This clip comes from comedian Louis CK’s stand-up routine, featured in the 2008 special “Chewed Up”. In it, he muses on the privileges that are associated with being a white male, as well as the often dangerous disadvantages that have historically come with being anything other than a white male. He considers the case of a time machine: “Here’s how great it is to be white: I can get in a time machine and go to any time, and it would be f***ing awesome when I get there! That is exclusively a white privilege.” The clip has been the subject of debate and controversy among viewers. Some see Louis CK as providing a constructive voice to point out issues of white privilege. Others believe he perpetuates racist stereotypes and fails to acknowledge the racism that still exists post-1980s.
What do you think are Louis CK’s intentions in delivering this comedy routine? How is he addressing his own identity? Why is being white advantageous, according to Louis CK?
How does this routine work to deconstruct racism? Is Louis CK celebrating the privilege that comes with being a white male or critiquing it?
Consider how the “time machine” bit would be received if it were delivered by someone other than a white male — for instance, by a man or woman of color. Would your response be the same? Different? Why?
In 2017 in the wake of the #metoo movement, Louis CK was accused by several women of sexual misconduct. His career took a hit, and yet one year later, C.K. controversially tried to make a comeback at a small comedy club in New York’s Greenwich Village. Should we judge Louis C.K.’s work in relation to these accusations? Why? Why not? Should this video be included on this website as a teaching tool to prompt discussions of race? Why? Why not?