‘Louis CK’s SNL Opening Monologue Was Awesomely Offensive’
In a late-night post involving Louis CK, and Mollie Hemingway, we find ourselves in familiar territory. Testing the limits of good taste, defending freedom of expression, and witnessing fallout from violating powerful social taboos. In the current edition of The Federalist, it’s gratifying to see one of my favorite media writers stand up for one of my favorite comedians. As we see in the video above, Louis CK goes where few comedians would dare to tread.
“It was actually quite disgusting and completely offensive. I can not possibly characterize how tasteless it was. It was also hilarious.”
— Mollie Hemingway
If you’ve ever heard Louis C.K. talk about SNL preparation–as I did recently, listening to a recent radio an interview–you know he seeks out difficult audiences rather than easy ones. He described testing his SNL monologue material in unfavorable environments, on disinterested audiences, intentionally, in order to find weaknesses in the material, and win over tough crowds.
Unlike his usual hip New York audiences, he discovered, SNL audience are comprised mostly of non-New Yorkers. Tourists, regular folks from the heartland. Edgy material he might normally do doesn’t necessarily connect here. After one disappointing performance on SNL, he worked harder at it the next time—testing, calibrating, rehearsing more. And coming better prepared, in his subsequent appearance, he succeeded. (it’s a good interview, if I find the audio clip or transcript of it, I’ll link it) Which is why his recent appearance on SNL surprised me. Because even if the now-infamous controversial material seemed risky, or misguided, you can be sure that the choices made were not arrived at casually.
Likewise for Lorne Michaels. SNL is shot live, the material is vetted in advance. I can’t imagine anything was performed that wasn’t approved. (or at least not disapproved) Knowing Louis C.K.’s work habits (more disciplined than they appear) it’s likely that he rehearsed his monologue for weeks, in front of difficult audiences, in different settings. And then, on live TV, Louis said exactly what he wanted to say. Knowing the risks. Expecting to offend people. But reasonably confident that it was funny.
When asked, in the interview, about his willingness to make people uncomfortable, referring to his frequent run-ins with authority figures in childhood, Louis C.K. said, “I’m used to getting in trouble”. It doesn’t bother him, the experience of being in trouble. He’s often talked about the challenge, and joy, of taking audiences to uneasy places, to explore what’s there, and find what’s funny about it.
To me, this is classic Louis C.K. There’s something about his frankness, sincerity, and delivery, that allows him to get away with things other comics would get crucified for. There’s more here than meets the eye.
The social justice warriors are creating a culture where comedians can’t make most jokes about race, sex, sexual choices, or any of the things that used to be staples of the comedy circuit. One joke in a stand-up set bombs for being over the line and the social media mobs come forth with pitchforks and your career is over or your comedy is seriously proscribed. It’s a free country, though, which means, in these cases, that if a bunch of coddled children can’t handle transgressive comedy without losing their minds, they can make life for a comic a living hell. Just because you’re trying something out in an intimate setting with a particular group of people doesn’t keep them from blasting it on the internet for a global audience that couldn’t possibly understand what you were going for. Comedians such as Chris Rock say it’s just not fun any more….(more)
“It’s a free country, though, which means, in these cases, that if a bunch of coddled children can’t handle transgressive comedy without losing their minds, they can make life for a comic a living hell.”
— Mollie Hemingway
While not exactly endorsing the content of Louis C.K.’s queasy monologue, The Federalist‘s Mollie Hemingway defends it, describing it as “refreshing — and ballsy”, and links to an earlier article discussing the necessity of tolerance. Comedy will suffer if comics are threatened and stop taking risks. Enforcing current PC-orthodoxy with online shaming campaigns, social justice warriors provoke and exploit social media hysteria to keep violators in line. Thus, the idea of Comedy Speakeasies.
The problem with comedy is that people can share what happens in the club with anyone in the world. In the future, when comedy speakeasies are the only way for people to hear transgressive jokes about race and sex, people will have to have the password. But they’ll also have to be patted down for recording equipment. No phones. No audio recorders. No pens and pads. Any recitation of the bits will be fully denied…
In her current column, Mollie continues…
…Louis CK knew he’d be met with social justice warrior outrage — and he was — and he went ahead with the monologue anyway. Not in a speakeasy but on network television. No trigger warnings. No concerns about punching all the way down…
And mirroring Louie, C.K. will perform triple-duties for the film — writing, directing and starring in the indie I’m a Cop, which is being produced by heavyweight producer Scott Rudin.
“I don’t feel like I need anyone to tell me anything with a TV show because I know exactly what I’m doing, but I’d be arrogant to think that I can take someone’s $8 million and just turn in a movie. Movies are different. There’s a permanency to them.”
Rudin is producing with Dave Becky and Blair Breard, the latter an exec producer on C.K.’s Louie as well as a couple of the comedian’s specials, including the upcoming Louis C.K. Live From the Comedy Store.
“I was dealing with people every day whose pressures I didn’t understand, and I wasn’t very nice about how I said no to them. I put myself in a position I didn’t have to be in. A lot of what makes this kind of stuff work is empathy.”
The script tells of a depressed middle-aged man who is a volunteer police officer living in the shadow of his mother, a highly decorated retired officer. Read the rest of this entry »
Daniel Nussbaum writes: The comedian had long been an ardent (and profane) Tweeter, directing 140-character, expletive-laden barbs at Sarah Palin, ISIS, and Common Core, just to name a few. So it was somewhat surprising when his Twitter account seemed to simply vanish late last year.
“It didn’t make me feel good,” the comedian told host Gregg “Opie” Hughes. “It made me feel bad instead. So I stopped doing it.”
Every time I say anything on here, I wish I hadn’t said it. And then I’ll write a couple things to try to fix it, and then I feel worse. It’s just any time I tweeted anything, I was like, ‘Ugh, I don’t like the way that came out.’ And then four and a half million people saw it. Like it was the worst things I ever said, heard and seen by the most people. It’s like the worst possible scenario.”
“It’s too instant,” the comedian explained, telling Opie that he wasn’t bothered by trolls or criticism. “I don’t think the speed helps dialogue. I think it hurts. I think it’s why everything is kind of f***ed up and polarizing, because people are going too fast, they’re trying to react quickly.” Read the rest of this entry »
Louis C.K. Confesses: He Really Did Steal the Scales from His Jr. High School Lab in Massachusetts Many Years AgoPosted: January 18, 2015
The situation became fodder for a flashback storyline in an episode of FX’s “Louie” last year. C.K. told reporters at the Television Critics Assn. press tour that he had always felt bad about the incident because one of his teachers defended him at the time when he denied stealing the science-lab scales.
“This season is more laugh-centric funny than season four…I had a very playful and goofy feeing going into this season.”
And just as it played out in the episode, the school’s principal knew he did it but left him off the hook.
“I sold them for drugs,” he said. “I’d been sitting on this story a long time.” To compound his guilt, the teacher who defended him emailed him recently to say how proud she was of his success. He confessed to her in his response and got an “I’m disappointed in you” reply.
“She was a great teacher,” C.K. said. “I had every advantage when I was a kid. I grew up in Newton, Mass. a nice town. I just got high — my working single mother, I f—– her life up. I was a terrible kid.”
C.K. said that the upcoming fifth season would likely be lighter and funnier than season four, which many critics noted took a darker, more serious turn. Read the rest of this entry »
— Seth Fiegerman (@sfiegerman) January 8, 2015