Why are we OK with Louis CK?
Why Louis C.K.’s new set is so disappointing
Image Courtesy of David Shankbone, Wikimedia Commons
by Gavin Steven
Those of you stuck procrastinating in the library last year may remember a piece in which I speculated that Louis C.K. is planning to make his return sooner than promised. In his 2017 apology, the comedian claimed he will “step back and listen” and he did -– for a while.
Yet this week’s highly publicized club “leak” has the comedian boisterously spewing out “jokes” ranging from attempts to finally bring the Parkland kids down to earth to snowflake millennial gags.
You know, the kind that might still receive moderate traction on baby boomer Facebook.
Louis C.K. was once revered for his confessional style of humour. He regularly laid bare his dark side on the stage, with a degree of honesty almost unheard of in mainstream comedy. Today, some of his past masturbation jokes have aged poorly, now reading as oblique references to his #MeToo allegations. On his show, Louie, the show’s version of C.K. learns from his misadventures. Prior to 2017, C.K. came off as a highly reflective man.
However, in C.K.’s new set his self-reflection is replaced with bitterness. His only mention of his recent allegations of a repeated pattern of sexual abuse was to lament how difficult he found losing money and “fake” friends. Perhaps C.K. should note that the friends who dropped him are not doing so because they are fake, but because they don’t want to associate with a man like him any longer.
But with the “fake” friends and progressively minded fans gone, who can Louie turn to? Louie’s current reinvention seems to be inspired by figures such as Mel Gibson, who made his comeback with biopics after each of his two vodka-tickled snafus. The first of these was The Passion of the Christ, following Jesus of Nazareth during the last twelve hours of his life and the second that of Desmond T. Doss, an American pacifist soldier. Both films received half-hearted critical “scrutiny” (yet both garnered multiple Oscar nominations) then went on to become wildly successful in the American box office, revitalising Gibson’s career. The link between Gibson’s films and C.K.’s humour? The easy market of the American conservative voter. In general, GOP supporters love Jesus, World War 2 stories and dunking on school shooting survivors. They also tend to be quick to forgive sex offenders. Louie’s new set is not misguided, it’s calculated.
But, this it isn’t really what is so disappointing about Louis Szekely’s attempted comeback. For as long as we can remember, celebrities have been making returns to the scene after much worse. Kevin Spacey recently attempted to prove he is not unhinged and guilty by invoking his unhinged and guilty House of Cards character. I’m sure Gibson will likely tickle a bit of vodka and have to relaunch his career every ten years for the rest of his career.
What’s disappointing is how quick much of the online community were to forgive C.K.
Hop into the comments of any YouTube video discussing Louie’s new set and you’ll find a torrent of comments defending the comedian, questioning what he did wrong.
This view is not isolated to online either. Take the recent Golden Globes, in which Bohemian Rhapsody was awarded the best drama film. The film was directed by Bryan Singer, one of the many film industry veterans accused of sexual abuse during the #MeToo movement. Not to mention that the Golden Globes are voted on by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a group of journalists who were likely reporting on Singer’s accusations as they were happening.
What is so disappointing about Louie C.K.’s set is that it marks a turning point. Louie made an early bet and won. The #MeToo movement is now a distant memory, and the entertainment industry is well and truly back to its old ways – and we’re happy to be there with them.