In November of 2017, Louis C.K. publicly apologized for the sexual misconduct he was being accused of in the pages of the New York Times. “I have spent my long and lucky career talking and saying anything I want,” he wrote. “I will now step back and take a long time to listen.” Admirable words, for sure, but a recent audio leak of his new standup material would suggest that maybe he should step back a little further and listen to someone else because, uh, yikes.
The whole set is peppered with profanity, which has always been a hallmark of Louis C.K.’s whole thing, but his previous material also had sharp and even compassionate observations that peeled the artifice off of corrupt social norms.
This clip, which was leaked on social media, is all YouTube comment-level punching down, targeting members of the LGBT community and the Parkland survivors with a relish that would probably make Dennis Miller blanch. Due to the graphic language, we won’t be posting the audio here, but here’s what it says, in part: “Testify in front of Congress, these kids, what the f***? What are you doing? Cause you went to a high school where kids got shot, why does that mean I have to listen to you? Why does that make you interesting? You didn’t get shot. You pushed some fat kid in the way, and now I gotta listen to you talking?”
The set also dogpiles on people who ask to be called by non-binary gender pronouns (“They’re like royalty! They tell you what to call them!”) and, in a particularly telling moment, appears to acknowledge its own coarseness by saying “What are you, going to take away my birthday? My life is over. I don’t give a s***.”
Louis C.K.’s comedy was never particularly notable for its sensitivity, and his material had always had cringe-y material. But generally, that material was subversive — pointing out uncomfortable truths about who we are. His sort of comedy thrived on punching up and taking his audience down a few pegs. But going after the historically marginalized and school shooting survivors isn’t exactly fresh or incisive, and it says a lot more about the person making the joke than it does the intended butt of it.