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Must watch: Louie and friends

Larry Ryan

A video getting some attention recently is a clip from the US sitcom Louie .The show, reminiscent of Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm, features comedian Louis CK playing a loosely autobiographical, fictional version of himself. In the clip in question, the comedian and a group of his male friends (also comedians) crack wise while playing poker.

I noticed the scene when a snippet from it was played during a radio interview by Terry Gross* with CK on NPR’s Fresh Air programme. (The interview itself caused a minor furore in the US media when Mississippi affiliate of NPR – sort of America’s equivalent to the BBC – banned Fresh Air because of the explicit nature of the show, read more on that here, here and here)

In the clip much of the conversation revolves around the solitary gay man in the group, comedian/actor Rick Crom. His homosexuality, his friends’ interest in his lifestyle and their casual homophobia is all made fun of.

It gets most interesting though, when the discussion turns to words, specifically use of the word faggot. Louise CK is known for his profanity and for using provocative words, including faggot, in his routine. CK asks Crum whether this offends him, to which Crum proceeds to explain the history of “faggot” to his friends.

Watch it below…

It’s a beautiful scene; it manages to be moving and thought provoking, while still being funny, and without awkwardly lurching in tone. That is great writing.

New York Magazine flagged it in their “Approval Matrix” column and Atlantic Monthly commentator Andrew Sullivan wrote in his blog about it too. Calling it “the last word on’faggot’ he wrote of the scene, “In all this, there is a lovely American sanity – not too much defensiveness, a whole lot of candor, and a deep well of friendship.”

Though Sullivan thinks Crum’s etymology of the word is “bullshit” that is not really the point. In the aforementioned interview, CK acknowledges that Crum’s history may not be true, but the feelings behind it are real. As a comedian, Crum believes CK should be able to make jokes and say what he likes, but he also maintians that comedians should know the meaning of what they say.

Another Atlantic commentator, the black writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, puts it very succinctly

“The current dialogue between minority groups and the majority culture puts the burden of judgement on the minority, and casts us as the constant, ever-vigilant, school-marms, while the rest of the country goofs off. I don’t have much interest in dictating to people what they say, but I don’t have much interest in being lied to either.

From the perspective of my current study, I would not, for instance, ask Southerners to stop honoring Robert E. Lee. Just don’t look me in my eye and tell me he was actually in favor of my freedom. Likewise, what I got from Crom’s approach was ‘Tell all the gay jokes you want. Knock yourself out. But take responsibility for what you say. Don’t look me in my face and tell me ‘faggot’ isn’t really an insult.’”

As a bonus, here’s another hilarious video of Louis CK which went viral last year. It’s snippet of his appearance on Conan O’Brien’s US chatshow, which can be summed up with CK’s declaration, “Everything’s amazing and nobody’s happy”

* Terry Gross, for her part, is a fantastic interviewer. You can download her shows from, NPR.org and through iTunes. A good introduction is this poingant discussion with the comedian/actor Tracy Morgan from last year.

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