Louis CK found himself in a bit of “hot water” after his opening monologue to SNL’s 40th anniversary show last week. The bit that sparked the controversy was about child molestation. You can watch the bit below; it starts right after CK tells a tale about a child molester that lived in his neighborhood while he was growing up.
Now, I want to make it clear that Louis CK is not my hero because he joked about child molestation. I haven’t been sitting around thinking, “gee, I wish someone would joke about child molestation,” and then, after hearing CK’s monologue was like, “he’s my hero”—it’s not like that at all. He’s my hero because he talked about something you’re not supposed to talk about.
Why Is He Not Supposed To Talk About It?
Today’s society is sensitive; that’s really what it boils down to. We live in a world where children are receiving trophies for participation because we “don’t want to hurt their feelings.” So it makes sense that we’d be a bit on guard about child molestation jokes; after all, being molested is countless times worse than not receiving a trophy.
Some people believe a comic shouldn’t mention this subject at all. Their beliefs come from not wanting a victim to relive what happened to them. If you’ve ever seen something with a “trigger warning,” that’s what it’s referring to.
I don’t know what it’s like to be a victim of child molestation, so I can’t speak to whether or not this subject can be painful for them to listen to. But I do think there’s a danger in having a subject that’s off limits. I believe It’s a reminder that says, “hey, this happens!” It’s so people are mindful and can help prevent others from becoming victims.
And child molestation isn’t just mentioned in a few jokes by a handful of comedians: it’s mentioned in the news, in TV shows, in books, and other places.
If it’s a painful subject, shouldn’t we pull all mentions of it from all forms of media? I don’t believe so (for the reminder reason mentioned above), and yes, jokes can just as good of a reminder as the other forms of media—if the jokes are done right.
Were Louis CK’s Jokes ‘Done Right’?
The short answer is yes.
The long answer is why they were done right. And to help explain why they were done right, I’m going to talk about how jokes can be “done wrong.”
Jokes typically have targets, and if the target of a joke is a victim, then the joke is done wrong. For example, let’s say someone, we’ll call them Person A for simplicity’s sake, gets killed in an auto accident. A comic then makes a joke about not being buckled and says they were as unbuckled as Person A—that’s an example where the victim is the target of the joke.
Going back to Louis CK’s joke, he didn’t actually target victims of child molestation. The bit is about him failing to understand child molesters.
So Why the Controversy?
There are a couple of things at play here:
- First, we have what I mentioned above: some people think that simply talking about a subject can be hurtful.
- Also, some media reports have been misleading. A lot of headlines that came out right after CK’s SNL 40th anniversary monologue said something to the effect of “Louis CK compares child molestation to eating a Mounds bar.” While technically not untrue, these headlines don’t really tell the reader what CK was doing. He was using the comparison to show the audience just how insane child molesters are.
So Why Is Louis CK My Hero?
As I mentioned above, CK talks about something he wasn’t supposed to. But it’s more than that. There’s been a push where comics have recently been taking heat over jokes they’ve made: Trevor Noah over tweets from five years ago and Jamie Foxx’s joke about Bruce Jenner. CK knew there would probably be a backlash, but he told the jokes anyway—because they represent what he thinks and because censoring his thoughts would be dishonest.
And it’s not just the joke either. If it were, I’d have tons of amateur comics attempting to become my hero every night. No, CK is my hero because he took a stand for something he believed in—the right to talk about what he wants—on the biggest stage he could, Saturday Night Live.