Comedy is subjective.
Some people enjoy Patton Oswalt, some prefer Jeff Foxworthy, and maybe one person somewhere out there liked Carlos Mencia at some point. But for a long time, many comedy fans could agree that Louis CK was one of the best living comedians on the circuit.
Pre-masturbation scandal, Louis CK's comedy was unparalleled. His sets were expertly timed with thematic through-lines and numerous callbacks. His character - a self-deprecating, bitter but ultimately good-natured middle-aged man - was funny and relatable to a wide demographic. And sure, oftentimes his comedy was offensive, but Louis CK had an incredible knack for imbuing even his edgiest jokes with genuine empathy.
That's why his newest set, performed on December 16th at the Governor's Comedy Club in Long Island, was so surprising. It's not that it was offensive; it's that the entire set was garbage, neither well-crafted nor particularly interesting. It was simply an angry old man making hacky jokes and yelling about how millennials ruined his life.
Standout bits included:
-Suggesting nobody should care what the Parkland survivors have to say because they didn't even get shot
"Testify in front of Congress, these kids, what the fuck? What are you doing? Cause you went to a high school where kids got shot, why does that mean I have to listen to you? Why does that make you interesting? You didn't get shot. You pushed some fat kid in the way and now I gotta listen to you talking?"
This is the one that's making all the headlines. And while it's certainly offensive, and definitely too soon, it's mainly just a really bad joke. If you think the notion of people surviving school shootings by pushing fat kids in the way is funny, you might be a 12-year-old kid. Except probably not, because real 12-year-olds go through school shooting drills and understand that dying in their classroom is an actual possibility, and the best course of action is to barricade rooms. Not "pushing fat kids." The entire joke hinges on the premise that you'll find the idea of a fat kid getting shot to be funny. Ha ha ha! It also suggests that Louis CK has more perspective on the realities of gun violence than a bunch of kids who recently watched their friends get slaughtered in front of them. Hate to break it to you Louie but no, you don't.
-Complaining about having a bad year
"You ever have a whole bad year? You ever have an entire year that sucks - 365 shit cunt days in a row? I mean fuck. You ever have a time that's so shitty it starts to get funny? Like you just don't fucking - after a while you're like fuck. At first you're like ohhh. Then you're like Jesus. Like I lost so much fucking money in a day."
Amazingly, Louis CK managed to avoid any potential introspection in this bit, focusing entirely on the fact that he's had a bad time and lost a lot of money. It comes off as a "poor me" rant, which isn't a great look for a dude who non-consensually jerked off in front of a bunch of young women whose careers he had the power to destroy. Poor Louie, definitely the victim here.
-Ridiculing people who use different gender pronouns
"They're like royalty, telling you how to address them. 'You should address me as they/them because I identify as gender-neutral.' Okay. You should address me as 'there' because I identify as a location and the location is your mother's cunt."
Hey, did you know that non-binary people sometimes ask to be called by different pronouns that make them feel more comfortable in basic interactions? Isn't that weird and strange? Isn't revising pronouns a huge burden on you? Louis CK certainly thinks so. The alt-right and your 80-year-old uncle who has never met a non-binary person in his life would probably agree. The rest of us are way past this.
-A long screed about the penis sizes of various ethnicities, culminating in the assertion that Asian men are actually women
"You know why Asian men have small dicks? 'Cause they're women. They're not dudes. They're all women. All Asians are women. And they have big clits, really big clits, and when they have sex they just stick their clits in each other's pussies and then they procreate using math."
This joke was particularly original, because very few comedians have ever tackled the relationship between penis size and race before. Black people really do have big penises! And Asian men are feminine and not masculine and have vaginas because Asian penises are so small! And Asians love math! Wow, so true! If you really analyze this joke, you'll see that it's funny because blatant racism is apparently hilarious. Old school Louis CK might have pushed this joke even further to ultimately parody the inherent racism at play. Current Louis CK is content with making racist statements and calling them jokes.
-A story about pranking his friend with gay sex
"So I put lipstick up my asshole. And then I say to my friend 'you want to fuck me up the ass?' And he's like 'yeah okay.' He's drunk. All drunk men are gay. So he fucked me up the ass. And then he went home and his wife sees lipstick on his dick and he's got nothing to say. I enjoyed that prank so much."
During the entire recording, one particular audience member is going nuts for Louis CK. He's howling, laughing like a maniac at every joke. At the end of this one, which he loved, he audibly says, "Fucking f*ggot!" This was a particularly enlightening moment of the set because it clearly answers the question that is bound to pop up over and over again if you were a former Louis CK fan listening to his new stuff: "Who is Louis CK trying to appeal to?" The answer is this guy - a dude who hears an overlong, rambling joke about a man convincing his drunk, straight friend to have sex, finds that super hilarious, and audibly says, "fucking f*ggot."
Throughout the entire laughless 50 minute set, a single joke stood out as being in-line with the old Louie - a bit about how his daughter told him she thought comedians were pointless. He rebuts that the only interesting thing about her is that her dad is a comedian. Louis CK's best jokes have always been ones like these, biting, real, and personal. It was almost depressing hearing one like this buried in a set that would have felt at home on Ben Shapiro's podcast.
The worst part is that, considering this is Louis CK's supposed comeback attempt, it could have been great. He could have been introspective, truthfully analyzing how and why he got into the situation he did, mining the darkest parts of himself for the sort of self-deprecating humor he's always been known for. He could have torn himself apart for raw comedy gold. Given his recent status as a sexual deviant and social pariah, he was in a unique position to do exactly that. Instead he punched down, played victim, and pandered to the worst elements of his fanbase. The only running theme was meanness and vitriol.
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