Louis C.K. and the Radio and Television Correspondents’ Dinner

I was on the road last week when Louis C.K. pulled out of hosting the Radio and Television Correspondents’ Dinner, but for a number of reasons, it strikes me as the right move, and not a surprising one. Much of the public speculation about his decision is linked to some off-color remarks he made about Sarah Palin, which I think we can all agree were both off-color and not exceptionally funny or insightful. But when I spoke to him at the Television Critics Association press tour in January, he actually suggested that it had been a mistake to accept from the start and that he was looking for a way to withdraw. He said:

I don’t know why I agreed to do that. I’m actually thinking of getting out if it. I don’t have any political opinions, I just am very curious. And it’s very interesting to listen to what people say. What’s the best way to run a country and the world? Those are really profound questions. I don’t have the confidence to say that I know one way or another. Some things I think are very conservative, or very liberal. I think when someone falls into one category for everything, I’m very suspicious. It doesn’t make sense to me that you’d have the same solution to every issue. I just like listening. I try to take people who are way far away from what I think or understand and put a representative of them on my show. I like to try to learn form them. When we did the show with the Christian anti-masturbating lady…it was more fun to have her really eloquent and see if I could learn from someone who never masturbates. There really is a very blissful, beautiful idea behind that. I f I could stop, I would be very happy. When I went to Afghanistan with the USO, I’m a pacifist and i’m really against any violence, and I think there’s zero reason to ever do it. I learned so much from being around those folks, and I feel like I was enriched by it…I think it’s better to illuminate shit and learn about it than to opinionate about it…I’m a little dumb. I sleep too much, and I did a lot of drugs when I was a kid. I can’t handle the responsibility of having a political opinion.

I think that’s both true and a reason why, even though I think C.K. is a remarkable comedian, he wouldn’t have been particularly good at this kind of gig. That kind of curiosity and wonder are compelling and important, but they’re also entirely alien to the culture of Washington, and might be interpreted as an affront by people who take their worldviews and their sense of how to run a country very, very seriously, which is too bad. Stephen Colbert may have mocked President Bush’s sense of certainty, but I’m not sure he was calling the project of partisanship into question as a whole, which is part of why his performance was so effective and devastating. C.K. is a rarer, weirder, more open creature, and I wonder if the whole thing might have been more awkward for him than it would have been a calling to account for the people who sat through his performance.