to. I’m sorry, Gently Nodding Louis (3). I love you.

Winner: Dancing To “Groove Is In The Heart” Louis (10)

Very Beautiful Louis (16) vs. Louis Theroux Doesn’t Know If Has To Bang The Hamiltons Louis (7)

Actually, Very Beautiful Louis (16) wins this one at a canter because I can’t stand to think about Neil Hamilton possibly giving you the thumbs after - what he probably calls - a rollicking session of depraved bonking. Bet the dude uses fire-pokers and wants to do it on a big Enoch Powell blanket.

Winner: Very Beautiful Louis (16)

LT

FINAL

You never thought you’d make it this far did you? I didn’t. None of us did. The final. The bloody final. Who is the ultimate Louis Theroux? You’re going to find out.

Dancing To “Groove Is In The Heart” Louis (10) vs. Very Beautiful Louis (16)

At first, I was going to call this as a draw. How annoying would that have been? But I decided it had to be sorted on the day.

The pure, silly joy of (10) or the unexpected majesty of (16)? One is an obvious front-runner: Louis and two beloved comedy figures dancing like idiots in a kitchen to a really good, extremely-1990 song in the year 1990. The other a plucky underdog: Louis gets a makeover and looks very beautiful, like a porcelain doll Goku from Dragonball Z or some forgotten Italo Disco heartthrob.

It’s a tough decision but I think I’m going to have to say that, because it’s canon, because it’s a Louis-for-all, a Louis that’s available in satisfying entirety on Netflix, Very Beautiful Louis (16) is the winner. The way the dentist-lights of the make-up artist dance off his fresh new eyes, the rose of his jowl emitting a warmth of character so resplendent that your prejudices simply melt away. Ecstasy, reader. It’s pure bliss.

Thank you, Louis. You king among men.