Why Louis C.K. won’t let his kids have cell phones

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Dylan Lemert, Preface columnist


Famously self-deprecating comedian, actor and social critic Louis C.K. sat down with longtime friend Conan O’Brien on his show a couple weeks ago to talk about a myriad of things, ranging from the early days of “Late Night” to Bruce Springsteen’s signature howls.

But one part of the conversation, the part where C.K. talked about why he doesn’t let his kids have cell phones, has received the most viral attention.

“I think these things are toxic, especially for kids,” C.K. said in the interview, regarding not only the prevalent cell phone use among children today, but also the willing parents who are buying phones for their children at younger and younger ages.

“[Kids] don’t look at people when they talk to them. They don’t build the empathy,” C.K. said.

Creator, director and star of FX’s critically acclaimed “Louie,” C.K. is somewhat notorious for his disdain of fads, and has often decried our culture’s obsession with advancement. (“Everything’s amazing and nobody’s happy,” was his simple but compelling case against technological progress when O’Brien interviewed him previously in 2009.)

Though also known for his usually profane and biting delivery, C.K.’s standup routine often shuffles bits of wisdom into jokes on family, sex and society, focusing not merely on humanity’s quirks but the overarching reasons behind them.

Louis C.K. recently spoke out against society's obsession with smartphones. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Louis C.K. recently spoke out against society’s obsession with smartphones.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

His profound but cynical approach has led many to liken C.K. to the late comedic legend George Carlin, who often skirted the boundary between philosopher and funny man.

But unlike Carlin, C.K. rarely comes across as politically standoffish. Instead, C.K. would rather appreciate the mundane and the routine, the bits of life that are hilarious precisely because they’re not inherently all that funny.

Maybe this is why fatherhood has proved such a rich source of topical ammunition for the comedian, and also why it’s forced him to become an unofficial advocate for curbing adolescent cell phone use.

“You need to build the ability to just be yourself and not be doing something,” C.K. vented to O’Brien. “That’s what the phones are taking away, is the ability to sit there. That’s being a person.”

Waxing even more existential, C.K. furthered his argument by claiming, “That’s why we text and drive… People are willing to risk taking a life and ruining their own ‘cuz they don’t want to be alone for a second.”

His ability to connect social symptoms to ideological causes may be considered one of his trademarks. And while some may call the link between texting-while-driving and loneliness a stretch, I think it’s merely C.K.’s way of directing our attention to how technology is affecting our culture as a whole.

How it can etch away at our individual awareness if we’re not careful.

“You never feel completely sad or completely happy,” he continued, arriving at the point of his tirade, and doing so in a more serious tone. “You just feel kind of satisfied with your product, and then you die.”

Admittedly, the majority of what comes out of the man’s mouth should be taken as sarcasm, but it’s still important to remember the purpose for the exaggeration.

Or why he even began his rant in the first place:

“And that’s why I don’t let my kids haves cell phones.”

1 comments on “Why Louis C.K. won’t let his kids have cell phones”

  1. I love how you wrap up this article – reminding us what the point was in the first place. Louie definitely tends to go off on tangents. Occasionally revelatory ones, but tangents nonetheless.

    Good post. Thanks for sharing.

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