A couple of weeks ago my husband surprised me with tickets to see Louis CK. It was a birthday gift and a rare night out for the two of us. Just two middle aged folks out on the town hoping for a few laughs. What could possibly go wrong?
HA HA HA HA HA! Have you ever heard Louis CK’s humor? It is heavy as hell. The man somehow manages to make suicide, depression, anxiety, divorce, isolation, and certain doom funny. I spent the evening cackling and saying, “OH MY GOD!” to no one in particular, the exclamation to the good Lord above being non-voluntary, as I simply couldn’t believe I was laughing at what I was laughing at.
Was it shame? Was it discomfort? Was it fear? Seriously — I left that theater wondering what it was about me that allowed me to laugh at a little old lady named Rose, recently widowed after 50+ years of marriage, all alone in the world after the death of her beloved — Rose being one of the characters Louis used to poke fun at all of humanity.
A day later it hit me. I laughed because I have a little Louis CK who lives on my shoulder. His voice is there, telling me life sucks and that love is an illusion. Sometimes the voice is loud, sometimes it is a whisper, but it is there, always.
When I am honest with myself, as Louis CK challenges all of us to do, I can admit that, yes, I wonder what exactly the point is of any of it. I’m not religious, so the whole God thing is lost on me. I married an atheist who pretty much believes that when we’re done, we’re done. There is no promise of happy reunions for either of us. The concept of a happy heaven where all my dearly departed beloveds sit down to a celestial family dinner, all together now!, isn’t really something I believe in, despite hoping for it.
What a bummer. Trust me, I know.
Topping all of this Louis CK angst off was that bright and early the next morning, I had committed to talking to a group of social work grad students for a seminar on finding meaning in loss. Pffft. Seriously, Louis CK could not have written a better joke than me organizing my thoughts on surviving the loss of my four year old daughter to cancer after listening to his set.
But, and here’s the kicker, I did survive. I am surviving. Survival is a verb, yo, something I have to commit to each and every day. And, I would venture a guess, that Louis CK would say that surviving is what all of us are trying our best to do. Regardless of what our burdens are, mine happens to be the death of a lot of people I love dearly with a sprinkling of mental illness for flavor, we are working hard to show up and not disappoint those who need us.
Louis CK uses humor to cope. It works for him. Sometimes, it works for me, too. Truth be told, I am grateful for that little hilarious CK that sits there, whispering in my ear. For all of his jokes about human depravity, and the pointlessness of it all, the man is quite perceptive to the beauty that surrounds us.
If you watch his FX show, Louis, you will see that for every joke about sagging balls and being fat, there is some gorgeous shot that makes a New York subway and all its weary inhabitants look like the most profoundly moving symphony you have ever seen.
Life is beautiful. It’s cruel and meaningless, sure, but damn, it is so very beautiful, too. Louis CK and I know this, which is how and why we can laugh.