Learning from Louis C.K

I’ll confess, I’m a fan Louis C.K.

A big fan.

However, not for the generically assumed popular reasons.  I don’t just like Louis C.K. only because he makes me laugh.  There’s a far deeper thing going on than what appears from afar.  Louis C.K.’s humor is offensive for many, but I’m seeing it as a timeless, grilling commentary on the subtle characteristics in our society.

Here are a couple of clips you might want to check out before continuing.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xSSDeesUUsU
(Louis C.K. Hates Twitter)

http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=aba_1332656862&use_old_player=1
(Everything is Amazing & Nobody’s Happy)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5HbYScltf1c
(Louis C.K. Hates Cell Phones)

 

If I was my 12 year old self, I probably would’ve felt as if he was attacking me personally given his rip on the current generation.  I would’ve brushed him off as a grumpy old man and walked away, but things changed in college.  I did a research paper on the high level sociological impact of social media as a whole in our society and let me tell you, he is hitting a bullzeye.  The reason I find his humor so powerful is that he’s not just being silly and he’s not making funny faces or noises.  It’s because he is simply telling us to look ourselves.  Then and only then do we suddenly see how ridiculous things are.  When I saw the Everything is Amazing & Nobody’s happy video, I laughed hard, because I could relate completely and only after he spoke this unmitigated harsh truth did I finally see how absurd some of these everyday things are.  How could I have not seen this before?

This bring forth the question of where does humor come from?  Why do we find some things humorous and not others?  As simply as I can put it without leaking out into a 20 page research paper, our brains try to find patterns, we try to see the commonalities in the white noise of everything, and when we try to predict what’s next based on what we know, but are surprised by something unexpected, we laugh.  Laughing serves its purpose as a way of teaching us a new logical order.  This is multiplied in a social environment with other people, laughing is a very communal thing.  Now I’m not trying to get too far off on a tangent with Gelotology( the study of humor), but I think Louis C.K is extremely effective at this. Teaching us through laughter while at the same time, providing a a subliminal commentary on the state of our culture.  (I’ll provide some references for those more interested in Gelotology at the bottom of the post for further reading.)

In some of Louis C.K.’s specials, he’ll rant about our odd shifting use of the English language, our pursuit for sex, racial issues, and even his own experience at raising children.  A large amount of his material has this meta narrative essence to it.  It’s almost as if our entire society is standing confused in a boat drifting at sea and he’s the lone guy standing way in the back who raises his hand and asks, “Hey, what the hell are we all doing?”

I love the book of Ecclesiastics,  Herman Melville said in his opinion it was one of the truest books ever written due to the honest lamenting.  It takes your paradigm and rips it into shreds.  Everything  that you want and desire, it takes them and shoves them down your throat until you’re nauseous.  That’s what we need today, a hard, honest, unfiltered look at ourselves and that forces us to question and justify everything we’re doing.  Looking back on this year, there’s something special about honesty, even if it’s offensive.  However, let me stop you before you assume I’m endorsing a blatant refusal to show compassion to someone else when you speak something that may be painful.  I’m suggesting that we hold our devotion to honesty and to each other over the selfish desires to be liked.  Being offended is a necessary and healthy act.  It’s impossible to go through life and not get offended at one point.  When something happens that someone finds offensive, you’ve just created a dialog, you’ve just forced that person to think as well as yourself.  The intentions and the motives are what drives this dialog.

It may hurt, in fact, it probably will, but at least it’s not festering denial. It’s not sticking your head in the clouds being completely ambivalent about things all around you while you tape your own mouth shut with fear and insecurity.  I’ve had people say pretty mean things to me that I’ve gotten upset about, but in the long run I was grateful for them.  I’ve had a number of people this year whom I held as pillars in my life turn out to be nothing more than cardboard cutouts.  Simply because their refusal to show this honesty, as a way of saving their own face, but that in and of itself is just adding more layers of plaster to the mask.

And that’s all they are, a mask.

When I look at the friendship death toll, a toll of who’s walked away from my friendship and who is still as close to me like family, I find that every friendship that I’ve lost, I or that other person was never honest with each other. On the other end of things, some of the things I’ve gotten most offended over, has been said by my closest friends that I now that I appreciate more than ever.

This dishonesty, when we lie to ourselves and each other, makes us feel better in the short run, but at the heartbeat of things, it breaks our interdependent relationships like a pane of glass shattering into a thousand tiny pieces.  By then, there’s no point in investing more time into it when there’s always going to be those cracks as painful reminders.

Walter Brueggeman, an Old Testament biblical scholar, accuses the modern christian church of broadly ignoring one third of the Psalms and calls the church to recover the language of biblical lament. If Christians are not given the permission to rail against God, we are invited into either great guilt (for feeling angry with God) or great denial. Solidifying a place of lament allows a community to address that which is not right and demand change. The character of brutal honesty must mark a true covenantal relationship between us and God.(1)  That kind of open and honest relationship is what we need to have with each other as well.

Again I’m not suggesting we throw our concern for others out the window and speak our mind until we’ve hurt everyone around us.  I don’t want to swing the pendulum until it’s completely sideways.  I’ve said some honest things to some people and it’s hurt them, I regret how, when, and who I’ve said it to.  All I’m suggesting is that there is indeed a necessary time and place for it,  but we’ve become so accustomed to keeping that time ‘never’ and that place ‘nowhere’.

Honesty is an asset and Louis C.K. provides it while making us think about ourselves at a very high level.  Here are some of his uncensored quotes of his that you can chew on, hopefully you’ve enjoyed my thoughts. Later this week I’m going to make another post like this one, but with the Eminem.  Also, don’t forget to check out the further reading at the bottom.

-Logan T. Miles

Some things I think are very conservative, or very liberal. I think when someone falls into one category for everything, I’m very suspicious. It doesn’t make sense to me that you’d have the same solution to every issue.

When I was younger, I lied all the time, because once you understand the power of lying, it’s really like magic because you transform reality for people.

As humans, we waste the shit out of our words. It’s sad. We use words like “awesome” and “wonderful” like they’re candy. It was awesome? Really? It inspired awe? It was wonderful? Are you serious? It was full of wonder? You use the word “amazing” to describe a goddamn sandwich at Wendy’s. What’s going to happen on your wedding day, or when your first child is born? How will you describe it? You already wasted “amazing” on a fucking sandwich.

Out of the people that ever were, almost all of them are dead. There are way more dead people, and you’re all gonna die and then you’re gonna be dead for way longer than you’re alive. Like that’s mostly what you’re ever gonna be. You’re just dead people that didn’t die yet.

When you write from your gut and let the stuff stay flawed and don’t let anybody tell you to make it better, it can end up looking like nothing else.

It seems like the better it gets, the more miserable people become. There’s never a technological advancement where people think, “Wow, we can finally do this!” And I think a lot of it has to do with advertising. Americans have it constantly drilled into our heads, every fucking day, that we deserve everything to be perfect all the time.

 

 

Further Reading-

 Interesting article in Psychology Today about humor

Monro, D. H. “Theories of Humor”

Vocabulary & Terminology Associated With Laughter

(1)This taken from Cindy Brandt’s awesome post over on American Jesus, that post inspired this one.

 

 

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