Louis C.K.: A vengeful comeback
After admitting to sexual misconduct more than a year ago, comedian Louis C.K. pledged to “step back and take a long time to listen,” said Anna Silman in TheCut.com. He’s been listening, all right. Not to the women he hurt, but to “that furious, tiny masturbator on his shoulder, whispering in his ear: ‘Aren’t you, Louis C.K., really the biggest victim in all of this?’” A leaked recording of the disgraced performer workshopping a new set at a Long Island comedy club shows that he’s bitter and angry, seemingly blaming his downfall on today’s “woke” youth and PC culture. C.K. rants about gender-neutral pronouns, derides Asian men’s masculinity, and mocks the Parkland student activists as unqualfied to speak on public policy. “You’re not interesting because you went to a high school where kids got shot,” C.K. says. I always hoped that C.K.—whose comedy was originally based on examining his own bad behavior—“would find some way to redeem himself.” Instead, he’s leaning into being a “reactionary a--hole.”
“In other words, the new stuff is pretty much exactly in line with Louis C.K.’s previous material,” said Robby Soave in Reason.com. Pre-scandal, C.K. was celebrated for his transgressive comedy, such as jokes about child rape and masturbating on 9/11. “Those who suddenly find themselves balking at Louis C.K.’s edgy material should admit that the comedian didn’t really change. They did.” Like any good comedian, C.K. revels in tipping over sacred cows, said Kyle Smith in NationalReview.com, and nobody is more untouchable than the Parkland students. The uncomfortable truth “is that surviving a school shooting doesn’t make you an expert on any public-policy question.” The Parkland bit is vintage Louis C.K.
Yes, comedy has a problem with “PC scolds,” said Abe Greenwald in the New York Post. But “a growing number of comedians have come to see offensiveness as an end in itself.” C.K.’s best comedy dealt in “hard truths,” but his new material seems “crafted to wound”—and isn’t funny. I almost feel bad for Louis, said Alyssa Rosenberg in The Washington Post. He could have salvaged his career with an honest, introspective set about his abusive behavior. But he can’t accept responsibility for his downfall, so he’s stuck struggling for laughs with bitter jokes in dingy clubs. It’s the “perfect punishment’’ for a man who feels sorry only for himself.