50. The Overlooked Wisdom of Louis C.K.

“Whenever you leave behind failure, you’re doing good. If you think everything you’ve ever done is great, you’re probably dumb.”

– Louis C.K.

A bit startling, risqué  and almost certainly daring, the American comedian Louis C.K. is by far the most insightful social observer of our time. His first ever stand-up performance was a considerable catastrophe; he was said to have prepared two minutes of material for a five-minute set. But, with that remarkable talent he has for condensing life lessons, into terse yet highly expressive sentences, he simply said: “Failure is the road to becoming a great comedian.” I will argue that he is a “great comedian” for his moral, social and even existential observations of the human condition and how these are made all the more memorable because of the frequent laughter that accompanies them.

#1 Louis C.K. As A Moral Barometer

The phrase ‘moral barometer’ came to me from a compilation of Steve Harvey footage which was shockingly ignorant.lo In any case, the concept of a barometer – measuring atmospheric pressure –  can be translated to the language of morality pretty accurately. Louis C.K. is a master at stress-testing our morals, building and drawing us into his moral ‘ozone layer’ with his incredibly incisive bit ‘Of course, but maybe’, featured in his one hour HBO special ‘Oh My God’:

Besides being hilarious, what this illustrates is how important it is to put our moral prejudices to the test. Particularly around 1:34 when he suggests “If we just do this [covers his eyes] we’re done with nut allergies.” What Louis C.K. offers us is a darkly comical perspective of issues which are in themselves seriously unfunny. Even an issue which is seriously politicised in the United States, soldiers who are shot whilst in the line of combat. Louis C.K. quips:

“Of course, if you’re fighting for your country and you get shot it’s a terrible tragedy…but maybe if you pick up a gun and go to another country and get shot, it’s not that weird.”

At this point during the show everyone is feeling morally uncomfortable, but Louis C.K. proceeds to discuss slavery and he notes a grave silence in the air and simply adds that it is unjustified for people to laugh at “dead kids with the nut allergies”. It is a unique talent to be able to make others laugh and simultaneously make them challenge their conceptions of controversial issues.

#2 Louis C.K. “The Thorough Goodness of Racial Awareness”

The string of dead African-Americans in the United States would at least attest to the fact that white people still seem to have it better. Louis C.K. thus advocates a form of racial awareness, comically thanking his lucky stars for being both white and a male. Louis C.K. seems to allude to the ‘fact’ that we are not as equal as we would like to be and trashes the extra-sensitive ‘political correctness’ of the 21st Century:

#3 Existential Comedy

Finally, Louis C.K. excels in what I like to call “Existential Comedy”. He calls into question aspects of our existence which are seriously flawed, notably, how we get “bored”.

Louis C.K. is naturally my favourite comedian for being able to merge inappropriate dick jokes with shrewd social commentary. For being able to stress-test our morality whilst we darkly and boisterously laugh at his radical ideas. And finally, for pinpointing the unwarranted ungratefulness that we seem to all possess, which could best be summarised in a biting quote:

“Everything’s amazing and nobody’s happy!” – Louis C.K.




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