Rest in peace, Louis
Your career’s gonna die.
Because that apology ya wrote?
It had me fooled. Really, it did. For about 36 hours. Because I wanted, so badly, to still be a fan of yours. Louis, your ability to write, your agility with the craft of creative nonfiction and the skill of your humor, it’s everything I’ve based the past four years of my own personal work on. Many of the things you said, many of your best bits and punchlines spoke directly to something I recognize to be universally true to the reality we share. Parenting jokes, jokes about dating. Jokes about men and jokes about women. And the honesty. Your self-deprecating humor gave me hope that self-deprecating humor could carry a person far if it was wielded consistently, well, and with fierce dedication to authentic insight, even when what we need to reveal about ourselves is less than favorable.
As a writer of creative nonfiction, I have taken those quiet little moments of shame, when I’ve shared something about myself in an essay, or in a column, or in a blog post about which my parents might whisper “keep that to yourself,” and I have measured them against both their effectiveness at driving home the spirit of the essay in question, and whether you yourself would be so forthcoming with the same information.
Your work has been the yardstick by which I’ve measured my own aspirations, and my attempts when it comes to writing for money.
You were my pace car. Just like Carlin, Bruce, and Pryor, you were the guy out front letting me know how to come just this close to too far, to maximize the potential of that space to elevate the writing, elevate the story from just a quick yarn informally spun to something worthy of a submission and a publication. Of an audience, which is the highest honor any writer can ever achieve.
Dude. You let me down less with the unconscionable behavior we all now know you engaged in. To a certain extent, I’m as jaded as everyone else. Sexual harassment is the cross every woman bears, the punishment for calling it what it is and reacting to it with the indignance and thunderous reproach any man in the same situation would be expected to display being the condescending label of “histrionics.”
Women are not expected to have emotional reactions. Not out loud. Not when the bully system has been so sturdily created in industries such as yours. So you write this apology and I wanted so badly to be soothed. I wanted the hope it seemed to offer. The first of many accused to take ownership and express “remorse.” I wanted it to legitimize my new ambivalence, about your work and about you as a writer, that makes my heart ache. I wanted it to be a balm on a fuming fundamental set of opposite realities. I love your work, Louis. Speaking even just in terms of technical craft, the way you write a piece and the way you deliver it. You are one of the greatest comedians of all time.
But in terms of what sort of man you are?
You are just another base, low creature with an insightless sense of entitlement and a genuine shock that the world might bristle at your admitting that you showed women your penis, but never without asking first.
It’s that narcissistic anti-apology that took this whole situation and made me realize that I can never ever evaluate you in terms of your work again. That what work you’ve given me to deconstruct and learn to tighten my own craft with is, really, only good now as an odd curiosity and a technical example of a joke written well.
Even with that apology, Louis, you’re still going to die.
Your career is shot, and you deserve that. But it makes me sad that one of the greatest writers of satire and comedy in my generation is of such low worth as a human being. I sincerely hope that you use the power of writing to heal and get real with yourself. And get your butt at that desk and don’t come out of this “long break of listening” or whatever you’re calling you stepping back to lick your wounds and come up with a game plan for how to appear human again, don’t come out of your little self-imposed exile without some deep and thoughtful work on what your actions say about this world.
What your actions say about what you want for your daughters.
What your actions say about what you think your daughters should accept.
And to every Bill Cosby fan I did not adequately offer condolences to, I am truly sorry. I have never had an actual role model in my field fail so astoundingly and I was not aware of how deep the irritation, disappointment, and frustration would burrow.
And as far as the fact that these women went years and years trying to flounder through a career largely ruined by their unfortunate encounter with Louis C.K., I have this to say.
I have this one thing to say to every mother out there bringing up young kids right now.
This is what happens when we tell our daughters that Johnny snapped your bra on the playground because “he likes you.” This is what happens when we tell our daughters that, whatever way they’ve upset or frightened or misused the presence of a girl for any purpose whatsoever, that “boys will be boys.” This is why the boys on the playground snapping bras and copping feels grow up to feel an overwhelming entitlement to take any liberties they please with women, just so long as they ask first. This is how boys fail to learn the reality that is emotional abuse and misconduct. This is how boys fail to understand the fundamental fact that girls and women are concepts rather than objects. And that reducing them to objects is the ultimate act of poor character.
I swear to you right now, scout’s honor, if I ever hear any person, man or woman, kid or adult, tell my daughters that a boy just made her feel less than radiant because “that’s just how boys are,” I will single-handedly destroy that double standard for them right there with my own bare hands and reverberating voice.
Boys need to stop being boys and start being humans so that our young daughters today get to grow up in a world full of men and not despicable clowns with a dangerous sense of entitlement to them, body mind and soul.
Rest in peace, Louis. Your career will be mourned, and then buried, in a shady corner of a lonely cemetery in my mind.