From Louis C.K. to Roman Polanski, we must question why men are allowed to create works which minimise the acts they stand accused ofby Caspar Salmon / November 10, 2017 / Leave a comment
There’s a scene in the first season of the popular television show Louie in which Louis C.K., the popular comedian, is interrupted by a woman talking during his show. He asks her to stop talking, but she carries on, and even heckles him, telling him he’s not funny. (I’ve checked the episode in question, and can verify that the routine she interrupted was indeed not funny). Louis C.K then confronts her about her objections to his material, saying: “You don’t like rape? [Audience laughter] You don’t? That’s really weird, because you wouldn’t exist if your mom hadn’t raped that homeless Chinese guy.”
He then appears to regret his harshness—for a moment. Then, he piles on. “Look, can you do me a favour? Can you please just die of AIDS? [To the audience] Does anyone have AIDS that could just put their dick in her face and get her started on that?” Later on—and this is crucial—C.K. kindly points out to her outside the club, without any bitterness, as a caring human, that she misspoke. She shouldn’t have interrupted his act, because comedians don’t have it as easy as her.
This type of material is everywhere in Louis C.K.’s stand-up. First, the grim contravention, and then the second moment in which C.K. saves his own arse by making plain that he knows how grim he is, before, finally, him ending up in the right because of the manifest goodness of his intentions.
He does it, too, in a comedy special with Ricky Gervais, Chris Rock and Jerry Seinfeld, where he explains the mechanics behind his rape jokes. With no-one there to challenge him, C.K. is at liberty to explain the perfect non-offensiveness of his joke, safe in the knowledge that he’s paid his liberal dues.
Only now, with the revelations about his alleged sexual behaviour, are we able to see that Louis C.K.’s material was riven with dangerously hateful material, which he took great pains to proof against criticism. His film I Love You Daddy—which has had its premiere cancelled—reportedly contains scenes in which a comedian mimes masturbating with other people present, including a female producer. When someone pointed out that this trope mirrors rumours about his own behaviour, C.K. responded: “It’s funny, I didn’t think of that.”
What we are seeing, with…