What Louis CK, and His Critics, Keep Getting Wrong

Op-ed: People are too easily offended, but too many comics mistake offensiveness for humor
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 4, 2019 8:46 AM CST
In the Louis CK Debate, Both He and His Critics Are Wrong
Louis C.K. in 2017.   (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File)

Leaked audio from a recent Louis CK comedy bit sparked an uproar on social media because he made the survivors of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, the butt of a joke. Why should we have to listen to these kids, he wondered. “You didn’t get shot, you pushed some fat kid in the way, and now I’ve gotta listen to you talking?” Critics say the comedian, already demonized over his sexual misconduct, went too far. Defenders say he was just doing what edgy comics do. In an op-ed in the New York Post, Abe Greenwald makes the case that both sides here are in the wrong, and it's hurting American comedy. The PC critics want to silence comics whose work offends them, while too many comics "have come to see offensiveness as an end in itself, more important than being funny."

Greenwald puts Louis CK squarely in this latter camp. "Edgy comedy works when it deals in hard truths, not cheap gags," he writes. But the Parkland bit "seemed crafted to wound," which it did. "It’s one thing to cause offense in the pursuit of a joke. It’s another to choose offense-giving over ­humor and call it comedy." However, the proper response to a joke like this ("a cultural misdemeanor") isn't to banish the comedian from the public stage or call for him to be shot, as some did, writes Greenwald. Instead, silence from the audience will do the job nicely. The problem is that we live in a world of "mutual escalation" now. "This means that cruelty and censorship will keep closing in on the space that was intended for ­humor." Click to read the full column. (More Louis CK stories.)

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