Louis CK and The Universal Struggle With Comedians

Iʼm going to begin this article with an admission of sorts. What Iʼm about to address is something Iʼve been grappling with all day and Iʼm still not totally sure how I feel about it.

If youʼve been following the news and managed to weed through the dredges of articles regarding the government shutdown, the wall, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez dancing (yes, our news has come to this) – you may have heard that comedian Louis C.K. Is in hot water after a bootleg copy of one of his performances went viral.

Iʼve been a huge fan of Louisʼ (yes, even after PenisGate), so I was critical of exactly what he had done or said to offend the masses and make headline news.

Before I sift through the layers of his controversial and problematic diatribe, itʼs first important to understand where I stand on comedy and content.

As someone who has studied and appreciated the art for years, it is my honest opinion that almost no topic is off limits. For better or for worse, comedy is one of the few forums that stands apart from all of the political correctness and pussyfooting that occurs in the national dialogue. But more importantly, it does it in a way that helps surface problems and issues most of us are too scared to broach. It lifts the veil on our deepest thoughts and feelings and holds a mirror to that, forcing us to evaluate ourselves in a funny and friendly format.

Is it offensive? Hell yeah! Can it be vulgar? Absolutely? But hereʼs something to consider – comedy exposes social, political, religious, and humanistic issues in a way that isnʼt supposed to make a person feel vulnerable or on the attack. Itʼs a brief moment in time in which despite all of our differences and issues – we can laugh in recognition and appreciation of such candid honesty.

So, when a critic attacked Louis CK for his use of the word faggot and how sensitive weʼve become that we have to substitute the word “retarded” for “mentally challenged” (as if verbiage somehow changes the condition or outcome of a personʼs state of affairs), I had to laugh.

As someone who has gay, black, autistic, disfigured, and disabled friends, I know that one of the things that shackles our bonds is our willingness to hurl insults at each other because we know actions are significantly more meaningful than a string of words.

(Plus, nothing is more fun than lobbing stereotypical insults across a table of friends at happy hour. If you canʼt do that with your friends, you might need new friends.)

But then I heard Louis C.K.s bit making fun of survivors of school shootings and my stomach sank. It wasnʼt funny, it wasnʼt clever, and it was in very poor taste.

Other famous comedians took to the internet to offer their two cents. Jim Carry was staunchly and verbally opposed to the material, whereas comedian Doug Stanhope defended his friendʼs routine.

And this right here is where the problem lies with comedy. Pushing the boundaries is necessary to keep humor evolving and fresh, but where does that line of appropriateness stop? When does something go from scandalously clever to just poor taste and who decides what that line is?

Thatʼs the precarious line all comedians have to walk and usually you wonʼt know how people will react until you deliver it. Itʼs also what makes stand-up comedy so suspenseful and beautiful – will this be a hit or fall on deaf ears?

Sometimes, you have to be willing to just put it out there and accept the backlash. Other times, you have to helm your ship a bit more cautiously and avoid certain topics.

While I personally donʼt find anything funny regarding kids and school shootings, I also am empathetic to the fact that you canʼt give a person free reign to insult a variety of people (which Louis CK has historically done), then act grandiose when something doesnʼt rub you the right way.

You either accept the circumstances from which the material is delivered (knowing perfectly well he didnʼt actually MEAN it) or you disregard him as an entertainer altogether.

Either option is perfect reasonable and understandable, but comedy isnʼt a Las Vegas buffet – you donʼt get to pick and choose what suits your taste and threshold.

1 comment

  1. Ed

    “You either accept the circumstances from which the material is delivered (knowing perfectly well he didnʼt actually MEAN it) or you disregard him as an entertainer altogether.”

    But he did mean it. The only problem with people is that they failed to define “it.”

    He wasn’t simply mocking people who had been involved in a school shooting. He was pointing out an absurdity that no one else would touch for fear that they’d be attacked, just as Louis CK was.

    His point, for those who can’t get it because they’re too busy being offended to even try to understand is simply this: being involved in a school shooting does not make you an expert on the problem of school shootings.

    What did these kids possibly have to say to congress that was educational or informative that any other person under the sun involved in any shooting couldn’t have told them? Who even needs to be told that being in a shooting is terrifying? We all get that, without having to be in one.

    He was mocking the seriousness of youth today, and I believe, also mocking how seriously we take these overly serious youth on issues they know little or nothing about.

    The subject of gun control, or what it really should be called, people control, has not been broached properly in American society. Having children testify before congress that guns are bad and scary, adds nothing to the conversation. Just emotion, fear, and anti-gun politics. None of that helps, and in fact, it hinders any progress on the subject.

    In the case of Parkland, there were a multitude of failures on the part of the school and the police. Saying that guns are bad and need to be limited or banned, or whatever, wasn’t instructive. Nothing was added that couldn’t have already been heard a million other ways.

    Louis CK was right when said being in a shooting doesn’t make them interesting. And he asks, why should we have to listen to you? Have you ever read a news article after a shooting and some eyewitness says, “I was just sitting in my house and suddenly I heard, bam bam bam bam. I thought it was firecrackers at first.” Oh, nice. We got the human perspective on what it was like to be at or near the shooting. But does anyone thing that helps at all? Does the person who lives next door to a house where a shooting took place suddenly have some special insight to the problem of people shooting each other?

    Of course not.

    Louis CK did a fine comedy job. And the people complaining are doing the routine, standard crappy job of criticizing the wrong then, and not helping anyone

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