I’ve always loved comedy. In a sense, comedy saved my life. But comedians are some of the worst people I’ve ever met.
Self-loathing. Contempt for others (audiences and fellow comics alike). Anger. Pettiness. Bitterness. And in many of the men, misogyny, casual racism, sexual confusion, all couched, naturally, in The Joke. Because once the stage lights dim, no matter how vile the material, it’s considered little more than a fading joke.
The comic minds who moved me were absurdist and satirical — not that they didn’t utter awful things or explore twisted premises, but there was, ideally, something behind just getting laughs. When I entered the NYC comedy world of the early-1980s, most performers I encountered had no interest in conceptual bits. They mined familiar themes for easy laughs and hoped for commercial success. Thus was the tenor of that decade’s comedy boom.
I was there for most of it, yet not really a part of it. The only reason I performed stand up was to have my writing heard. I had no intention nor desire to be a club comic, and this put me at a distance. But my writing kept me close enough to the game which disabused me of any lingering romantic thoughts about comedy’s potential power. I was young. It was heartbreaking.
So does this mean I believe what’s being said about Louis C.K.? Yes, I think the accusations are most likely true. Given the sexual masochism of Louie’s work, the open shame and self-flagellation, it’s nearly impossible to think that this isn’t part of the real him. Sometimes comedians behave worse offstage. This clearly seems to be the case here.
Again, it’s part and parcel of that world. Even as recently as six years ago, when I returned to the stage out of curiosity and a feeling of unfinished business, I was shocked by how degraded the stand up form had become. I wrote about it at the time, and felt badly for the women who endured sexist, garbage material in an effort to realize their own comedy dreams.
Women aren’t funny. Bullshit — plenty of women are funny. Feminists have no sense of humor. Ha — I know and have worked with witty feminists. Having seen how lesser male comics treated the women in their midst, Louis C.K.’s alleged behavior rings true. As ugly as this is, maybe it will inspire a comedy boom led by women. It’s well overdue, and we certainly could use some fresh jokes.
UPDATE: Louis C.K. confessed to it all. Not much else he could do and still be taken seriously, yet he seemed relatively contrite (though for many it’ll never be enough). Moving on, hopefully to a women’s comedy era.