Alhough he’s made lewd, boundary-pushing jokes since the beginning of his career, Louis C.K. wasn’t a controversial comedian until the end of 2017, when he was accused of sexual misconduct. His illustrious career came to a screeching halt.
Public forgiveness for his inappropriate behavior seemed unlikely. After a nine-month hiatus, C.K. slowly filtered back into New York comedy clubs— much to the chagrin of many, who felt he should just go away forever— but to the delight of comedy fans craving a rebellious joke teller in an increasingly woke world.
Perhaps at the realization he’ll never ingratiate himself with everyone, the comedian is now fully back to his previous form, exploring jokes about material considered “off-limits” to those who feel comedians should have limits. Louis C.K. has never been about that life.
In a recently leaked audio recording from a stand-up set at Governors’ Comedy Club in New York, C.K. proved he has zero intention of editing himself to please an outrage mob that demands all public people follow their groupthink and fit into their non-triggering “safe spaces.”
The performance shows a true return to form, with the comedian finding humor in his drastically changed life. C.K. reveals, for instance, that he lost $35 million in one day, making him resent a new gold watch he couldn’t sell. It displays the Louis C.K. who mastered the art of self-deprecating comedy, reaching deep down to pull out the rawest insecurities induced by the trauma of his previous year.
Controversy over the performance stemmed from a clip that circulated on social media, in which the veteran comedian laments the “boring” youth of today, and how they act like an old lady by telling people, “You shouldn’t say that!” C.K. also jokes about his resentment about being told how to address “non-binary” millennials as “they/them.”
“You should address me as ‘there’ because I identify as a location,” he responds. C.K. also notes that today’s 20 year-olds are more likely to appear before Congress in a suit than they are to experiment with drugs and sex like he did. C.K. says he’s now being told what to do even by teenagers who are only known for being students at a school where kids were shot, ostensibly referring to virtue-signaling superstars David Hogg and Emma Gonzalez, who attended the school that saw the tragic mass shooting in Parkland, Florida last year.
To me, laughing at his new jokes felt like unbuckling the belt of political correctness and sensitivity we’ve been stuffed into all year. Finding humor in C.K.’s set does not mean you feel no sorrow or pain for the tragedy at Parkland. It simply means it’s okay to laugh at the crazy circumstance of grown adults taking advice on how to live from teenagers, instead of the other way around.
To say C.K.’s material received “mixed reviews” from the ultra-sensitive would be a gross understatement. Many journalists and Twitter users found the jokes offensive beyond comprehension.
— Amrou Al-Kadhi 🦄 (@Glamrou) December 31, 2018
Fellow comedians even condemned his performance, forsaking their roots as punk-rock kids telling jokes at The Comedy Store to become high profile icons of “social justice” outrage.
This hacky, unfunny, shallow routine is just a symptom of how people are afraid to feel empathy. It’s much easier to laugh at our most vulnerable than to look at their pain directly & show them love and concern. Louis CK is all fear and bitterness now. He can’t look inward. https://t.co/aQVG0rk87y
— Judd Apatow (@JuddApatow) December 31, 2018
Even Dictionary.com has given up on the actual meaning of the words “they” and “them” in the name of ridiculous political correctness.
For Louis CK and others … https://t.co/nQcNSgnd0Q
— Dictionary.com (@Dictionarycom) December 31, 2018
Twitter attached a trigger warning to their link on C.K.’s trending name.
Of course, the point missed by everyone “triggered” and offended by these jokes is that they’re jokes. C.K. isn’t some alt-right speaker rallying a crowd against survivors of a devastating school shooting. He isn’t advancing any political message whatsoever. He’s a comic trying to get laughs by connecting with an audience, and he is audibly succeeding.
No, C.K. isn’t trying to ingratiate himself with conservatives hoping he can survive among Trump supporters since he’s lost the intersectional, hyper-sensitive left. He’s making jokes the way he’s always made them: without care for what anyone thinks. He was always successful because he didn’t fear an outrage mob, because he knew comedy pushed boundaries and he was never afraid to “go there.” That’s exactly what he’s doing now, only many of his former fans have lost their ability to decipher a joke from a fantasized dog whistle for bigotry.
Louis C.K. is not for everyone, and that’s okay. There are a lot of comedians being hoisted as heroes of social justice who will not say anything even remotely upsetting. These trigger-free, intersectionally approved comics tend not to be the funniest, but hey, they can hang in anyone’s safe space. If Louis C.K. isn’t your particular brand of humor, then steering clear should be easy enough. Those of us who laughed at his particularly unwoke brand of comedy would like to hear more.