Right now it’s tough to remember a time before
COVID-19 the Chinese virus, but back in the fall of 2017, Louis C.K. was exposed (sorry) as a sex creep. #MeToo made him a pariah. He did stuff he was not supposed to do, and it was not okay. The whole world found out that his stand-up persona — a sociopathic pervert who doesn’t really see other people as human beings — isn’t a persona at all. That’s the real Louie. That’s what he is. And suddenly, a lot of people who had spent 20 years laughing at his edgy, offensive shock-comedy decided he wasn’t funny anymore. Things were different, he had changed, because he had hurt their feelings.
Except he’s still funny. He’s still Louis C.K. That’s literally how he makes his living. He didn’t suddenly become bad at his job just because you realized that he really is as awful as he’s always told you he is. He’s a gross, disgusting pig, and also he’s a brilliant comedian.
There are a lot of jobs Louis C.K. should never do. Coaching Olympic gymnasts. Clerking at Ross Dress for Less. Running a women’s shelter. I would not support any of those career moves. But he’s really good at comedy. He makes people laugh. He makes me laugh. I wouldn’t want him anywhere near any women I care about, and also he’s one of the funniest people on the planet. Both things are true. There is no contradiction.
So when C.K. posted a surprise one-hour comedy special on his website this weekend, I was one of the suckers who forked over $7.99 plus tax to watch it. I wanted to hear what he had to say. And he said a lot. No spoilers, but in the new special he does talk about what he did and what happened to him. He makes light of it, because that’s what he does. And he says a whole lot of other offensive $#!+, just like he always has. And it’s really funny. It’s a Louis C.K. comedy special.
It’s like McDonald’s. You know it’s not good for you, and you feel kinda gross afterwards, but you also know exactly what you’re going to get. Sometimes you just want comforting garbage.
C.K. booked the Warner Theater in Washington, DC last month, sold tickets, paid a crew to film his performance, and then edited it himself and put it up for sale on his own website. No Netflix, no HBO, no FX. All that corporate support and money is gone now. It’s just him, and he did it anyway. People who didn’t want to see him perform didn’t buy tickets, and people who don’t want to watch the comedy special aren’t paying for it. Which is exactly how it should be. He’s not standing outside your house with a bullhorn, making jokes about pedophilia and slavery and 9/11 and other awful stuff. If you hate his guts, you can easily avoid him. You just… avoid him. That’s all you have to do.
But nope! Where’s the outrage in that? Where’s the righteous indignation? Where’s the deeply satisfying hit of endorphins? It’s simply unacceptable that Louis C.K. is allowed to speak publicly in the United States of America, and people can actually choose how they want to respond.
So now we’re hearing about it. The critics run the gamut, from woke to super-woke.
The Daily Beast:
Feminist comedy writers:
The Mary Sue:
But that’s the thing: People were asking Louis C.K. to release more comedy. People do want to see him. They know what he did, and they know what he can do. They realize that you don’t have to be somebody’s best friend to appreciate his work.
That’s why Mel Gibson’s 2016 drama Blood Father is now one of the most popular offerings on Netflix. Everybody knows what Gibson did, and we were mad at him for a while. But he’s still really good at what he does, and it’s still worth seeing. Same goes for Louie.
As Kyle Smith notes at NRO:
Neither the Mary Sue writer nor I can look into C.K.’s soul and tell you whether he has made “attempts to learn” or accomplished “recognition or processing of his behavior.” As for addressing the misconduct in his act, he did so, albeit in a way that the Mary Sue blog probably disapproves of — i.e., via jokes. This leaves us with the only remaining complaint, that C.K. made “no donations to women’s rights group.” In other words, what is really unconscionable is that C.K. didn’t . . . behave like Harvey Weinstein.
Louis C.K. isn’t pretending to be somebody he’s not. He’s not groveling for forgiveness. He’s not flagellating himself, or at least not in the way he’s expected to. He knows he’s never getting his career back, which was at its height at the exact moment he fell from grace.
And he’s still telling jokes. And people are still laughing. You can be mad about it, in whatever time you have left on this planet. Or you can get over it, and yourself.
Just kidding! You’re never getting over yourself. Who the hell would you be then?