Louis C.K. vs. Louis C.K.

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I have to say, I absolutely love this guy's hyper-self-awareness:


Back in September, Louis C.K. referred to Sarah Palin as a cunt-face jazzy wondergirl. Or more accurately, he sent the following message to her via Twitter: "@SarahPalinUSA kudos to your dirty hole, you fucking jackoff cunt-face jazzy wondergirl." This was the seventh in a string of tweets that he'd kicked off about an hour earlier with this: "I'm on a plane to LA where I'm doing the tonight show friday. I'm kindof hammered on rum n cokes. bad idea." There were some other Palin-centric tweets, arguably more offensive even than the above, and some nonsense about the Beatles and Jews, and then things eventually wound down with: "my head hurts. The turbulence on this flight is nasty. uuuuuugh. I hate the letter H. I ate it. I'm very tired. Verrry." 

A couple of nights later, when he appeared on "The Tonight Show," C.K. was seated next to Bristol Palin, and near the end of the show she invited him to dance with her and her then partner from "Dancing with the Stars." "I had no idea until I arrived that her fucking daughter was on the show," he told me over breakfast. "She seemed so nervous to me, and after her segment I told her, 'You did a good job. That's not easy.' And she said, 'Thank you.' And then she invited me to dance. And I knew I was paying some kind of penance for what I'd done. I'm standing there--me, Bristol Palin, Jay Leno, and the "Dancing with the Stars" dude"--his face took on the Platonic expression of unhappiness--"and I'm like, This is totally karma. Pretty direct karma." 

I asked if he regretted saying that stuff about a woman, even if it was Sarah Palin. "God, what a mess. I really shouldn't have done that. I regret it a lot. I wish I hadn't done that." I agreed that those were some dark things to say, and he was like, No, no, no, no, you don't understand. It wasn't the nature of the tweets that he regretted. "I'm not a political comedian," he said. "That's just not what I do." 

It was a point of pride for him that he had credibility with the right wing, that Andrew Breitbart, for instance, has complimented C.K. on his website. "But then after I did this, someone wrote this real angry thing on his site about how I'm just another gatekeeper of Obama. And the thing that really hurt was that they paired the tweets with this thing they dug up that I'd said on "The Opie & Anthony Show." And that show, the stuff you say--it's just straight from the most bottom part of your mind." 

The interview goes on. When I say I love his hyper-self-awareness, I don't say it as though I'm noting a virtue. Indeed, there's a hint of self-indulgence to the exercise. But it's a self-indulgence which not only rings true, but connects with some part of me. 

I think people often feel just as C.K. does--that some part of them says or does awful things that utterly horrifies some other part of them. But to save face, we can't cop to our own horror. Or we ignore it, and push it away. 

Trying to be a modern man, with kids, is disorienting. There are no real models. You can't really be your father. And you can't really be the boys you grew up with either. You have to be something new, but the old ways are always grabbing at you.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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