While no person is perfect, many comedians come close to it. They serve as theologians, political scientists, regular scientists and most importantly, that family member who tells it like it is, even if they get into hot water and hurt some feelings.
They’re credible because they can make entire crowds laugh at the painful, ugly truth. When the whole world is a carnival of controversy and petulance, we look to comedy to set the record straight. That’s why of all the recent accusations of sexual harassment, assault and violence, Louis C.K.’s story is the hardest to swallow for me.
Although rumors of C.K.’s misconduct have been circulating for years, few had the audacity to pursue or even believe them. The outpour of complicity in comedic circles, either through vehement denial or silence is unacceptable, but understandable. They’ve lost a hero and friend.
Many of the editorials describing the incident write of C.K. in the past tense, which sounds eerily posthumous. He was, and still is, I believe, a comedic mastermind. His stand-up specials and semi-autobiographical television series are blunt, poignant and hallmarks in the rich tradition of cynicism and obscenity, paved by the likes of George Carlin and Lenny Bruce.
C.K.’s comedy is feminist. It bitterly reflects the absurd reality of male violence and dominance and its repercussions for the opposite sex. A personal favorite of mine is C.K. musing about why women agree to go on dates with men considering they are the biggest threat to women. How is there such a disconnect from the author and his words?
It feels easier to believe the allegations against Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and other prominent men in the entertainment industry and despise them. These are powerful men with blatantly large egos — not some awkward shlub like C.K., perpetually donning a black T-shirt when he rides the New York City subway alongside us.
It never occurred to me that C.K. had the same caliber of influence, simply because he positioned himself at the bottom.
While C.K.’s transparency about his perversions doesn’t make the issue any more palatable, it may absolve him of hypocrisy. Unlike politicians, priests and even fellow comedian Bill Cosby, who all preach morality, yet engage in well-cloistered sex crimes, Louis articulated the depravity many of us secretly harbor. Michael Weiss of CNN writes, “Louis fantasized aloud about poisoning kids with nut allergies and jerking off a New York City subway rat. He didn’t ask you to admire him; just the opposite.”
Yet, comedians are supposed to make sense of tragedy, not manufacture it. How can someone who cleverly destroys misogyny, toxic masculinity and violence against females become an agent of them?
Jon Stewart, a fellow comedian and friend of C.K. encourages us to look deeper into misogyny and examine how our own mundane actions contribute to a larger system of injustice, particularly in the comedy world. “It’s endemic,” Stewart said. “I think it’s a question of we’re used to being in charge, and I think if you talk to women, they’re in a very difficult position and you get mad at yourself, too, for laughing it off and for thinking that didn’t happen.”
Sarah Silverman, another friend of C.K., acknowledges the pain and contradiction of both loving him and despising what he’s done. “Can you love someone who did bad things?” she asks, a question that she admits she lacks the answer to. She is confident in supporting the victims and holding C.K. accountable, along with anyone else guilty of similar actions.
I hope C.K. is not “done,” as one Vulture article claims. When C.K.’s film “I Love You, Daddy” was pulled from theaters, I couldn’t help but think of the hundreds of other people involved in the production, who have only one man to blame for being unable to reap their reward.
I thought of C.K’s fans and his legacy and realized that our culture is still learning the best way to respect victims, separate art from the artist and be better for the future.
Kristen DiPietra is a senior double-majoring in English and human development.