Louis CK: Sincerely Louis CK
Director: Louis CK
The latest Louis CK comedy special is available via his website. He’s done this before – but this is his first special, and his first return to the self-distribution model since the scandal that threatened to tank his career – but it seems he’s going to un-cancel himself.
It’s hard to discuss this new comedy special without thinking about the #MeToo allegations against CK – he sorta addresses that too, though nowhere near as sincerely as the title here might suggest. Oh I see, that’s a joke in the title? Well that might be as clever and/or funny as this gets.
Louis CK was one of the top comics in the game when in 2017 he was outed as a chronic masturbator with a penchant for performing the act in front of people – with blurred lines around/varying degrees of consent.
That same year he had released his first truly mediocre stand-up special, a Netflix title simply called 2017. Calling it mediocre might even be a tad kind and though that special died a death related to the scandal, it’s unlikely it would have stuck around to do good business like all of the previous specials; CK’s champion work-rate had him spitting out new material every year. He was the envy of many industry professionals – something truly aspirational for work ethic alone.
But his ethics now seem truly dubious. As with “2017”, this new special is lazy and comes with a snide order of added snark as CK seems to have pivoted to dudebros that find wanking funny and don’t care all that much about sexual assault allegations because clearly rape is one thing and one thing only. And having a tug in front of people is fine – and probably funny and certainly not sexual assault. And trauma is relative and they’re backing a guy that’s had to suffer a version of it, so that’s where their allegiance lies. Also, their boy shrugs it off with an aw-shucks, vaguely downtrodden demeanour – as if losing his earning potential for about 18 months was a cruel, harsh lesson. And so now he’s back in the game and they get to cheer him on and it’s like their once-winning team is finding form again – and actually who cares if the form is there or not. He’s there and that’s what matters to them.
You can just feel the pull, if you’ll pardon that obvious pun, of the alleged bad-boy made good again. The leering, jeering, cheering crowd drunk on the haughty naughtiness of it all.
But there’s really not much there.
It’s easily his worst set committed to disc – or available to stream. It’s boring. That might be the harshest crime of this hour. It’s laboured. And there are repeat-jokes, low-hanging fruit and super tired swings in the direction of irreverence that includes a “cheeky” impersonation of an Asian accent. He warns that he has to do the accent, or the grammar doesn’t make sense – since native English speakers wouldn’t phrase that way. So it goes from being mild/ish racism to fully revelling in it – and crucially it bypasses any attempt at a side-joke. There is simply no reason for the bit, but for the fact that CK has a habit of dangling things in people’s faces when you’re not really supposed to.
He references his troubles and the fact that the world knows about his kink, his quirk. That’s how he sees it. And look, I don’t really know how I feel about him having a tug in front of people. Frankly I don’t really care. I neither condone nor condemn it – and I am not the comedy police. I don’t know if he absolutely must apologise and show a change in behaviour before beginning his career again. I have no idea what the rules are and it’s not my job to impose them.
I just know that he does no such thing here. And doesn’t really achieve anything – he serves up a piece of lazy product the way a band does when it goes in and repeats the formula and is bereft of ideas.
I just wanted him to be funny again. That was why I watched this. That, and because I was curious at the notion that he would effectively un-cancel himself. It’s not that I want to see people un-cancelling themselves by the way. But I’m curious about whether it can be achieved.
But the main thing is I wanted to laugh. I wanted to like the comedy – it’s really no bother to me about liking the person behind it or not. Because he was funny. For a time. A reasonable time, even. In my world, he was quite funny. And more than once. And as recently as 2015. And maybe he had run his course and his humour was gone before the outing of his fetish. But this, for now, confirms it to me. Louis CK isn’t funny. He also isn’t contrite. He’s a pissed off auteur, rebuilding his word, making bank and capitalising on a mailing list, a fan base and – yes, sure, absolutely – his white male privilege that allows all of that to happen.
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