“You know how you can figure out how good of a person you are by how long after September 11th you masturbated, like how long you waited? Well for me it was between the 2 buildings going down.”
The first time I heard that joke in Chewed Up, Louis CK’s 2008 stand-up special, I laughed so hard I couldn’t breathe. I’m not gonna lie, I still think it’s a hilarious line.
But now that we know about Louie’s hobby of jacking off in front of frightened women, his comedy now feels like some dark “serial killer taunting the police with riddles” type shit.
As a comic, Louis CK was a hero of mine ever since I saw his HBO special in 7th grade. He was one of my main inspirations when I first grabbed a microphone at the school talent show when I was 13, along with Dave Chappelle and Dane Cook (I’m the only comic that loves Dane Cook but I will die on this hill if I have to.) So I’m not gonna act like Louis CK isn’t one of the best comics to ever step on a stage. I’m realistic enough to know that I’ll never be as funny as him.
I’ll never have CK’s talent or success. But at least when I wack off I have the common decency to make sure no one else is in the room.
Rumors of Louis CK sexually abusing female comics had permeated the comedy community for years. In 2015, a big name female comic I went on the road with ranted to me about how Louis CK forces women to watch him yank himself and no one will do anything about it. She wasn’t a victim herself, but she had heard tons of stories, and she was close enough to the situation to see that the industry was protecting a known predator. Since then, I heard other stories from people who knew some of the women.
To say I was heartbroken would be a massive understatement. Louis CK’s stand-up specials had been become a fixture in my life, a go-to safe haven to escape from the real world and laugh my ass for a bit. My brother Michael and I would quote his bits obsessively. But CK’s public reckoning was long overdue. It was an open secret.
The comedy world already knew that when female comics open for Louis CK he pays them in exposure.
I revisited CK’s stand-up to see if there’s any magic left, I felt dark undertones in bits that used me to make me cackle. It’s hard to watch Louis CK and not think “wow, this guy has A LOT of jokes about jerkin off.”
That’s not inherently a bad thing. Plenty of comics return to the same topic on a frequent basis. Hell, I have 10 jokes about my Kanye obsession, which is 12 too many.
But when a compulsive masturbator compulsively jokes about compulsively masturbating, its hard to separate the art from the artist. That’d be like if Kevin Spacey’s most iconic role was a movie where he played a dude trying to fuck a teenager…. Wait a minute…
I’m a hypocrite. I love Woody Allen movies and I can enjoy Manhattan even though his dark psyche bleeds through every page of the script. I can acknowledge that Bill Cosby: Himself is arguably the greatest stand-up special of all time, even though he’s a monster who’s impossible to laugh at now. I can love Bill Cosby: Himself but still hate Bill Cosby himself (I’ve been waiting 7 months to make that joke.)
Despicable humans make great art all the time. I try to draw a line but I’m bad at sticking to principles. After a few shots on a Friday night, I go from “anyone who supports R. Kelly is a scumbag” to “PLAY THE IGNITION REMIX RIGHT NOW OR I WILL BURN THIS CLUB TO THE GROUND.”
But with CK it feels different.
His joke about being a “prisoner” to his perverted thoughts is uncomfortable now. He has an awkward anecdote on his Carnegie Hall album about showing his cock to a girl with Down Syndrome when he was 9, it’ll make you wanna puke. He once joked about having nowhere to masturbate now that he lives in a house with his wife and kids, and how he’s resorted to masturbating in public. It sounded like a comedic exaggeration but I guess it wasn’t.
Louie built an illusionary brand of “brutal honesty” to control the narrative. He presented himself as a schlubby, pathetic man with awkward sexual hangups, a victim of his own neurosis. His “I have issues” apology to one of the women was a cop-out. He was trying to seem like a hopeless sadsack instead of a manipulative predator.
Laughing at his jokes is feeding into Louie’s persona, a persona that he weaponized to hide the skeletons in his closet and threaten the careers of his victims. Despite how brilliant the jokes are, we’re not laughing anymore.
Louis CK is now just another name that will go into the comedy hall of fame with an asterisk. Just like Woody Allen (*1 rape allegation), Bill Cosby (*50,000 rape allegations) and Eddie Murphy (*Norbit.)