Louis C.K.

Why We Should All Love Louis C.K.

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.

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6 replies
  1. Allison Black
    Allison Black says:

    Jimmy Carrane – you are a wonderful person. Reading this post reminded me of a workshop I had with Keith Johnstone in San Francisco. Keith reminded us that as an improviser it is our job to be our audience on stage – to make the “wrong” choices, to say the “inappropriate” things – to basically do all those things that the audience in real life wants to do but doesn’t. And this is the first time I have ever heard anyone articulate the job of the improviser to “stand up and comment on the ugly side of life” – I found that really valuable. I feel I am at a place in my life where I want to use the time I have to touch people, help them, make a difference. And that comment spoke to me. Reminded me that with my improv, like with so many other artistic endeavors, I can touch others and help others, even if I piss them off sometimes. Thank you.

    Reply
  2. Seth
    Seth says:

    I agree with you totally. Comedy shouldn’t be expected to stay within social mores, that’s where the learning can happen.

    Reply
  3. andy o.
    andy o. says:

    I laughed out loud just now, on the bus, when I read the Buddhist thing. Perps can really talk a “spiritual” talk. I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, and lucky I never killed myself. AND I will be looking for Louis’ monologue, since I didn’t see it live.

    Reply
  4. Trina
    Trina says:

    Hey Jimmy,

    I just wanted to say I totally agree! I think about comedy and offense a lot because I’m a minority and female, and socially conscious, but also can be offensive and crass with the jokes I tell. You probably remember the backlash from Amy Poehler and Tina Fey making jokes about Bill Cosby at some awards show recently – many were saying they told rape jokes and said anyone who laughed was a horrible person. But that’s so small minded. Comedy helps a lot of people, and I think any joke that puts the abuser as the butt is great. Because ignorant people do try to make victim blaming jokes, but these jokes make the abuser look like the fool, like the shitty person they are to have done that. It sucks that there people who’ve been hurt that can’t hear these things, but for those who find jokes about something they’ve been through as therapeutic, who are we to deny them as well? Phew, a long comment just to basically say I liked this post a lot.

    Reply
  5. Alan Baranowski
    Alan Baranowski says:

    You right on the money once again, Jimmy. If I don’t offened someone with my work I’m not doing it right. It is up to us as improvisers to hold the mirror up to the face of socitey and let them see themself in a new light. It all part of following the fear, that we learned about.

    Reply
  6. Gregor
    Gregor says:

    It felt like a great way for SNL to end, not just its season, but its run. There was Louis CK, at his best, stretching the genre to the brink.

    I thought it was funny. My girlfriend didn’t find it the least bit funny. Although she wasn’t offended. She thought Louis CK was trying to be shocking without figuring out how to make it funny.

    I was born in 1967, which means I was raised in the 70’s. I went to overnight camp. There was counselor we all loved who took our love too far. One by one, we all came to the conclusion something had to be done. But we didn’t dare ask the adults for help. You couldn’t talk to adults about anything. Plus, we didn’t know how to explain it.

    So we made a non-negotiable rule: you were never to be alone with this counselor. I remember one of the boys violated the rule. When he told us what happened, when he came to us crying, we gave him no sympathy.

    He violated the rule. So he must have wanted it. This sounds harsh. But it worked. He dried his eyes. It never happened again. At least not to us, which was all we could control.

    No one talked about this stuff then. No one talks about this stuff now. So I applaud Louis CK. Incidentally, you know what went too far: the prolonged Letterman farewell.

    All I got from it was how incompatibable I am with Network Television. My sense of humor felt molested.

    Reply

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