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Why it’s a wrap for Louis C.K. and his ‘angry white man’ comedy

Last summer’s Netflix stand-up comedy special Hannah Gadsby: Nanette became an international sensation and one of the most talked about shows on social media due to its timeliness in light of the #MeToo era.

In the middle of her set, the Australian comedian announced her desire to retire from stand-up comedy, citing how she had come to recognize the implications of building her comedic career on self-deprecating humor and what this means for someone whose non-normative queer identity and gender presentation already renders her existing on the margins of society.

In short, Nanette is a vehement critique of misogyny and homophobia.

Yet, in the last 15 minutes of the show, Gadsby delivers a powerful monologue calling out our culture that is committed to preserving and protecting the reputation of men in power, even when they abuse it in the most abhorrent of ways.

Gadsby in this same monologue, however, acknowledges that presenting herself as visibly impassioned will likely render her to be perceived and reduced by some as just another “man-hating lesbian.”

In other words, this expression of anger is only accepted when it is from a straight white angry man on stage, what Gadsby dubs as “angry white man comedy.”

“Angry White Man Comedy” is exactly what Louis C.K. personifies and his latest comedy set proves it. Late on Sunday, a 48-minute audio recording of C.K. surfaced on YouTube, which revealed the comedian mocking the survivors of the Parkland school shooting that left 17 people dead, in addition to ridiculing transpeople for their use of preferred pronouns.

C.K. opened his set by underlining the difficulty the last 14 months since multiple women accused the comedian of sexual assault and sexual misconduct.

After publicly admitting the allegations to be true, C.K. has been on a comeback trail performing sets at the Comedy Cellar in New York on a few occasions.

Though he insisted in his public statement that, “I will now step back and take a long time to listen,” it doesn’t seem like C.K. has done a lot of listening or self-examination, but rather has lashed out the vulnerable who are simply asserting their humanity.

In his deriding of the activism of the Parkland students, C.K. stated,

“They’re testifying in front of Congress, these kids? You’re not interesting because 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’ve got to listen to you talking?”

Despite what C.K. thinks, these young kids are not trying to be interesting, they are using their voice, enacting their civic duty to encourage gun control reform to stop death and enable more students to access a safe learning environment and not be denied their fundamental right to an education.

Discussing his frustration and disappointment with the young generation, specifically berating some members use of preferred pronouns in the LGBTQIA community. He said,

“They’re like royalty. They tell you what to call them. ‘You should address me as ‘they-them.’ Because I identify as gender neutral.’ Oh, O.K. O.K. You should address me as ‘there.’ Because I identify as a location.”

C.K. followed up his controversial comments by saying,

“What are you going to do, take away my birthday? My life is over. I don’t give a shit.”

Though he insists he doesn’t care about the consequences of his comments, the truth is, he does care. Every comment was deliberate and intentional. He was aware that he will be the subject of criticism and outrage.

And at the same time, he also knows that there are people who will see him and discursively position him as a hero of free speech and will thereby label his critics as oversensitive and corrupted by PC culture.

In all likelihood, C.K is banking on the premise that if enough time passes, and if he just rides out the storm for a little longer, that the 5 Emmy’s attached to his name will be enough incentive for the gatekeepers of our culture of compliance, to offer him a second chance.

The routine came under a bombardment of criticism on social media after the clip was leaked. Fred Guttenberg, the father of one of the victims of the Parkland shooting, posted on Twitter,

C.K. ultimately lashed out against the implications of violations, and disturbing abuse of power.

Yet despite it all, C.K. still has the audacity and the belief that he has the right to render another human being’s voice and actions as powerless, as part of his own strategy to restore his career is ultimatelya crude new low.

Times up, Louis.