Louis CK on Tracy Morgan

Unless you live under a rock, or have something better to do with your time, you’ve been reading the fallout over Tracy Morgan’s standup rant in which he joked that if his son was gay he would stab him. Morgan has apologized, and while I think what he said on stage was despicable and irredeemable, I think his apology was sincere. A dialogue between Morgan and Russel Simmons was released and the personal nature of his apology rings true and, while I’m sure that much of his contrition is driven by career considerations, I think he does regret stepping over the line. I was completely over this “controversy” until Louis CK, a comedian that I greatly respect and admire, decided to open his dumbfool mouth:
Gabe at Videogum has a pretty good response to how disingenuous this is, and how this is a way smaller issue than CK seems to think. I have a couple of thoughts to add:
First, I think it’s really hard for someone to advocate violence against other people and be funny. Now, I wasn’t there that night. Neither, by the way, was Louis C.K. So I think we have to be agnostic about whether Morgan’s rant was funny. We also need to keep in mind that there isn’t any audio or video of that night; all we have is a quasi-transcript that was posted on Facebook. Still, I think that there’s a difference between deriving humor from cultural taboos and stereotypes and reinforcing them. This has even been played out in the pop culture-sphere recently, in the form of Marc Maron’s aborted interview with the comedian Gallagher. Because Louis CK pushes these buttons, toes these lines in his own stand up, and is very articulate about his decisions, his defense of Tracy Morgan comes off as disingenuous.
The second thing I wanted to mention is that I find it really annoying how the “fuck ’em if they can’t take a joke” can lead to a self-righteous attitude about audience feedback. It’s such a lazy out to just put all responsibility on the audience, to say that if they aren’t going along with your routine that it’s because they can’t take a joke. I don’t think any topic or group is off limits to comedians, but I do feel that every comedian is responsible for how they get their laughs. One of the reasons that I appreciate CK’s comedy is that I feel like he has such confidence in his material, that he believes so strongly that he is funny and on the right side of the line, that he would perform his stand up in front of any kind of crowd. I can’t imagine that Morgan would perform that routine in front of a roomful of gay people. Just because a joke kills in front of an audience doesn’t mean that it’s a vile piece of shit.

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