Punching Down Is Not Comedy

If you can only get laughs by picking on marginalised people – you’re not a comedian. You are a bully.


The bar for what is considered good comedy is apparently in hell. It should be no surprise that Louis CK is once again making headlines for all the wrong reasons. Unfortunately, Louis CK can’t be described as disgraced when he’s still getting gigs, despite admitting to indecent exposure and sexual harassment by exposing himself to women without their consent. Now his name is all over because it’s been revealed that he targeted Parkland shooting survivors and non-binary people for comedic content.

Take that in: a mediocre comedian who is still getting gigs despite violating women by exposing himself without consent is making jokes about trans people and survivors of gun violence. Loius CK would be the sick joke if anything could be taken from his existence of any worth. As it is, his continued media presence is a blight.

“A mediocre comedian who is still getting gigs despite violating women by exposing himself without consent is making jokes about trans people and survivors of gun violence”

Comedy should never be about punching down. If you’re laughing at people who experience trauma and/or marginalisation, you aren’t good at comedy. You’re just a bully. There’s nothing new, edgy or creative in taking cheap shots at people who are always exposed to hate.

Comedy is dying due to the people who dominate it. There’s a reason why Nanette was a runaway triumph for Netflix in 2018: it was different. It was comedy as it should be. It was relevant and aimed its punches squarely at people who held power. It was for the audience, and not against them. The Parkland survivors are teenagers who went through unspeakable violence, and more students across America face the same threat of violence every day as it fails to get control of its gun crisis.

Trans people are some of the most demonised people in society. There are inflammatory headlines about them every day, their rights are constantly under threat and they are often mocked for their gender and their presentation. Trans people face violence from harassment to the threat of murder for who they are. What is Louis CK giving us by targeting them for hate-filled jokes?

There are those who will say that CK is breaking a taboo by making jokes of victims and survivors of hate, but this is based upon ignorance and a denial of the reality. The people CK targeted are the butt of jokes and hate every day. As a professional comedian – one who is not deserving of any platform in the first place – should he not be striving to do something different, something more?

But of course, he can’t. CK has been revealed to be a pest and someone who thinks in predatory terms. This latest story is unlikely to harm his comedy career at all, just as his admission about indecent exposure did nothing at all (even though it is a criminal offence). CK’s hate is nothing new or radical. It is everywhere. It’s why the US has a President who boasted that men should just grab women by the pussies. Comedy is dead as long as mediocre men rule.

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