I am put off by how much backlash Louis CK's opening monologue has tethered since last Saturday. I'm all for subjectivity, but for people to attack Louis's character for his bit need to seriously lighten up, and verse themselves on what observational comedy is meant to achieve. If you find the content of this monologue (which touches on racism, child molestation and Israel/Palestine) too honest, risque or edgy for your liking, keep your opinions and attacks to yourself and maybe stick to Big Bang Theory and Modern Family for some safer materia. Louis job as a comedian is to observe society for exploitable oddities and flaws, then present them in a humorous way. Ultimately, the role of the comic (especially arguably the best in the game) is to make light. If you can't handle the dish, go night-night after your Nancy Grace or Bill 'O Reilly. His material, albeit more direct, is nothing new for what is possibly televisions greatest live program. Saturday Night Live has managed to stay fresh for 40 years. Since it's opening season, writers of SNL and Lorne Michaels have fearlessly and abrasively illuminated subjects deemed taboo. Not much has changed. Season one's racially charged skits were not only hilarious and iconic, but brilliantly constructed to get both laughs, and take away sociological and racial stigma. Whether you find the material humorous or not has no relevance on the ultimate purpose, which is to call attention and open up a dialogue for topics people weren't supposed to talk and definitely not joke about.
Take a look at this early SNL bit from 1975 that explicitly explores the topic of race relationships by having Chevy Chase interviewing Richard Pryor for a job. Chevy Chase suggests playing word association with Pryor, which has Chevy using progressively racial slurs at Pryor, to which Pryor's retaliates more and more. The skit crescendos with Chevy dropping an "N bomb" at Richard Pryor, in 1976. The result wasn't a flaunt of racist ethics, rather a deconstruction and satire of race roles. That's what makes SNL's material so classic, it's ability to use comedy as a medium to discuss what the masses won't. Much like that infamous skit that debuted nearly 40 years ago, Louis, a master comedian (and with his usually amount of honesty and sincerity) now puts himself in the position of a martyr. He affirms the bit may even risking his career, all in the name to bring laughs, and to deflate the sensitivity of the mainstream. Now the subject of slandered from idiots with no taste, no sense of humor, and no grasp of the what the monologue actually accomplished on a much larger scale. With scathing vulnerability, he presents these topics for us to consider, unfortunately society at large does not capitalize on a moment where it's okay to openly discuss race, politics, and mental health. on primetime T.V. All the greats: Carlin, Pryor, Hicks, Williams, Rickles, convey the ills of society under the guise name of comedy. The result is social media explodes with spit-fire accusations at Louis, but beneath that- people are openly speaking about these subjects because Louis made it okay to. The only other time society at large wants to get real about these touchy and sensitive subjects is when they are forged under the pressure and pretense of tragedy, such as in Ferguson/Robert Zimmerman and most recently Baltimore, like scenario. If we had these discussions more often, or embraced them when they came to the masses, we ought to reflect instead of waiting for blood on someone's hand or a riot to convey how we feel as humans.. How can people chastise his candor and willingness to point out society's flaws and make it funny? If you can't find anything redeeming about the invisible lines Louis crossed, then you're not ready to see other perspective. You're close minded at best and your thought process is set in stone at worst. I take comfort only in the fact that if society decides it's ready to engage in adult conversations about adult topics, Saturday Night Live will still be there opening the door. This monologue is nothing groundbreaking as for SNL's content and programming-- It's a yearly task set out by the writers, comics, and Lorne to challenge the public to find the humor and the courage to question everything. No topic should be off limits if we're able to freely satire politics, gender, orientation, race, celebrities, scandals, foreign affairs, war etc. weekly for the last 40 years straight.
And as for Louis's bit about child molestation, people need to first understand what the general purpose of stand up comedy and humor is on a philosophical and historical context before busting out their soapbox. For the people that follow me, I apologize, but skip ahead. It's unfortunate I have to spell this out to the politically correct, holier than now trolls attacking Louie yet lacking any knowledge of comedic intent. You see, folks, stand up comedy, isn't words arbitrarily strung together to JUST to make you chuckle. When done correctly, it is philosophy in living color. It takes a subject, and through a craft, comments on that subject, which no different than any other practice of humanities. Sometimes, when scholars discuss art (a dying breed) they recognize trends and then develop theories and form . Stand up is no different; there exists countless theories that explore the functionality of comedy and the role of the comedian. Some of these theories have predated the Bronze age.
Louie's bit about sexual predators, though undoubtedly pushing the envelope for network TV, is merely a demonstration of "Relief Theory" which maintains that laughter is a "homeostatic mechanism by which psychological tension is reduced. Humor may thus for example serve to facilitate relief of the tension caused by one's fears. Laughter and mirth, according to relief theory, result from this release of nervous energy. Humor, according to relief theory, is used mainly to overcome sociocultural inhibitions and reveal suppressed desires. It is believed that this is the reason we laugh whilst being tickled, due to a buildup of tension as the tickler "strikes".
Pedophilia is a nasty problem in society and Louis makes that be known. He by no means is advocates the practive. Yet In order to deflate the issue and open the floodgates to allow a dialogue he has to put himself on the line, and ultimately achieve what's damn near impossible: kill the tension (see Humor as a defense mechanism ) as well as the Benign Violation Theory :
What troubles me is beyond Louie's 9 minutes of comedic gold. It's the attitude of the masses. We have grown so over-sensitive, that we hunt out things to shake our picket fences at. Especially if the topic happens to be something that challenges the status quo or God forbid, challenge our thoughts? I applaud the challenging of what's established. I champion Louie for saying anything he wants about anything he wants. His bit itself, when deconstructed is a commentary on how uptight people are and how political correctness damages hones† rhetoric. Instead of salu†ing the one comedian with the grit to put himself on the front line, we'd rather roadblock any progress of opening the discussion of what's clearly a recognizable and observable problem our society is plagued with. Ins†ead of just bluntly addressing the issue, which would garner no reaction or harsh criticism, Louis cleverly disguises his arguments through humor and laughter, and ultimately defends a pillar of our constitution. These types of challenging bits that the youtube trolls and media are attacking have no interest in reducing the stigma attached to the actual subjects. It's almost as if they prefer not to address and pretend it isn't real. If critics had kept an open mind and knew enough to view comedy as both entertainment, and as a philosophical form of rhetoric, they would have recognized what Louie accomplished. By comparing the 70's to now, he satires perceived progress we've made in regards to killing racism. By employing autobiography he offers commentary on the conflicts between Isreal and Palestine, using metaphor of chastising children who can't get along to criticize the non stop fighting. Lastly, by creating a cartoonish character who at smarts a sick offender, he goes after pedophilia. All the while he is allowing the audience to laugh at his potentially problematic situations. By making it funny, he knocks down one of the biggest elephant's in society's room. By equating his love for candy and a pedophile's love for molestation, he undoubtedly causes some to immediately say, "NOPE! YOU CAN'T SAY THAT" In actuality he is attempting to literally take the of the danger and mystique out of these people through ridicule. Overall it's effective, well constructed, and nowhere near controversial enough to throw this level of fit. If you're that easily offended, see paragraph 1 and stick to Modern Family or a nice DVD boxset of Friends. It may be a more light hearted affair, but it contains relatively little social merit. Might entertain, but unlike Louie's routines, it doesn't entertain and push society towards a debate. t the very least aspires for a dialogue and some chance of forward momentum.
To all the supporters of Louis, and people who believe in what stand up comedy can do as an artistic platform- continue to rally around this living legend. I encourage you to not shy away from the debate and try, as difficult and painful as it might be, to not back down from people who are too terrified to discuss a sociological quagmire. If you or someone you loved where harmed by a child molesting bastards, then you get a pass. But for the rest, I vote that the discussion is fair game. Laughing at a problem takes away stigma. It's been this way for centuries. It's good to laugh. It's liberating to find yourself slightly out of your comfort zone. That means something has the chance of getting through. Afterwards, it's good to reflect, and it's good to continue the debate, and consider all angles. Freedom of speech is amendment # 1 in our book, so why neglect numero uno? Laugh on.