Louis CK has a new special on Netflix called “2017.” If you don’t like Louis CK it won’t convert you, but if you do you’ll like it. It doesn’t rise to the level of “Chewed Up” or “Shameless,” but it’s better than the poorly named “Hilarious” (which was not). Good stuff that is pure Louis.
More importantly, however, is that he came out as bisexual in it and no one seemed to notice.
Like, he for real came out. Everyone seems to think it was just another bit intended for shock, but no. I don’t think so. I think it was a genuine coming out moment hiding in plain sight.
The bit involves him talking about his love for the movie “Magic Mike” and how it stirs uncomfortable feelings in him. He loves the movie, he watches it whenever it comes on, and he’s incredibly attracted to the two leads to the point where he doesn’t know how to cope with how it makes him feel. He then segues into a riff about penises both ugly and beautiful, and about how tempted he would be to have sex with a man if given a chance.
He’s dabbled in this sort of material before, most notably in his Ewan McGregor bit:
Decent bit, fairly funny, though comes across a bit like “I’m saying this to shock you” – and that’s fine. That’s part of what comedy does. It smashes boundaries and forces us to think about things we usually don’t think about, or it just makes us go “oh my god, I can’t believe he just said that!”
I didn’t think much of the McGregor bit back then other than “pretty funny,” and in truth I don’t think much of this new bit, either, except that I’m surprised no one is talking about it due to the earnestness of the piece. One of the biggest comedians in the world comes out, you’d think it would cause some chatter or something. Instead, silence.
That’s laughter for you. It’s the perfect way to mask truths.
And make no mistake, I think Louis was speaking truths.
Does it matter if Louis CK is gay or bi? Not really – but I’m not really the person to be speaking about whether or not it matters matters, either. That’s for people more directly affected by such issues to say. He’s a major star who has done bits on homosexuality and highly charged words like “faggot,” so at the very least there’s little doubt a bona fide coming out would generate a lot of discussion.
That’s kind of my point here. Surprise at the lack of it, give the context of his work.
He’s returned to this well a few times, but never as earnestly as he did in “2017.” This time, it was as overt as it comes. It played as one of his strongly confessional bits, one that basically amounted to, “I am an older man struggling with these feelings who is not ready for how they’ll change my life, but I can’t deny that they are there,” a common sentiment among older men only just coming to terms with their sexuality. He flat out says, (paraphrased), “I’m 49. I’m not ready for this shit, so I’m going to suppress it.” (As a good friend of mine says, “Human sexuality is complicated,” something people brought up with very black and white views of sexuality often have a hard time accepting.) He’s making jokes, he’s turning the subject matter into something funny, but it feels like he’s exploring some personal truths, too.
Louis has always done deeply confessional, deeply personal stuff. His riffs are often plucked right out of what’s actually happening with him at any given moment, from his marriage to kids to the failure of his marriage and more. When he does riffs on how awful it is to trudge through the shittiness of life, he’s making humor from how downtrodden and depressed he actually feels. When he riffed on how awful his marriage was, not too long after he got divorced; he was confessing on stage. His bits on parenthood are every bit as confused as real parents are, simultaneously loving and hating the joys and difficulties of raising kids. His insecurity as being a flabby middle-aged schlep has been a mainstay, and is there any question he was expressing his true feelings in those bits? And so on and so forth.
So when Louis once again returns to the “I am attracted to this guy and don’t know how I feel about that” theme, and this time in as strong and earnest a way as he ever has before — his on-stage struggle in “2017” seems palpable and honest, quite unlike the earlier McGregor bit — well, I think he’s trying to tell us something.
Louis is such a popular funny dude, however, everyone just took it as “that’s just Louis trying to wind us up.” Which is perhaps what he wanted. For us not to notice.
Or maybe he’s inviting the world to get comfortable with the idea that Louis has a new struggle creeping into his life.
If I’ve learned anything from the amazing Laura Jane Grace, it’s that when an artist is trying to tell you something through their art, listen, even if it seems like they’re just playing a character or role. Laura came out as transgender in songs like “Searching For a Former Clarity” nearly a decade before she actually came out in 2012, and did so overtly five years prior in 2007’s “The Ocean” — and few people acknowledged it at the time. She sang to us, we listened, but we didn’t hear.
Louis is doing the same.
I think Louis CK just came out on Netflix, and as far as I can tell no one noticed.