Did Louis CK go too far? Social media erupts after ‘SNL’ monologue

17 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘SNL’: Louis C.K. bolsters season finale.

wrapped its 40th season with an old, reliable friend at the helm: Louis C.K. hosted the show for a third straight year, and, as usual, his monologue set a hard-to-match bar for the sketches that followed.After a season that brought us jokes about ISIS and drawing Muhammad, “Saturday Night Live” seemed to make no attempt to avoid controversy in its 40th year finale.It’s been a heck of a season for Saturday Night Live, one marked by big changes (switcheroos on the Weekend Update desk, the unexpected addition of breakout talents like Pete Davidson and Leslie Jones), that humdinger of an anniversary celebration, and a punishing schedule that kind of made it seem like the whole thing would never end.

During the show’s opening segment, CK delivered an eight-minute monologue which included jokes about “mild” racism and the rationale behind child molestation. This time around, C.K.’s opening set played with some bold, taboo material, with the comic riffing on his “mild” racism, the joys of pedophilia (“this is my last joke, probably”), and the uncanny similarities between his daughters’ rapport and Israel-Palestine relations. There’s already been some controversy about the bit, but really this is classic C.K.: a tad close to offensive, but uniquely hilarious in his ability to use suspect, seemingly reductive comparisons to belittle his own incompetence. C.K. delivered just that, inspiring what has to be a fatigued cast to bust out some jaw-dropping gags and twisted humor that shows just how much punch and pull SNL still has in its pockets. I just don’t find jokes about child molestation funny”, with another adding “By my count Louis CK is up to about 3 expected apologies already tomorrow.” However, some viewers were more complimentary about CK’s performance.

This seemed to be the case when, after a quick thank you to the audience, he jumped right into: “I was born in 1967, so I grew up in the ’70s, so, I’m not racist. The 40th season of SNL has been mostly light on big song-and-dance numbers, depriving its viewership of seeing something fizzy and fun that they can sing along to. The most memorable bit later in the show was actually a commercial: The Coneheads (Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtin) are working for State Farm, which is a sign of the enduring appeal of “SNL.” After the monologue, Louis C.K. donned a range of wigs and accents to bolster very uneven skits. SNL’s schedule mirrors that of most academic institutions, so that everyone is stoked about the impending vacation is an obvious joke, but it’s a relatable and fun one that’s nice to be reminded of.

But it’s nothing he hasn’t made us uncomfortable with before. “It’s so crazy because when you consider the risk in being a child molester, speaking not of even the damage you’re doing, but the risk,” C.K. said after discussing the child molester that lived in his neighborhood as a child. “There is no worse life available to a human than being a caught child molester. The sketch hinges on multiple gags, from Hillary’s confession that she hasn’t had a vacation in decades, her bizarre attempts to bond with young people, and a concerned Vanessa Bayer inquiring about Hillary’s discomfort level from running on the beach in one of her omnipresent wool suits, and they just keep going. It’s almost a Stefon gag, because the sketch has everything – including current announcer Darrell Hammond’s second appearance this season as Bill Clinton, one of the former SNL player’s signature roles. The man’s wife (McKinnon) announced she was a lesbian, but concluded, “I may be a lesbian but there’s nothing like the love of a good man.” In the weaker sketches, Louis C.K. was a shoemaker with lazy elves, an actor in a police lineup and a crude record producer who interrupted a couple’s vacation. Unlike other SNL hosts, he doesn’t sing a song or take questions from the audience or ramble about what’s going on in his life, he uses it as a place to try out material from his stand-up act.

To pad out “Update,” Tom Brady (Taran Killam) deflected questions about Deflategate, Pete Davidson talked about turning 21, and Riblit (Bobby Moynihan) interrupted the fake newscast. The comedian has never shied away from talking about controversial matters – during his second appearance on SNL, his nine-minute monologue covered topics like the existence of God and the need for equality in U.S., bolstered by a strong feminist message – but he put a twist on that for his third outing, going whole-hog on the shocking stuff. It was low-key, and it was also a total misdirection, because as the audience was still tittering about the early jokes, the comedian then started in on pedophiles. Yes, this is probably what everyone is going to remember the most about C.K.’s third turn at bat, a long-form stand-up bit about pedophilia, but despite its gasp-worthy elements, it’s classic C.K. (or, at least, classic C.K. working through some new material on a giant stage), and you’ve got to admire an SNL host who stays so true to their own style, no matter how many people it sends straight into pearl-clutching territory.

Coming on the heels of C.K.’s divisive opener, the first post-monologue sketch could have gone for something sweet and fluffy to dilute the mood (for instance, another visit from Cecily Strong’s appetizer-loving wannabe British pop star, Jemma) or a bit that spoke still further to C.K.’s stand-up ability (like a Louie send-up that ended up as a digital exclusive), but “The Shoemaker and the Elves” instead kept pace with its predecessor. A standard-seeming fairy tale bit, this sketch takes a slight twist (of the “oh, no, is that–? are they–?” variety) before going totally off the rails.

As the shoemaker, C.K. cedes his power to Vanessa Bayer and Kenan Thompson, two too-eager elves (made teensy, thanks to the power of green screen) who want nothing more than to be punished for their flagging work ethic. Hard. (Get it?) It’s the kind of sketch that comes totally out of nowhere, with a twist that you can see coming but can hardly believe will come true. Combined with C.K.’s monologue, the first portion of this episode of SNL provided about fifteen minutes of astounding humor, sure to stir up lots of ire from pundits and viewers alike, just the thing to remind its audience how bold the show can go when it wants to.

That’s how you end a season. 2015 may not bring everything that Back to the Future II promised it would: flying cars, self-lacing shoes, we don’t see ’em happening over the next 12 months. (Then again, don’t bet against Nike.) But this year will definitely pack plenty of punch when it comes to cultural happenings. Mad Max will roar back out of the apocalypse while Mad Men rides off into the sunset, rock’s Antichrist Superstar and hip-hop’s Yeezus will rise again.

You’re embarrassing us!'” Letterman was being a fanboy, basically; of both a musician he loved and a genre — Americana, by proxy, but really the craft of songwriting — he’d come to champion. This wasn’t the first time Letterman had asked Isbell to play outside of his Late Show stage — though Isbell made his debut as an instrumentalist in Justin Townes Earle’s band, it was his performance of “Codeine,” off 2011’s Here We Rest, that really perked the host’s ears. He liked the midtempo, pedal-steel-twanged track so much that he had his bookers invite the then-relatively unknown singer on the show — with one slight caveat. “He loved the second verse of the song so much he wanted to hear it twice,” Houser tells Rolling Stone Country. “The arrangement was literally in Dave’s request. ‘Anything Goes’ was the first single I ever put out, maybe in the fifties on the chart at the time.

This was his show and his stage, and the Late Show became a haven for quality acts who didn’t ever need to count a Number One hit as a booking prerequisite. Letterman’s a comedian, for sure, but at the center of every good joke, and every good late-night interview, is a story. “He loves songs, he loves story songs and he loves songwriters,” says Isbell.

It’s no coincidence that the same could be said about the Southeastern singer himself, who has been a leader of the genre and one of few artists to develop a friendship with the prickly host. But he found kindred spirits in Isbell and Cook, the latter of whom he first heard on SiriusXM’s Outlaw Country station, during his regular drives into the city from his Connecticut home. The buzzed-about Stapleton was the last artist to debut on Letterman before his closing weeks. “Letterman has made a statement of bravery in their bookings and trusting their instincts,” Sacks says. Since the show’s debut in 1993, Letterman has indeed made a point of choosing artists that didn’t always play to a radio-friendly, Top of the Pops mentality: Steve Earle, Harris, Zevon, Willie Nelson and Tom Waits were all early favorites, with Ryan Adams and Dawes joining the ranks.

He was also an early champion of Miracle Legion, Golden Smog and Syd Straw.” Letterman also has chosen, along with his trusted team, musical guests who had absolutely zero promotional tie. Letterman, points out Americana Music Association executive director Jed Hilly, was likely the first person to even reference the actual term “Americana” on-air.

On The Colbert Report, he did make an effort to weave music — from Cheap Trick to Wilco — into a program that, as a satire, didn’t always lend itself to live performance. Whether or not Colbert’s history as a staunch liberal will impact the role of country music on his show, Houser isn’t too worried. “He’s a smart guy,” he says. “And he has fans to think about.” As for Letterman, the void will certainly be a palpable one — both in the stories he squeezed out of guests on his couch, and the stories he let songwriters share on the musical stage.

After months of escalating protests and grassroots organizing in response to the police killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, police reformers have issued many demands. While law enforcers have existed in one form or another for centuries, the modern police have their roots in the relatively recent rise of modern property relations 200 years ago, and the “disorderly conduct” of the urban poor.

Like every structure we’ve known all our lives, it seems that the policing paradigm is inescapable and everlasting, and the only thing keeping us from the precipice of a dystopic Wild West scenario. Rather than be scared of our impending Road Warrior future, check out just a few of the practicable, real-world alternatives to the modern system known as policing: Unarmed but trained people, often formerly violent offenders themselves, patrolling their neighborhoods to curb violence right where it starts. Stop believing that police are heroes because they are the only ones willing to get in the way of knives or guns – so are the members of groups like Cure Violence, who were the subject of the 2012 documentary The Interrupters.

There are also feminist models that specifically organize patrols of local women, who reduce everything from cat-calling and partner violence to gang murders in places like Brooklyn. While police forces have benefited from military-grade weapons and equipment, some of the most violent neighborhoods have found success through peace rather than war. Violent offenses count for a fraction of the 11 to 14 million arrests every year, and yet there is no real conversation about what constitutes a crime and what permits society to put a person in chains and a cage. Decriminalization doesn’t work on its own: The cannabis trade that used to employ poor Blacks, Latinos, indigenous and poor whites in its distribution is now starting to be monopolized by already-rich landowners.

To quote investigative journalist Christian Parenti’s remarks on criminal justice reform in his book Lockdown America, what we really need most of all is “less.” Also known as reparative or transformative justice, these models represent an alternative to courts and jails. From hippie communes to the IRA and anti-Apartheid South African guerrillas to even some U.S. cities like Philadelphia’s experiment with community courts, spaces are created where accountability is understood as a community issue and the entire community, along with the so-called perpetrator and the victim of a given offense, try to restore and even transform everyone in the process. Communities that have tools to engage with each other about problems and disputes don’t have to consider what to do after anti-social behaviors are exhibited in the first place. Obviously these could become police themselves and then be subject to the same abuses, but as a temporary solution they have been making a real impact. In New York, Rikers Island jails as many people with mental illnesses “as all 24 psychiatric hospitals in New York State combined,” which is reportedly 40% of the people jailed at Rikers.

We have created a tremendous amount of mental illness, and in the real debt and austerity dystopia we’re living in, we have refused to treat each other for our physical and mental wounds. Mental health has often been a trapdoor for other forms of institutionalized social control as bad as any prison, but shifting toward preventative, supportive and independent living care can help keep those most impacted from ending up in handcuffs or dead on the street.

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