Ben Travers of Indiewire raved in 2017 that Louis “C.K.’s return to the stage showcases the confidence, charisma, and unflinching opinions you’ve come to love, and his material remains surprisingly off-kilter.”
In late December of 2018, Travers suggested that Louis C.K. is somehow now an Alt-Right figure, tweeting, “Who the fuck did he ‘listen’ to for the past year? Steve Bannon?”
In a 2017 Vulture review, Matt Zoller Seitz calls Louis CK’s 2017 stand up DVD “hilarious” and refers to him thusly: “Dressed in a sharp suit and tie, he radiates confidence and authority.” Zoller Seitz even referred to the then rumours about Louis inappropriate sexual behaviour as “a minor scandal.”
This “minor scandal” didn’t get in the way of the writer giving C.K. a glowing review. It’s almost as if he had figured out a way to separate the art from the artist.
In late December of 2018, the same Zoller Seitz tweeted, “Listening to the Louis CK set at the behest of my editors. Oy.”
In the 2017 special, Louis makes jokes about abortion, suicide, ISIS, beheadings, 9/11, uses a stereotypical-African American voice, makes fun of the Chinese, uses foul language, and much more.
In the recently leaked 50 minute bootleg of C.K.’s new set, he makes jokes about gender identity, school shootings, gay sex, the word “retarded,” the size of African-American men’s appendages, uses foul language, and much more. Same old C.K. In fact, classic C.K.
Twitter was of course, breathless with its outrage.
Hyper-woke former US Governor Howard Dean tweeted, “How is Louis CK different than Milo or the other right wing twerps?” (Referring to far right troll Milo Yiannopoulos).
Adam Best whined, “Guess he figured out that the best way to avoid any consequences and stay in the spotlight was to become a right-wing asshole.”
But it wasn’t just Twitter, of course, the hot takes were sizzling. Slate bemoans, “Louis C.K. is clearly unwilling to reckon with what he’s done.” as if a standup comedy routine is the place for such a reckoning, as opposed to, say, therapy.
The Daily Beast is even worse, shrieking that C.K. is pandering to the Alt-Right: “His actions are inexcusable. His refusal to apologize would be flabbergasting enough. But to pivot to alt-right pandering is just plain disgusting. He’s shown who he is.”
This wall-to-wall condemnation of C.K. from the monolithic think piece factory is not surprising, but you would think they would at least try to engage in the material and evaluate it based on artistic merit.
Not a chance.
They instead want you to think Louis C.K. is right wing. Why? Because “right wing” is think-piece code for “bad person.” All of the discussion of C.K.’s set by the usual scribes is couched in same language about how it’s “not okay” to say this or it’s “problematic” to say that. Unsafe, unsafe, unsafe!
In 2017 C.K. was praised for a performance that constructed a joke out of an ISIS beheading; one year later he is being lambasted for constructing a joke out of a school shooting. In 2017, C.K. could make as many problematic accents and jokes based on stereotypes as he pleased; one year later, he is being compared to Steve Bannon for doing the exact same schtick.
Robby Soave over at Reason is 100% correct when he says that “Louis CK’s politically incorrect comedy didn’t change. You did.” You see, social justice and political correctness have taken over the comedy world.
You can see it in the difference between the critics who praised C.K. in 2017 and then expressed disgust with him mere months later. Their cowardly pivots give away the game—C.K. has been “cancelled”, therefore his work must be panned.
Make no mistake. These people will do this to anyone. Many are gutless hypocrites. Many are playing along out of fear in the hopes their careers will be spared in this cultural revolution where being interesting is a heavy risk and context no longer matters.
The progressive cultural gatekeepers have become obsessed with a new brand, “Post-Comedy”—a term that refers to the new practice of using the stage and the mic to signal your superiority on social justice issues. Laughter is no longer required. These days, people prefer “woking off” to laughing. Or at least they pretend to online.
“Post-Comedy” is a dreary cultural development. A perfect example of this is Hannah Gadsby’s “Nanette”—a stand up special that was universally praised by comedy critics despite the fact that it contains very few laughs. It largely focuses on Gadsby’s trauma as a survivor of sexual assault. It’s a harrowing and emotionally raw one woman show, but it is not comedy.
Give me Louis C.K. over Hannah Gadsby any day.
Comedy is meant to be an art that conveys and explores the worst elements of human behavior. This provides us with comedic relief, genuine laughter, catharsis, and a chance to learn about the human condition.
And that is what Louis C.K. does with his new material.
Nobody is going to exit the club after hearing this material and develop
They may understand, on a deeper level, why young people are so risk-averse these days. Those are the ideas behind the jokes.
He wasn’t making fun of marginalized people or people who have gone through tragedy; he was revealing truths about those things, as any good comedian would.
He was simply practicing his comedic art.
The only thing that’s changed is that he is now doing it in a world where art has little to no value.