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Louis CK's Fourth of July: Empathy As An Antidote To Polarization

Updated: Aug 9, 2022

“It’s gonna be okay, & even if it’s not okay, that’s gonna be okay”

- Joe List, Fourth Of July (2022)

We're living through unprecedented times. Walking outside these days is sincerely surreal. The vibes of this summer are insane and will remain unmatched, it’s really our first time outside in a few years as a collective, and it palpably feels like it everywhere you go. It’s fun, beautiful, weird, & kinda dangerous all at once. Some people are still wearing masks, while others have completely forgotten about the concept, and there's even a new monkey thing. When else are they going to shut the world down, lock people inside for years, have political, social and economic polarization at a fever pitch, then have a surge of unemployment, inflation, and good music all at once? There's new ideologies, new concepts, new ways of life. It’s nuts. I’ve never felt this before.

The media likes to report our division, everything from race, gender, sexuality, religion, nationality or class, but ultimately we're all just people, individuals, with our own stuff, going through it together, and everyday I realize we're all more alike than we're different, and despite what happens in life, we just have to keep living, and that’s what the movie Fourth of July by Louis CK reminded me of. This is a movie I urge everyone to see.

On the 4th of July Weekend of 2022 Louis CK released "Fourth of July" directed & edited by Louis, and co written with fellow comedian & rising star Joe List. This was easily one of the best movies I’ve seen in years. I went to the theatre and the only other movies available were Thor and The Minions & this was completely not any of that. This was a self financed independent film from Louis. The authenticity of this movie is what makes it stand out, this movie is hilarious, it’s earnest, it’s sincere, it deals with the human condition, anxiety, the family unit, & what it is that keeps us together as people.

The movie deals with relationships, empathy and how what we need most in this life is other people we love, but there's no greater source of our general anxieties than people we love. One of the best lines that describes the thesis of the movie without spoiling anything is "She's a cunt but I was lucky to have her, & so were you."

On the surface, this movie looks like some romantic comedy about a mid 30s jazz musician, and recovering alcoholic who suffers from anxiety going back home for Fourth of July weekend to confront his family for the problems he faces in his daily life, because his family were fucked up drunks and he felt they gave him his anxiety issues. In reality the movie is about all of us.

This movie was carefully and intimately shot, written and directed. The movie is very emotional, and stylized while being one of the funniest movies I've seen in a long time. Joe List does an incredible job playing what seems to be an exaggerated version of himself similar to what Louis CK did on his FX show Louie. All the characters feel very real, because they are, we are all the characters.

The writing was witty, the theatre was all howling from laughter at the exact same time. The writing dealt with a lot of the issues we deal with in society today from mental illness, political correctness, intergenerational trauma, sexuality, race, class, political beliefs, masculinity, religion, gender identity, and it weaved them all in mastefully and comedically through this beautiful story about a small family. The movie doesn't end like your typical movie, there are many moments that you don't expect but they felt real and sincere.

The movie showed us that everyone's family is fucked up and gave them anxiety problems. It's interesting to see the point in history this movie is coming out in. This movie is a reaction to a post Trump America, it's a reaction to the capitol riots, its a reaction to the pandeezy. 4th of july is where Americans gather to unite, and being American, or being Countrymen is like being in a family, and in a family there are people you disagree with, people you don't like, people that hurt you, people you think are stupid, people that made you feel bad, but ultimately you're stuck with them, and maybe you can even find a way to love them despite their flaws. Maybe instead of looking at each other as left wing or right wing, black or white, people can look at each other as family members and have a laugh, because it's gonna be fine, even if it's not fine.

Stand up comedians like Louis CK are able to see what unites human beings above our differences, above our skin color, ideologies, religions, belief systems, or personalities, there's an underlying sameness to us all. I've never been in the family in the movie, I've never been a mid 30s white jazz artist, but there was something so true about this movie, about the characters, about the way they spoke, I saw my own family and my own life reflected on the screen. We all have the racist uncle with conspiracy theories, we all have the uncle who can't stop telling jokes, we all have cousins who will mock us if we're getting soft, we all have families that are hard to deal with, we all have problems, and even when we try to deal with our problems that doesn't mean we solve them, but life does keep going. This movie is incredible, it was filled with stand up comics like Bobby Kelly & Nick Di Paolo, and it's a movie that could only be written by people who see the world like stand up comics.

Stand Up comedy is a genre like no other. It's the only genre that consists of a person standing up with a microphone and trying to get everyone in the room to make the same sound, that sound being laughter. Comedians are able to see people as people, because they're going to get the same reaction from anyone. Laughter is transcendent. Laughter is above language, its above culture, its above age, it’s a fundamental of life, it's a part of human culture. Laughter is part of what unites us as a species, we may not believe the same things, we may have different genders, races and nations but we all laugh.

I remember being in middle school and going on YouTube to find comedy videos when I randomly came across Louis CK. On paper, a 40 year old Mexican and a chubby 12 year old Ethiopian kid shouldn’t have much in common. I wasn’t divorced, I didn’t have kids that annoyed me, I wasn’t American, there’s so much about Louis that didn’t represent me, but even as a child I felt like Louis was one of the few artists who represented me, and people like me.

I was a comedy nerd. I loved it, I still love it. My favourite writers are comics. There’s no gimmicks, it's just a guy, a stage, his ideas and it works every time. It's like drugs. It's like music but it might take more artistry, and I’m saying this as a musician. It's easy to do badly as a musician and just chalk it off to art, it’s no