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The Self-Deprecating Man

My mother once found me laughing hysterically in my bedroom.  It was past midnight and I had school the next day, so this wasn’t as benign an activity as you might think.  She attempted putting on her sternest face, her “you know better than this” face, but the sight of me rolling around in bed and pointing at the television was too much for her.  “Well, you’ve officially gone crazy,” she said and started laughing herself.

Her confusion was only multiplied by the fact that I couldn’t speak.  I tried getting out the words “David Letterman” over and over again, but it would only prompt another laughing fit.  You see, The Late Show had long become a bad habit of mine.  I’d stay up to watch the opening monologue and a few skits, patting myself on the back for understanding most of the esoteric puns.  Usually, I’d catch half an interview before getting bored and falling asleep.  However, on this particular night, Letterman had on a comedian I’d never heard of before: Louis CK.

As a young boy, it didn’t take much to catch my attention; put a man in front of a camera and I’d probably watch for a minute.  It was keeping my attention that was the real challenge, but that wasn’t a problem with CK.  His act was like nothing I’d ever seen before.  It was stuffed to the gills with self-deprecation.  CK was too ugly, too stupid, too pale.  The last point even prompted an apology: “It’s not like I do this on purpose,” he said.  “It’s not like I hide from the sun.  It’s just a genetic thing, you know?  Redhead don’t tan, they burst into flames.”

I couldn’t tell you why I found that joke so funny, but damn it if I didn’t almost crack a rib laughing.  It must have triggered a mental spasm of some kind, because I could never forget the name Louis CK after that night.  Every talk show appearance, comedy special, or writing credit would immediately come up on my radar.   I had officially become a fan.

What I liked best about CK was his honesty.  He was a ball of insecurity wrapped in confusion and wonderment.  He was fat and he knew he was fat, but he wasn’t about to smile about it and call it “fluffy.”  He hated parts of his personality, but knew that he would probably never change them.  He loved his children, but sometimes wished they would burst into flames.  In short, he was a person.

Louis C K

Louis looking…bloated and unhappy.

After many years of dedicated fandom, I heard that CK was starting a new TV show.  This made me nervous, because I knew how well a paycheck could dilute the best parts of a person.  I prepared myself for a more palatable form of the same banal dreck that always washes up on screen: some snappy collection of funny situations, complete with laugh track.  Essentially, I was expecting a better kind of sitcom.  What I got was humor immersed within the most horrifically awkward situations I’d ever seen acted out on screen.  What I got was reality on tap: no forced happy endings, no cheerful resolutions to wrap up an awful day; just an imperfect man making mistakes and dealing with the consequences.

The first episode left me confused, to say the least.  I sat in my chair, wondering what it meant that I’d hardly laughed.  Was that a good thing?  Was CK just not funny to me anymore?  I kept watching, part of me hoping that it would get funnier, part of me thinking that I “got” it.  Week after week, a man gets run over by a truck in front of CK, a teenager humiliates him during a date, a realtor presents him with a home that CK is certain will “fix” his family.  Every episode would prompt a long period of self-reflection, parsing out the segments that seemed so familiar, as if I’d lived the episode myself.

That echo of familiarity was what eventually made me love the show.  In a sense, I had lived through most of those horrible situations CK writes about.  We’ve all felt lonely or angry or confused.  We’ve all gone for something and failed.  We’ve all achieved something, only to realize that it didn’t actually mean all that much.  Each of us has probably thought ourselves incapable of something, only to produce something beyond what we expected.

CK was speaking about my experience.  He was writing about the goddamn human condition!  Maybe, that’s why I liked him so much.  He’s been a champion for all the fuck ups that couldn’t quite put their experience in words, a voice for all the wretched souls that couldn’t find the humor in their lives.  In this way, I suppose that a victory for Louie is a victory for all of us.  An indisputable victory for the self-deprecating man.


About Alberto Ayora

He is Keyser Söze. Shhh, don't tell anyone.

4 comments on “The Self-Deprecating Man

  1. ThorLokiLover
    July 29, 2012

    :D There’s something to be said for the “anti-escapism” protagonist, the everyman, the character with whom one’s meant to identify, for better or for worse. Good article, Pilgrim. Buuuuuuuut :

    CK is on my shit list.

  2. B.Pilgrim
    July 30, 2012

    Have you actually looked into the Tosh thing? It was all taken from a firsthand account that someone posted on a blog and it took off. Since then, there have been other witnesses that have stepped up to say that confrontation between Tosh and the woman didn’t really happen the way she described. But that doesn’t seem to matter to anybody, because the conversation has turned into whether or not X person supports rape jokes.

    And yes, I actually saw that interview with CK when it first came on and I liked what he said. “I think we should listen,” he said. “If someone has the opposite feeling, I want to hear it so I can add to mine.” But the moment you demonize someone and say that they’re on your “shit list” that ceases to be a possibility, because you invalidate anything they might say after that point.

    I think comedians have traditionally taken on subjects that run the gamut from horrible to somewhat bad taste. There are most likely racist comedians out there that do whole sets about how lazy or stupid (insert race here) are. I wouldn’t go to see those comedians, because I’d find that insulting. That being said, what I don’t agree with is saying that an individual is not allowed to take on a subject. They have a right to talk about whatever pops into their heads. No one is being forced to listen.
    Have you ever seen a Daniel Tosh’s comedy before? He admits to being a horrible shallow person. That’s part of his act. He insults a whole multitude of groups, but with the understanding that he has the privilege of saying these things because he’s a white male.

    But, I digress. I think comedians have traditionally taken on sacred cow subjects. That’s part why we’re drawn to them in the first place. They’re the people that talk about things when no one else will. And if you see one of CK’s acts, you’d know that he talks about kinds of things: the privilege of being white, the legitimacy of child abuse, whether or not the word “fa***t” is valid to use. But you forgive him these things, because you know he’s joking. And by listening you him, you look at the subject a different way.

    • A.
      July 30, 2012

      I don’t think the problem everyone (including myself) has with Daniel Tosh is an example of “an individual [who] is not allowed to take on a subject.” I don’t think rape jokes are necessarily off limits. What I consider an example of a “rape joke” is Wanda Sykes’s joke “what if our pussies were detachable” (youtube it, it’s really well done). She’s obviously joking about rape and rape culture, even if she never uses the word rape. Tosh’s “jokes” about rape, however, seem to never go beyond the idea that rape itself is just -hilarious-. And that isn’t a joke, and it isn’t funny. I don’t remember where I read this, but it is such a symptom of rape culture that we have to figure out whether someone is actually just “joking” about raping us.

      Louis C.K. went on Jon Stewart and talked about the controversy a little. To his credit, he started out like this: “I’ve read some blogs during this whole thing that enlightened me about some things I didn’t know. This woman said how rape is something that polices women’s lives. They have a narrow corridor that they can’t go out late, they can’t go to certain neighborhoods, they can’t dress a certain way, cause they might get… so that’s now part of me now…” But then ended the segment of the interview with “To the women I say now that we’ve heard you, you know, shut the fuck up for a minute.” This is what bothers me about Louis C.K.’s part in all of this. He did some research and exposed himself to experiences he’d previously had no knowledge of, but then seems to have learned nothing.

  3. B.Pilgrim
    July 31, 2012

    What bothers me most about the Tosh thing is that all the controversy is over a second hand account of what an unnamed source supposedly experienced. No one has any REAL idea of what actually took place or what the joke was that offended this woman. Is there video anywhere? No. Any legitimate news outlet would’ve laughed at this story.

    All we know is that Tosh said something that offended someone (as he often does) and, instead of leaving, she tried to heckle him and he reacted. These kinds of things often go over the top, because you’re basically challenging the guy in public. He has to react harshly or risk losing the audience. Want to hear a harsh reaction to a heckler? Listen to this:

    Now, as for Louis CK, the point he made was that, in his opinion, this controversy underlined a fundamental point of friction between men an women:

    “This is also about men and women…they’re both making a classing gender mistake.
    The women are saying that this is how they feel about this, but they’re also saying that my feelings should be everyone’s primary concern. But the men are making this
    mistake: they’re saying your feelings don’t matter, your feelings are wrong, your feeling are stupid. If you’ve ever lived with a woman, you can’t step in shit worse than that — to tell a woman that her feelings don’t matter. So, to the men, I say listen, listen to what the woman are saying. To the woman I say, now that we heard you, you need to shut the fuck up for a minute. Let’s get back together…”

    It’s my personal opinion that that last point was a joke, as he just said that men have a tendency of ignoring what women are trying to tell them. He set up a joke (men don’t listen), he told the joke (now, shut the fuck up). As in, he’s a guy, so of course is guilty of the same bias.

    I think his actual point was that we should stop yelling over each other. Let’s start a dialogue and stop falling into the same familiar cycles.

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This entry was posted on July 29, 2012 by in Media and tagged , , , , , .

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