“Why are we trusting a man who has a compulsion like that where it diminishes the humanity of people around him?” Gadsby asks. “Why do we care what he thinks about the human condition?”
Groundbreaking comedian Hannah Gadsby, who took the world by storm with her powerful Netflix comedy special "Nanette" in 2018, has lashed out against disgraced comedian Louis C.K.’s recent efforts to return to the world of stand-up.
Gadsby was unapologetic in going after C.K., who admitted in late 2017 to years of sexually inappropriate behavior including masturbating in front of female comedians. In particular, she takes issue with C.K. claiming he would "step back and take a long time to listen," which quickly turned into not that long ago and, according to Gadsby, not listening at all.
Instead, she told The L.A. Times he simply became "angry and bitter" and "still honestly thinks he’s the victim in all of this."
"He is a joke now," Gadsby said pointedly. "And I think it’s important to keep making that joke."
She went on to point out that C.K. seems completely oblivious of how he abused his position of relative power over aspiring comedians. "He has not reassessed his position of power, and that is why he was able to abuse it," she said.
The comedian concede that "it’s difficult to see a shift in your own power and privilege" as "it’s not something we’re trained to do." But it takes an impressive level of disconnect for C.K. to see himself as a victim in this story.
And so, Gadsby finds herself wondering why we would be interested in what he has to say anymore, or his comedic insights into the human condition. As she sees it, "For a long time Louis C.K.’s comedy platform was that he was this hopeless guy bumbling through the world. And at some stage, he was no longer that, but that was still his voice. And I think he still believes that."
According to Gadsby, C.K.’s work never even acknowledged that his status in life changed as he became a household name, scored his own critically-acclaimed TV show and the awards and accolade and money started pouring in. That’s something Ellen DeGeneres was able to explore in her own critically-adored comedy special "Relatable."
So in a way, it really shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that C.K. might fail to grasp the enormity of his actions and how it negatively impacted so many people. Plus, Gadsby wonder, what insight could a man with his compulsions really have to offer the average person.
"Why are we trusting a man who has a compulsion like that where it diminishes the humanity of people around him?" she asked. "Why do we care what he thinks about the human condition? He needs to worry about his own condition a bit. Just sit quietly."
And while she’s not advocating for censoring his free speech or right to perform, she thinks he has yet to do as he promised and "listen" or learn from the #MeToo movement. Instead, Gadsby says "he’s just angry and bitter."
But maybe that, too, is a valid and relevant point of view as there is some value in seeing just how hard it is for some people to reflect on themselves and truly see their own flaws without throwing up defenses or excuses. It’s incredibly difficult to be so vulnerable as to fully own your failings, embrace that acknowledgement and try to move forward from that place.
The beauty of freedom of speech is that Louis C.K. should have the right to come out and say whatever he wants about his experiences and what happened over the years. And Hannah Gadsby should enjoy the same freedom to say what she thinks of how he’s handling it and the fans get the ultimate freedom of expression by choosing whether or not to support his return to stand-up at all.
Gadsby summed up her conclusions with a statement about the artist Pablo Picasso, which she explored in greater depth in "Nanette." And yet, the way she phrased it could just as easily be talking about C.K. and all of the other men and women toppled by the explosion of #MeToo and #TimesUp.
"I’m not a fan. But I am a fan," Gadsby said of her mixed feelings about Picasso. "I’m not a fan of the gap that was left in his story, that he was a toxic, hostile individual and that his behavior was enabled by the community around him. But if you were to wipe him from our collective memory, we not only lose what he did well, we lose what he did badly. And we can learn from both."
In other words, it’s not about erasing Louis C.K. or anyone else. Instead, it’s about making sure the full context of their story is presented, including both their great achievements and their abhorrent behavior. From there, everyone can decide for themselves what to do with it all.
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