• The Playful Thought Experiments of Louis CK

    Chris A. Kramer (see profile)
    Analytic Philosophy, Feminist Humanities, Film-Philosophy, Philosophy, Public Philosophy Journal
    Art and philosophy, Literature--Philosophy, Philosophy, Wit and humor, Education
    Item Type:
    Book chapter
    Humor, Philosophy and Film, Comedy, Philosophy and the arts, Philosophy and literature, Humor studies
    Permanent URL:
    It is trivially true that comedians make jokes and thus are not serious; they are “just playing.” But watching Louis CK, especially his performances in Chewed Up, Shameless, and Hilarious, it is evident that he has more in mind than simply getting his audience to frivolously guffaw. I will make the case that this is so given the content of some of his humor which centers on areas of socio-political-ethical tensions that can be uncomfortable when addressed in a direct, “bona-fide” communicative mode. I will concentrate upon his playful, yet serious, account of issues surrounding race and privilege which, though not obvious center-pieces, can be found in almost all of his performances. These are complex areas that are not obvious fodder for humor, and it is clear that his comedic repertoire is broad enough that he is not including these issues for lack of funnier bits. I will argue that through his humor, he at once brings to consciousness hidden biases, challenges them in a subversive manner on behalf of those harmed by cultural stereotypes, e.g., and opens up an otherwise adversarial audience to the possibility that they harbor such unwanted stereotypes—a necessary element in consciousness-raising. My account will require a brief distinction between seriousness and playfulness, a defense of the claim that we are drawn to humor even when it is used to question our cherished presuppositions, and an interpretation of thought experiments that parallels Louis CK’s comedic mechanisms in his stand-up performances and episodes from Louie. In some cases he is explicit that he is just “making shit up” (Oh My God), or, as he cautions in the setup to a story in Shameless, “it doesn’t matter cus’ I’m gonna lie to you.” But that does not take away from my point that he is serious with his humor about social reality in the same way that philosophers have traditionally “made shit up” with thought experiments for serious purposes.
    Published as:
    Book chapter    
    Last Updated:
    3 years ago
    All Rights Reserved


    Item Name: pdf the_playful_thought_experiments_of_louis-ck-abstract.pdf
      Download View in browser
    Activity: Downloads: 200