This week, social media was a-buzz after Louis C.K. did the monologue during SNL’s final episode of the season. If you haven’t seen it, he talked about every hot-button thing you can think of, from being mildly racist, to Israel and Palestine, to child molesters. Social media went crazy, I mean nuts, especially about the child molesters part. People said the kind of things they like to say on social media, like, “Did he go too far?,” “How irresponsible!,” and “What a moron.”
In my opinion, Louis C.K. didn’t go too far at all, and he certainly wasn’t a moron. I found the bit to be funny and well-crafted, and it was clear to me after a second viewing that he knew by the response he was getting from the audience that he was close to edge, or about to fall off it.
He started the routine about growing up in the ’70s and how there was a child molester in his neighborhood that everyone knew about.
If anyone could have been offended by this material, it should have been me. I was molested in the ’70s. I was only 14 years old when I was molested by a junior high history teacher. Being molested is terrible. In matter of minutes, you are robbed of your childhood. It’s embarrassing, humiliating and confusing. It’s one of those things that never really goes away. It’s something you have to keep working on, and it’s one of the reasons I’m in group therapy twice a week. Before I got help, it was something that I was filled with a lot of shame about and added to my already dark outlook on life.
But here’s the thing: I wasn’t offended by Louis C.K.’s monologue. In fact, I admired him because I thought he was being brave.
Louie took a big risk on many levels, certainly in the subject matter he talked about, and the reaction he got on social media is proof that he pushed many people’s buttons.
But just because you push people’s buttons doesn’t mean you did anything wrong. Often, it means that you are putting yourself out there and saying things that other people are too afraid to talk about.
I got into comedy to be liked. But the truth is, if you want to be liked, I am not so sure how you far you can really go in comedy. It’s our job as improvisers, stand ups and actors to comment on the ugly side of life so we all can heal.
Sometimes in my improv classes over the years students have done scenes playing molesters, and if they exaggerate it, it can be uncomfortable, funny and healing. I remember one of my students doing a scene about a guy who was a child molester and he was justifying it because he was a New Age Buddhist, so whenever anyone accused him of doing something wrong, he would justify what he was doing with some spiritual, bullshit reason.
Scenes like this are uncomfortable, sure, but they are important. Are we going to piss some people off? Yes. I’ve often found that people who are the most pissed off are the ones who don’t want to deal with painful shit. Maybe they were molested and don’t even realize it. Because they are not ready to look at it, they get mad at anyone else who does.
But what about the ones who are ready to look at it? Don’t we have a responsibility to them to bring topics like this out into the light? I say yes.