Written by Jasey Roberts
In his new comedy special – dropped covertly on his website for digital download – Louis CK is attempting to do something that I’ve never seen anyone try to get away with before.
And the weird thing is, he’s kind of doing it, in a way.
And by “it,” I mean slipping back into the public consciousness.
Trying to get back to the way things used to be, before the #MeToo movement got the entertainment industry in a figurative titty-twister and caused a heck of a lot of old white dudes to start looking at the classified section.
The Louis that comes onstage at the beginning of Sincerely (the special’s apparently unironic name) is, at a glance, a much older man. Someone who has aged what looks to be like a decade in under three years. He is received with thunderous laughter and applause (a bizarre sort of Trumpian dynamic that CK keeps with the audience for the rest of the show; all he has to do is stand there and they are eating from his palms), and I begin to think that maybe he will impart some sort of genuine wisdom he’s gained from the experience.
But then he begins to speak.
As a former fan of CK’s, I found myself paying the eight-dollar download fee mainly out of a suspicion for how he chose to address his past misdoings, if at all. But also, I have to admit, mainly because I had a sick, lingering curiosity for if he could still get me.
His last special, 2017, which was released shortly before his sexual assault allegations came to light, didn’t have the same effect that his earlier stuff had – despite a few laughs here and there.
And while I hate to admit to having chuckled during Sincerely, it was mostly laughter in the vein of “I can’t believe he’s saying this right now – despite everything.” The main emotion I felt while watching his special was disgust, if we’re being completely honest. More than a few times, I wanted to turn off the video player, take a break, do something else. But like a midair collision, Sincerely had me transfixed.
There’s this idea that (at least in the context of comedy) nothing should be deemed too controversial and too off limits – and that people who get offended at comedy are just looking for something to throw rotten fruit at.
Even if this were 100% true, CK is still easy to criticize for his lack of creativity: CK tends to joke in five categories.
Three: Getting older.
Four: “People are annoying.”
Five: “Look at me – I’m a weird pervert.”
After watching him for a while, you begin to realize how restrictive his material really is. And even after the accusations set against him, he really doesn’t let up on the fifth category.
In fact, it comes across almost immediately in Sincerely that Louis CK is not remorseful for his actions. He addresses them in the same offhand way he addresses all of his major life changes: getting a divorce, sending his daughter to school, his mother dying, getting accused of sexual assault. All of it is on the same platform – a comedy bit – a setup for something that’s meant to invoke laughter.
This would be okay if he had any real self-awareness – if his material was ever about anyone other than himself. He never talks about his ex-wife, daughters, girlfriend, mother, or accusers as anything other than who they are in their direct relationship to him – servicing, nagging, pleasing, and annoying him. To Louis CK, something can only be funny if he is the butt or (more often than not) the crux of the joke.
To be honest, I don’t know what I expected.
Maybe it was for him to offer up some kind of sincere apology, or to at least address his actions in some sort of sincere way, and then move on with the funny bits.
But he didn’t even go for that.
All that Sincerely has left me with is a regurgitated sense of disappointment and shame over once having been a fan of someone – a feeling left over from three years ago when I’d first heard the news.