Louis CK has jokes because he is ashamed of his body, ashamed of his thoughts, his culture, his whiteness, whatever. Every joke seems to be about shame in some way. Ashamed of the things he doesn’t do that he knows he should. Ashamed of the things that he does do that he knows he shouldn’t. Ashamed of his privilege, and ashamed of how he doesn’t do anything to help others who don’t have it. All of these things are about the way Louis lives his life (or the stories he tells about how he does), but they’re also about the lines we draw, the tension of those meeting points of acceptable, common, and desirable behavior, and when our thoughts or actions only meet a couple of those qualifications. For instance, in his newest special, Louis talks about how mind-numbingly boring it is to play board games with his daughter and how much he wants to yell at her for it. Common impulse? Yes. Desirable? Probably, on a very base level to diffuse frustration. Acceptable? Nope. So, we’re ashamed by the those dark thoughts, and Louis is there to give the shameful inclinations credence through his routine. We laugh because we know, and we hear others laugh, so we can hear how we are not alone. The thought gets aired, so there’s less shame to feel...Someone once asked Allen Ginsberg how one becomes a prophet, and he simply replied, “Tell your secrets”...
Articulating our impulses is dirty business, and maybe this is why Louis’ been able to tread in a territory others haven’t been able to navigate. As Fran Lebowitz said, “If you’re going to tell the truth, you better be funny. Otherwise, they will kill you.”
Louis C.K.: The Man Who Loves to Hate Himself is a recent profile of CK in Rolling Stone.
C.K. describes his approach as “deconstruction to a point where you’re left with a fucking mess of unanswered questions. It can be a bit painful and scary. That’s fun for me.” He doesn’t want to come off like some moralizing gasbag, of course, so he’ll throw in something “totally indefensible.” “I’m fucking around with a lot of big ideas, and I don’t have the authority to seriously talk about them. So when I make a joke about a baby with a tree branch growing out of its head being the same thing as a Chinese baby, I don’t expect you to believe any of this. I’m just being a dick.”
Reminds me of his dog phone bit.