Nuance. It’s a hell of a drug.
Over the weekend, audio leaked from a set comprised of some material that non-consensual masturbatory icon and also comedian Louis CK was working out. The blow back online from what was heard was pretty instantaneous, and probably put Louis in an even deeper public relations grave. Then again, he pretty much says in the stuff that leaked that he doesn’t care anymore what people think of him. That’s most definitely one of the first things anyone who has tried to make strangers in a room laugh develops as a self defense mechanism, so that’s the most unsurprising thing of this whole sad affair.
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The audio that leaked contained new bits on everything from transgender people to him opining on why he can’t say “retarded” anymore. Prose like this, below, reported by Slate.
But we started to feel shitty about it, so we changed it to intellectually challenged. What the fuck, it’s—don’t name the kid a thing he can’t say out loud. An intellectual challenge is can you translate Shakespeare into Latin and make it rhyme. These kids are not intellectually challenged, they’re intellectually fuckin’ done. They are! It’s not their sport! But we decided we didn’t want to call them retarded because we call each other that, so we went back to Nelson and we said, “Listen, Nelson, I have something to tell you. You’re not retarded anymore.”
“You mean I’m cured?”
“No, not at all. We just don’t call you that, ’cause it’s a terrible thing to call somebody.”
“But you called me that with—”
“Yes, but not anymore, because we shouldn’t.”
And he’s trying to wrap his head around this, which is difficult for Nelson, ’cause he’s fucking retarded.
Louis’ career has been marked by his unabashed willingness to “go there” and, at least to people listening and watching, give his unvarnished thoughts on topics. It’s what makes him so good to so many people. Anyone who is surprised by him diving right back into taboo topics with an un-PC point of view probably never paid much attention to him, or are seeing his entire comedic point of view in a different light after his admitting to being a creepy/pervy/sexually miconducty/career endy scumbag. Which is fine, but it really should not be shocking that Louis is willing to brazenly offend people.
Louis CK has put out a statement. “These stories are true,” he says. pic.twitter.com/8oCH7YhqnF
— Dave Itzkoff (@ditzkoff) November 10, 2017
Another thing that should be said in his defense is that comedy doesn’t have any “rules” by its nature, and nor should it. Comedy works best when it’s serving up truth in a funny way, and a comedian can’t speak their truth if their truth isn’t allowed to be spoken. If Louis CK is genuinely miffed by being asked to use preferred pronouns by the LGBTQ community, then by God he should have every right to make jokes like these if he wants to.
“You shouldn’t say that.” What are you, an old lady? What are you fucking doing? “Nyeah, that’s not appropriate.” Fuck you! You’re a child! Why aren’t you finger-fucking each other and doing Jell-O shots? Why aren’t you—“You should address me”—they’re like royalty, they tell you what to call them. “You should address me as they/them, because I identify as gender neutral.” Oh, OK. OK. You should address me as “there,” because I identify as a location. And the location is your mother’s c–t.
Even if they are bargain basement, hacky, trite little brain shits of jokes that have absolutely no basis in anything other than a right-wingers’ comment on a YouTube video or Facebook post. Louis CK should feel, in this country at least, like he can walk onto any stage that will have him, and deliver any super-duper cheap, lame, Old White Guy Who Doesn’t Get That Stuff Changes During His Lifetime routine if he wants to. That’s what comedians do, and as long as people are desperate enough for his most lazy of takes, he should totally do it.
If Louis wants to turn his undeniable comedic genius to bear on teenagers who were shot at, as cruel, heartless, and Donald Trump-esque as that is, he has every right to do so.
You’re not interesting because you went to a high school where kids got shot. Why does that mean I have to listen toyou? Why does that make youinteresting? You didn’t get shot, you pushed some fat kid in the way, and now I gotta listen to you talking?
Sure, before all the stuff about him being Mr. “Hey Can I Spank It In Front Of You, What Do You Mean I Can’t, Oh Well I’m Doing It Anwyay” came to light he was very anti-Trump. That doesn’t mean he shouldn’t just turn on his heel and like a craven, cynical, fame-addicted once-brilliant mind start doling out hardcore Fox News Uncle email forwards as routines. Let’s all champion Louis CK for abandoning a 30 year career that served society a heaping dose of insight for a chance to kick at transgender people and shooting survivors, right?
I will never have a scintilla of the comedic talent Louis has, and that’s what makes me so sad about this. Sad and angry. As a comedian, he has the right and even the duty to push any boundary he wants, and since I’m someone who takes that label as well, I’m forced to defend his right to deliver the worst material of his life. But what I don’t have to do is grant him the right to immunity from the consequences of skittering so far off the path he was on before.
I hope there’s a broader context he’s working out. I hope there’s more to the whole set that expands on his thoughts and shows us he’s still an intellectual person underneath the vulgarity we love so much. Because as of this moment, all the brilliance has been replaced by vapid, meaningless swipes at people that comedy is supposed to protect by attacking their societal predators.
If there’s not, then I know I won’t be able to call myself a “fan” of his work, but I’d never tell anyone they can’t give their money to a pathetic turncoat, if they truly wanted to.
Writer/comedian James Schlarmann is the founder of The Political Garbage Chute and his work has been featured on The Huffington Post. You can follow James on Facebook and Instagram, but not Twitter because he has a potty mouth.