Men and ExCKommunication

LOUIS SCATTERED

This past weekend, Louis C.K. returned to his “home stage,” The Comedy Cellar. He’d taken a hiatus from performing since admitting to sexual abuse at the end of last year.

“I understand that some people will be upset with me,” said Noam Dworman, owner of the Comedy Cellar, who described Louis C.K.’s 15-minute standup set as “typical Louis C.K. stuff” including riffs on race and tipping at restaurants. But, he added, “there can’t be a permanent life sentence on someone who does something wrong.”

His return has raised the undying question of whether famous sex criminals should be allowed a path to redemption. Was Louis apologetic enough? Should he be welcomed back sooner if he’d donated to RAINN? Would we be more willing to applaud his comedy if he attended sex therapy and spoke on what he’d learned? Is there salvation in him supporting the women he’s traumatized or raising up women he’s never met? These are all weighed and debated by women individually when it comes to forgiveness.

Women are doing their own thing. But men must come to a much simpler conclusion:

If a man is excommunicated, he’s not guaranteed a path back to the limelight. “But that’s not fair,” says Michael Ian Black in more words. I don’t mean to denigrate compassion, and he did seem to eventually get the picture, but he’s also correct: us men had the unfortunate chance to end up living during the first era of retribution exacted by victimized women. Yep, for you, and me, and any man who might have stumbled up our forefathers’ ladder in decades past, to be born now, no longer during a time when pretty much any misogynist aggression, from macro to micro, could be waved away with enough money or clout? Shit timing.

Because if we can admit that Priapus’s sun is setting after mere millennia, we can recognize who suffered for being born sometime during known human history. If it is difficult for men right now, it has been as difficult–at minimum–for billions of women. The majority of those women didn’t survive to see this day, all they knew was a crushing patriarchy. And men can relinquish that in many ways, but shutting up on topics like forgiveness is an easy one. The women of today deserve the choice to hold the reins and the bullhorn and the flaming whip, because, if we’re talking fairness, that’s a stab at it.

The banishments (banishments), permanent or not, are growing pains. There’ll be celeb “casualties” like Louis, those who are no longer given the chance to comfort us with their (still valuable) contributions to culture. There will be art lost, whether immediate (I Love You, Daddy) or potential (any future seasons of Louie). I’ve watched every stand-up special by Louis and marveled to witness a drop-in at Los Angeles’s Comedy Store. For my undergraduate thesis, I situated him in a long line of utopia-seeking comics, from Lenny Bruce to Richard Pryor to Bill Hicks to him, here and now, the promise of shifting the entire comedy paradigm progressively. And yet his loss, like that of Ansari and Hardwick and other cusp-of-comeback kids of this moment, is maybe necessary for an eventual equality, and that goal is worth all the earth-shaking boner jokes in Louis’s head.

So when Noam Dworman states “there can’t be a permanent life sentence on someone who does something wrong,” I have to insist that actually there can, it can just happen, the third law of thermodynamics isn’t “the dickflasher must be given stagetime.” It’s “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction,” and buddy, we’ve still got a hefty dose of reaction before we’ve hit equal.

That said, I don’t figure that the women of today wish to go Amazonian on our asses. It’s not that I think of women as gentler or kinder (imagine if that’s the turn this essay took), but rather the effort required to yonically oppress for just as many years seems too much for any human. Men fell into it, right? Our monkey brains kept “might makes right” at the forefront and only recently have come to understand that there are other things that make right! Even as we reaped the rewards, most humans aren’t evil and so most men aren’t evil. Just bumbling and ignorant, and the tides may be turning on that front too. When it comes to the exiles and re-configuring our gender’s expectations, my mewling men, I’m guessing it’ll take three generations. That’s what I expect. Not for me to decide, but what I expect.

So just chill, my sweet dudes. Our input isn’t wanted or needed. Isn’t that freeing?

But if your pity still swells for Louis, shoving his victims from the frame; if you can’t grasp the damage wrought by asking “what about the men,” then consider perverts and misogynists who don’t possess the comedian’s clout or resources. Louis with his Comedy Cellar and adoring fans, Mario Batali and his restaurants peppered around the globe, Matt Lauer and the bulwarking upper echelon of Manhattan media. Their redemption comes far easier than that of a man from your high school who’s abused women (as we all have to varying degrees) and, upon reflection, dedicates himself to righting it. He can’t make the huge donations, he can’t afford the Beverly Hills therapist or the PR spin-master. Without access to a blacklist, his victims (and bless them for their vindictive power) may bring charges against him, and he may end up irreparably damaged, sexually or otherwise, by a stay in prison himself. To say nothing of the imprisoning outcome of the offender registry, restricting where he may work or live. Oh, and perhaps he’s not white as a bleached harp seal cub. That too.

This nobody-man still deserves his punishment however it unfolds, but if you’re dedicated to your psychopathy and seek for anyone to care about other than the women: why do you give a shit about Louis? He could leave the country today and live in comfort until death. He thinks nothing of you; there are millions of you. Even in your misogyny you can do better.

Perhaps it’d be more worth your time to care about the women.

 

 

Like James Gunn, I’ve attempted to be transgressive or provocative when I write jokes. I was also an edgy teen before that. There are too many posts for me to ever sanitize. “Rape” and “retarded” tossed around flippantly. The n-word spelled out to make (unnecessary) rhetorical points about censorship. Sure, sexually-tinged jokes at the expense of minors.

But I also can’t and won’t ever be the director of a globally-popular superhero movie series. I doubt I’ll be recognized at a county-wide level, unless I fall down some stairs in a particularly funny way. So, like, sorry you didn’t consider your trajectory, James, when you took some shots at social mores. Society likes to shoot back.

On the positive side of comedy, today the New York Times contains a profile of Hannah Gadsby. If you haven’t watched Nanette yet, do so. It didn’t rock my world, but I’m swamped in progressive comedy and I dwell on it often. (I think I was most tickled by her cerebral, historically-evidenced line of material on Van Gogh.) The show she’s created is important and it’s accessible. Hannah demands her humanity and succeeds.

Huffington Post – There’s Something Missing From This Photo Of Late-Night TV Hosts

How can people even argue over this, given how it all shakes out?

Until all demographics are represented equally through “natural” means, we have stereotypes and regressive perception to dismantle as a society. Anyone arguing otherwise is speaking on behalf of conservatism and an inequitable world. The positions in the debate over this topic reduce to “this isn’t as good as it can be, what can we do about it?” and “this is fine, stop talking about it.” I can’t see a positive outcome from the latter.

Like even if women turned down hosting offers, there’s a reason why, and that reason is rooted in inequality. Otherwise we’d see a flawlessly-representational rainbow coalition in that Vanity Fair shoot. The alternative is believing that white men and a disproportionately small number of black men are inherently better at comedy than every other race, every other gender, etc.

Also, finally: it may not be the most marketable thing for networks to take a chance on diversity, but it’s the fucking ethical thing, and defending poor ol’ little billion dollar corporations for trying to max out their dollar doesn’t sit right with me either. Hopefully in a couple of decades some executive at one of the networks will remember this uproar (or the many others) and decide to sacrifice a yacht in order to attempt at making the world a better place.

Seriously: how can the status quo be defended? I can’t wrap my head around simply being “okay” with the limited ways we interact with and value each other as human beings.

Hire Me, Amy Schumer

Amy Schumer has found herself pitched aloft on the tides of Twitter after a ringing endorsement of her comedy in The Guardian was topped off with a paragraph about Schumer’s “blind spot around race.”

I respect Schumer! Still respect her!!! I think she’s funny, an important voice in comedy right now, and her show is often brilliant. I think the points leveled against her are somewhat legitimate and others can be (and have been) refuted, but I don’t wanna be here all night. So.

Here’s Amy’s response.

Every. Single. Time.

What is so hard about this, comics? Why can’t you address this sort of shit with some care and aplomb? Is it because comedians are so shitty to each other that you grow this prickliness, porcupine’d forever as a career security blanket? Is it that comedy is all you feel you’ve got, and if it’s attacked in any shape or form your fight-or-flight kicks in? Are you simply serving it up to your main demo, pissy fuccbois who wanna see you be mean to those quee blac femal disabl whiners?

Why do my heroes keep making me think I’m dumb for respecting them? I don’t want to be mean or ranty, but shit, I keep getting burned! Authors don’t do this to me! Musicians? Artists? They don’t give me the same trouble.

AMY! You don’t have to kick this off with an insult! Who opposed to you is going to calm down when you imply they’re setting themselves aflame in their anger? Who has ever received condescension with a refreshed smile, prepared to guzzle all the fluff you’ve wedged into these one-and-a-half screenshots? (He wrote, condescending to a famous comedian.)

But it is. It’s fluff with a capital F-FF, you may as well have written “I’ve synergized my workflow into laughter moving forward.” How do you expect people will read “I’m a devout feminist and lover of all people?” Feminism is intrinsically about not using it as a shield. How does your statement of faith (so “devout”) come across to people who feel marginalized? Who can take you at your word– anyone at their word– when you say that you’re a lover of all people? Are you Jesus? MLK? They’re the last ones who really got away with saying that shit, people believed them so hard they were killed over it. I don’t think you’re reaching martyr levels for your global touchy-feels yet.

How can you, one of our preeminent comic voices, a woman who I REALLY DO TRUST to tackle bitter subjects with grace, still collapse under the lightest scrutiny I’ve seen in a long time? Remember Tosh? Michael Richards? Trevor Noah? (Two of ’em still have lucrative careers, and I’m sure Kramer lives on an island he owns somewhere, snapping through doorframes with only the breeze to join him).

Because Amy, here’s a really obnoxious part: you have SO many white feminists behind you, nodding in assent because they don’t want their TV show stolen by the angry minorities who’re always complaining so much more, making the proper, pure-to-the-point-of-albinism feminists look bad. The whitefems try so hard all the time that, like, can’t they just have this? Ugh- They’re the exact sort of feminists who will take after your example, believing they can ward off criticism by saying “guys. I really do it good. Im the femsisnism,”

Here, Amy, I’m your new PR flack. (Ain’t it just like a dude to assume a gal needs help?)

I read Heisey’s article on me in The Guardian, and appreciated all the great shit she had to say about me. Great shit about me is always welcome, same as bad shit about me. We all know where my compliment box is, but my complaint box is also always open (and it’s not my ass). That said, I have to disagree to a point with Heisey’s claim that I have a ‘shockingly large blind spot around race.’ Her example of my race-based stand-up is out-of-touch. I haven’t had racial material in my act for the past two years because of what I’ve come to learn from my audiences and our society. That said, it was shitty that me and the writing team for the MTV Movie Awards couldn’t come up with anything less hacky & race-based for a bit that combined both Selma Hayek, an incredibly talented Latina actress, and Selma, a film about a moment so crucial to the story of civil rights in America. We’ll have to do better next time, and I understood the criticism that followed. Besides, I pissed off J-Lo. Who would dare cross J-Lo twice? Affleck did. Now he’s dead, I think. I hope.

Ultimately, I do what I can to relate the messages I think are important, and I try to hear everything you guys share with me. I love what we’ve been able to take on with the show, we seem to spark discussion about racism, sexism, & jism all the time, and it sounds like Heisey and most of you agree. I may not hit the mark every sketch or joke, but I want to prove I’m listening. So I’ll keep trying for that, and I’ll apologize now, and apologize again in the future I’m sure. And if you want the show to continue giving us a voice, if you want the episodes to keep coming, I need you to chant it with me now: KEEP COMING INSIDE AMY SCHUMER!! KEEP COMING INSIDE AMY SCHUMER!!

Hit me up on Venmo if you wanna post this, Amy. It won’t come cheap; despite my continued hopes, care is still a rare commodity in the comedy biz.

“You keep notes. You look for the recurring. What’s not going away? Boy, this police-brutality thing — it seems to be lingering. What’s going to happen here? You don’t even have the joke, you just say, “Okay, what’s the new angle that makes me not sound like a preacher?” Forget being a comedian, just act like a reporter. What’s the question that hasn’t been asked? How come white kids don’t get shot? Have you ever watched television and seen some white kid get shot by accident?”

“When I started doing comedy at Catch a Rising Star, I used to get there at 7:45 and leave about two in the morning. That’s six hours a night watching comedians for a good six years straight. Just watching, watching, watching. What I learned more than what I wanted to be was what I didn’t want to be and what I didn’t want to say.”

There were just too many cliché jokes. I never wanted to do that horrible gay voice that everybody does. I didn’t want to be swishing and all that crap. I didn’t want to do impressions of each ethnic group. A lot of comedians are very, very similar. So I’ve always said, “Okay, what if the thing that everybody’s talking about is wrong?”

Chris Rock lending me hope that I’m not wasting my time.