Is there a future for comedy? For culture?
Louis C.K. insists on plying his trade as if there is
Protestors gathered in response to Louis C.K.’s arrival at the San Jose Improv on Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019, and a man was punched in the face, as the controversial comedian began his first West Coast appearances since his career was derailed in the wake of sexual misconduct claims.
The club’s parent company released a statement saying they respect the protestors right to assemble, but also “respect Louis C.K.’s right to perform.” Reports from inside the club suggest the comedian hasn’t changed his approach. At one point he reportedly referenced his action that caused the most outrage; masturbating in front of women.
I hear C.K.’s work is based on referencing his personal life, especially the embarrassing stuff, so I give him credit for staying true to his artistic vision; as far as guys talking about masturbation, this instance is almost noble. Of course he did have to get caught to work this into the act; does that lessen the artistic integrity?
Comedy is harder in a diverse a society because there are more people to take offense. True stand-up comedy barely seems possible, if the comic is no longer allowed his prejudices, biases and genuine reactions; it seems personal bias is stand-up comedy. The stand-up comic is the ultimate bigot, representing his little race of one, mocking, marveling at or criticizing the ways of the rest of us while indulging the privilege of self-criticism.
Of course criticism of others will be severely constricted in our (curiously non-vibrant) diverse comedy future; self-deprecation too, is problematic, as is comedy generally
Straight white guys will be allowed self-deprecating humor (self-deprecating humor for lesbian Hannah deprecates lesbians generally; self-deprecation by white guys is just more deprecation of white guys) until someone figures out it advantages them, then it will be cast as straight white privilege. The Vox-Slate thumbsuckers practically write themselves. If the end result is no self-deprecation for anyone social justice will be playing out here as it does everywhere else, stripping us of an aspect of culture due to its problematic nature. Diversity is why we can’t have nice things.
Presumably there’ll always be a place for honest comedy outside the mainstream, if only because social justice warriors can’t dictate to China, or Russia or Eastern Europe, should it survive the globalist onslaught (bitterly ironic it will be if white people find themselves on the wrong side of the old Iron Curtain).
But in banishing real satire to the outskirts of the internet they consign what I think of as the real jokes to obscurity. A real joke is one that hews to reality; a fake joke doesn’t. For instance, a joke that depends on conventional notions of “white privilege” is not a real joke; one mocking the concept of “white privilege” is a real joke. Fake jokes can work, if the audience shares the delusion about, say, white privilege, but only to the extent the audience shares the delusion. If the social justice goal is met, all comedy will be fake jokes; it will have become something entirely different, while maintaining the form of and ruse that it remains the same old art form.
Sometimes the truth is self-evident. Stand-up comedy strikes me as being about self-evident truth and revealing the ways we obscure it. These are the jokes.
So either the Narrative or Comedy is in trouble, and so far it doesn’t look good for comedy.