Louis CK, I Love You, But You Went Too Far

by Jennifer Ball
Originally Published: 
Louis C.K. wearing a black shirt while standing in front of a black background.

I have been a fan of Louis CK for years. And when I say fan, I mean he’s been my number one imaginary boyfriend for a long, long time. Like, I think I was one of five people who actually saw his first HBO series, Lucky Louie. I have watched his FX series, Louie, since the beginning, often in a darkened room with a glass of wine (you know, ambiance is important when spending time with an imaginary lover). As a divorced parent, I’ve listened to him reflect upon the utter insanity that is dating after divorce with hallelujahs and enthusiastic nods. His views on parenting after divorce are almost always brilliant twist-cones of funny and sad, and as anyone who has parented post-divorce can tell you, he’s pretty much spot on.

Part of what makes him so relatable to so many people is his honesty. He will get up on stage, or in front of a camera, and talk about what it’s like when you lose your shit with your kids. He will tell anyone who listens about the humiliation that is mid-life dating. He came up with my favorite quote ever about eating: “I don’t stop eating when I’m full. The meal isn’t over when I’m full. It’s over when I hate myself.” Try avoiding that meme at Thanksgiving time. Just try.

Like many other honest/edgy comedians before him, he’ll cross lines. He talks openly about self-loathing and being fat and the utter bullshit that happens every single day. He minces no words, and sometimes steps up to subjects that most entertainers avoid like the plague. Usually, when he does it, I laugh. Hard. Because my pretend boyfriend is funny, dammit.

He hosted the season finale of Saturday Night Live this past weekend. I didn’t watch it live, because even a loyal girlfriend misses her make-believe boyfriend’s shows sometimes, but I did watch his opening monologue later the next day. I watched with trepidation, since word was already spreading about lines being crossed and going too far.

He opened his monologue by talking about how different things were for those of us who were raised in the ’70s. He touched on some hot-button issues in this first little bit, but kept it very short. As far as funny? Meh. This wasn’t prime Louis CK.

And then he began talking about child molesters. I cringed. It’s hard seeing someone you adore do or say something that goes beyond mildly shocking or somewhat insensitive. He talked about the neighborhood pedophile of his youth and joked about the guy cruising around town, trying to get teenage boys to go to McDonald’s with him. He gave the molester a funny French accent.

He compared pedophilia to the way he loves candy bars. He loves Mounds bars a whole lot, but if eating them could land him in jail, he’d stop. He said, “Child molesters are very tenacious people,” and, “from their point of view, it must be amazing to risk so much.”

Now, before I get accused of not having a sense of humor, of not getting it, of having no idea of how comedy works, let me say that I am old enough to remember Lenny Bruce. I used to stay up late to watch Richard Pryor specials on cable, and I actually saw Joan Rivers and George Carlin perform live. I consider the late Bill Hicks a genius. Comedy that hits close to home, that cuts just a little too deep, that sparks debate and conversation can be a fabulous thing. Hey, I want to adopt Amy Schumer, OK? I get it. I appreciate it, and usually, I like it.

But as I listened to Louis CK go on about the molestation of children, all I could think of was my friend.

A few years ago, I was at work when my phone rang. It was my best friend, sobbing. I work at an elementary school where it’s loud, so I had to go someplace quiet in order to understand her.

She was distraught. She’d just discovered that a close family member had sexually abused one of her children. Have you ever heard real anguish in a loved one’s voice? It’s gutting. She wept as she told me the details. She blamed herself for not knowing. She mourned the loss of innocence. She raged against the abuser. I listened, helplessly.

My friend is tough. She not only confronted this family member, but she went to the police. She risked her marriage and her relationship with her extended family because she wanted justice. She knew that nothing could ever undo what that monster had done, but she was going to make sure the person who hurt her child paid some sort of price for the heinous crimes he’d committed.

In the end, he did pay a price. He took his own life after charges had been filed, but before any legal proceedings had begun.

Throughout the ordeal, I listened when my friend needed to talk. It’s all you can do in that kind of situation … just be there. I learned what was done to her kids (turns out it wasn’t just one child). I was repulsed and sick for her, and for her sweet babies. I’d had prior contact with the abuser, and was furious that he’d managed to fool everyone into thinking he was a good and kind person.

When he died, I didn’t feel sad. I mourned the loss of his fake persona, the person he’d pretended to be to my friend and her family. I mourned with my friend, knowing that the scars he left on those innocent children would fade over time, but would always be there. I watched as someone I love deeply struggled to carry on with some sense of normalcy after something so awful, so big, so scary had happened. I continue to watch her today, being brave and being such a good mother and loving her children, fiercely. I admire her so much.

We have these babies, and we do everything we can to protect them. To shelter them from harm. When someone violates them, part of us dies. I saw how my friend changed when all of this happened … a certain light in her eyes went out. It is something that should never, ever happen to a child. And something that no mother should ever have to endure.

Which is why I didn’t laugh at Louis C.K.’s routine about child molesters. I read some of the feedback. The shocked responses, and then the “you just don’t get it” replies.

One person tweeted, “Anyone who didn’t think that that was funny has no sense of humor.” I shook my head after reading that one. And thought to myself … how lucky for those people who considered it funny. They have no idea how fortunate they are. No freaking idea.

Louis, I still love you. You can keep the restraining orders against me in place. But please, from one parent to another, think about those lines you cross.

Some of them hurt more than others.

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