“When a black woman tells you to get a job, it’s just more [laughs]…it just hurts more.” ~ Louis C.K. on “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” discussing and joking about why he cast a Black woman to play his ex-wife even though his kids are “exceptionally white” on the show.
Over the past week, Louis C.K. has been promoting his five month tour, which begins on Oct. 3rd and the third season of his TV show Louie, which premieres tonight. He stopped by Jimmy Kimmel Live on Tuesday and of the nearly fourteen minute interview, a tiny ten second blurb about the racial casting of his ex-wife on Louie has, unsurprisingly, gotten the most attention and unnecessary outrage on the internet, ranging from the cool, steely anger of the cartoon villain singer Cee-Lo wants to be:
To acting like the stereotype of an angry Black woman in fear that Louis is merely just going to perpetuate the stereotype of angry black woman:
Neither reaction to the casting of Louis’ ex-wife is correct or necessary. But much like when a baby scans a room with his/her eyes in that I-think-I should-be-crying-about-something-right-now, the average person’s default action is being offended. “I think that pissed me off” is the new “I think I might want Chinese food later.” Said with little thought and possibly with a shrug that connotes “What do you guys think? Chinese sounds good, right? Please reaffirm me.” There’s no analysis, no reasoning, no understanding of the context that frames the supposed offensive action, just an automatic queef of rage at whatever is seen or heard much like the way in a mall, the cologne salespeople just spritzes whomever is walking past. So, people, I beg you: quit queefing rage because it stinks, it gets in my mouth, and it’s clearly a knockoff of legitimate rage.
Before I continue, let’s address the aforementioned C.K. quote during the Kimmel interview. Louis is a comedian, so he is going to joke around and all comics know, sometimes jokes will revolve around or include a stereotype or two. Sure, it’s a stereotype to say that Black women don’t mess around, but guess what? It’s a stereotype that’s rooted in some sort of truth! Grown ass black women don’t go, “Maybe you ought to think about looking for some employment.” They will be blunt as hell and tell you to get off your lazy ass and go look for some work. Case in point, when a lot of my white comrades graduated college, their parents let them move back home, told their grown children to take their time, find some work, stay as long as they needed/wanted to, etc. When I told my mom this, she said, “If you want to move back home, that’s fine. But you have six months and then you need to move out.” She wasn’t saying this out of malice. She was just being brutally honest because she loves me and wants me to be a self-sufficient adult. That’s just how Black moms are. So why the hell are Black people on comment boards losing their minds?:
Black Police, c’mon now. I’m sure you have a Black mom and/or have seen a Boyz in the Hood. Black women can be strong-willed and not mince words. So you and many others need to stop removing all context and cultural understanding about how various people from various cultures behave and simply just freaking out by going, “AH, LOUIS C.K., WHITE GUY, SAYING THE WORDS BLACK WOMAN = THOMAS JEFFERSON & SALLY HEMMINGS!” Calm down, you low rent Nancy Drews and Hardy Boys, and look at the context of what Louis is doing.
If anyone knows anything about Louis and his brand of comedy, it’s that he is a provocateur. He challenges people’s beliefs, likes to discuss topics people are afraid of, and like Chris Rock, he loves discussing race. He was a writer on Chris Rock’s HBO show and frequently discusses the topic in his stand up. Take a look at his clip from Chewed Up about being a White man:
If you remove all context from this joke, you can easily make it seem like Louis is saying that White people are better people. He’s not; what he’s driving at is that the advantages to being a White person are plentiful whereas that is not the case for other races. This clip is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to joking about race. In another clip from Chewed Up, he discusses how he loathes White people for their usage of the phrase “the n-word:”
Understandably, the n-word and nigger are painful for a lot of Black people to hear, especially when the word is being said by a White person. But again, Louis is providing analysis on these words in a humorous way, but that still doesn’t stop people from thinking he just wrote this bit as an excuse to say the word “nigger.” Newsflash: if someone wants to say nigger, they will just say it. They don’t need a justifiable moment to use it. However, if you have a problem with this bit, then you most certainly won’t like the following moment from the Opie and Anthony Show. In it, the recent departed comedic genius, Patrice O’Neal is having a serious moment discussing the racial slur “kike” when Louis chimes in with the perfect comment:
Now, I get this isn’t going to be funny to a lot of people. If I played this for my parents, they wouldn’t be amused. However, for those that do laugh, they get what Louis is doing. I mean, listen to how hard Patrice is laughing. Oh, man, I miss that laugh. Anyway, Patrice gets what Louis is doing. Louis was counteracting Patrice’s educational moment about the etymology of the word “kike” with a flippant etymological breakdown of the word “nigger.” It was just said in the perfect tone at the right time and that’s why it’s funny. Because of the context surrounding Louis’ remark.
Getting back to the casting of a Black actress as his ex-wife, all these clips provide context as to how he deals with race, which is in a honest way rather than a gimmicky one. But let me be clear about something for a second: I’m not writing this because of the notion that comics blindly defend other comics. I don’t agree with everything comics do. Sometimes they’re wrong, sometimes in an attempt to be funny, they say awful and idiotic things. I’m well aware of that. I’m writing this because I believe there is a real policing that is going on with comedians. Except no one wants to look at all the facts anymore: 1) Louis, in an interview, said he wanted to open up the part of his ex-wife to anyone. He wanted to do racially-blind casting, 2) His show is notorious for having multiple actors play the same sibling. He’s not interested in continuity, but more in what serves the story. The woman playing his ex-wife, Susan Kelechi Watson, a great actress, so to him, he would be foolish not to cast her, and 3) His comedy is not without reason. Louis doesn’t just make a joke to make one. He provides logic behind it, so why all of a sudden, with this one isolated incident, are people suddenly jumping to the conclusion that he’s going to make ex-wife the awful stereotype of a Black woman? Because we’re a generation of the preemptive strike outrage.
Finally, weren’t Black people, myself included, up in arms over Girls because it was all-White? And now we have Louis casting a person of color on his show (which he has done before) and now some Black people are still upset because, based on zero information about the storyline or the episode (it hasn’t aired yet), it’s suspicious that his ex-wife would be Black. Clearly, he only wanted to cast a Black woman to perpetuate a stereotype. That’s the assumption by most detractors of this casting. Now this is turning into a case of damn if you, damn if you don’t. Please stop it. Take the day off from being offended. And maybe you can learn to laugh and enjoy something.