March 25, 2009

apologize profusely, and then do it again

Louis CK is one of the best working stand-up comedians today, and has been putting out the most consistently excellent comedy specials in the past decade or so.  Plus his red hair gives me a bit of a vested interest in his success.  In SAT analogy terms:


Recently Louis CK was on a USO tour and has been writing about it on  The following is an excerpt from his latest update that I found particularly inspiring:

We’ve been here for two days and had not done a show yet. I was starting to get a little worried about how the shows would go. All we have done is sat at tables and signed autographs. The show is me, an ex-supermodel named Leeanne Tweeden, three country western singers and the cheerleaders. when we do the autographs, I am by far the least interesting person to the kids. but they politely ask for mine anyway. I have had a few fans, but only few. So i was starting to wonder if I fit in here. I have been warned, also, by many, to keep it clean. Not somethign I ‘m great at. I’ve also been “taken aside” by some people, some the same who warned me, and they tell me “Look, do your show. Try to keep it clean but do what you do. This is for these kids.” SO it’s a little confusing.

I started to have other worries to. For instance, for the last six months I”ve been opening my shows with about five minutes about how everyone dies. Not really okay to say to a crowd of people that might die tomorrow and know someone who just did. SO I had to rethink everything.

The show started with the sargent major, who the men love, and who brought us all here. he made a boring but sincere speech thanking everyone and telling the troops to have fun.
Leanne tweeden, who emcees the show, made a long emotional speech about the troops this and the troops that and America loves you and I know what it’s like to be away from home and all that.
One of the country singers (i’ll give you their names later when i am coherent) went on and did about five songs. The crowd was appreciative. He also said a lot about how much america loves them and god bless and all that. The feeling I had from the crowd was “Hey, we didn’t come here to be thanked. Do a show.”

Then it was my turn. I had zero idea what I was going to do but as I watched the show before me I realized how politel it all was and that no one had said anything real at all.
I peeked at the audience from the stage door. eVeryone was wearing knit caps, parkas, gloves, everyone was shivering and stamping their feet. The performers were all wearing coats and puffy clothes. I was wearing a thick fleece jacket. As Leeanne said my name I muttered “Fuck it” and threw off the fleece. I went out into the cold night air (outdoor show int he middle of the cold cold desert, like being on mars) in my tshirt, just like any other show.
I hit the stage, not knowing what I would say first till the second i put the mike to my face. I looked at them all and said “how are you fuckers doing?” The place went bezerk and it became instantly plain to me what they needed and wanted and what I needed to do. “You people are in a very fucked up place. I mean, it’s Kuwait, the dessert and right over there is a starbucks. I saw the sign and thought it would be a little tent with coffe, but it’s a real starbucks! With the jazz music, the chess tables and the faggot with the laptop.” They couldn’t believe it. the laughs were enormous. I was filthy. It was awesome. People were going crazy. It was like looking out over choppy water. People rocking back and forth, punching each other, clapping, stamping. It was mayhem. Every time I went way over the line I would say “I’m so sorry. I am not supposed to be saying any of this. I”m so sorry. Am I in trouble?” which would only make them laugh more. The sargent major was in the front row, arms folded, surrounded by Colonels and whatnot. None of them laughing. All aroudn them were young warriors, men and women of all ages, laughing and cheering at things that NONE of them could think about saying on this base, EVER.

After a particularly over the top bit, i paused to let them rest. AS soon as there was quiet, a young soldier yelled out passionately “thank you sargent Major!” I was stunned. he was thanking him for bringing me there. and I felt also that he was helping me because everyone felt I was getting myself into huge trouble for their enjoyment. When he said it, everyone cheered. I said “You guys, the Sargent major is a great great guy. And what I love about him is he’s just a soldier like all of you. He’s not some asshole officer.”
I cannot describe the reaction that this got. No one could believe I said it. They made a huge racket, a mix of “Oh my god!’ “Oh shit!” and whooping and laughing. It was bannanas.
I did about 25 minutes and said “Thank you guys. Goodnight’ Every single soldier lept to their feet and cheered. I yelled over them. “This is the best show I”ve done in years. Thank you thank you thank you!” I kept yelling thank you and they kept cheering. It was very very emotional. I had never felt that way on stage in my life. BEcause even in the best shows I”ve done for the largest crowds, they only laugh. These kids laughed with such relief, with such gratitude. I never made people laugh that needed to laugh that badly. It was amazing.

Back stage I was shaking. It was a stunning stunning experience. I stepped outside next to the stage and was immediately swarmed by young kids wanting a picture. I took hundreds or pictures as the next country act played.

EVery single kid that came up to me said how badly they had needed the laughs. Most of them have been here for a year and will be here for another. they had all been “stop gapped” and were only in KUwait as a small break from northern hostile deployments. At least fifty of them said exactly this “I ain’t laughed once since I got here last december. Can’t tell you how much that meant, sir.” they all called me sir.

The Sargent major walked past me and into the dressing room. Someone told me I should disappear because he was comgin to deal with the problem I created. I decided it was better to confront him head on and not wait for things to trickle down, or to let someone else take the beating. The thing that gives me the freedom to do what I did is that I am the only one in the chain of command that is not accountable to ANYONE.

When I got backstage, the sargent major was talking to Jeff, the promoter who runs the show. Jeff was saying, in a pleading voice “Sargent Major, I understand but the man got a standing ovation.” SMA Preston was about to argue and I stepped in. I grabbed his hand and said “Sir. I am really really sorry. I mean that. I had no intention of going that way at all. I just got stuck in that gear because they just wanted it so much. They were having such a good time and I have to tell you honestly that I’ve never felt that from an audience in twenty four years on stage. I could not pull back.” The SMA is a really good guy and he started nodding and saying “I know. I understand. I just really need you to watch it.” I said “Look, I promise you that I will keep this in mind and I will TRY on the rest of these shows to keep it clean. You just have to understand that an audience that good can’t be told no. How could I do that?” I also said “Just so you kjnow, everyone told me to keep it clean. Jeff and all of them. No one negected their duty. I take full responsitibilty for the whole mess.” He said “Yes you do indeed” but then he chuckled. So i’m okay.

Another Sargent Major ranked just under him told me afterwards that I need to just do this all week. Be filthy, apologize profusely, and then do it again.


  1. THAT is awesome. Glad to see you back in the blogoplace.

    Comment by Ben — March 25, 2009 @ 12:40 pm

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