Good afternoon and welcome to another week together. Sorry to have to do this to you but: we have a review of the Louis C.K. show in Paris. Say what you will but the man is… still alive. Technically. Physically. OK. We also check in on another unaccredited, anti-woke institution: Bari Weiss’s The University of Austin (NOT The University of Texas at Austin) which fearlessly occupies their little corner of the desert, much like the California shrine Harry Styles vomited a couple years ago. Kaitlyn Tiffany’s new book is all about stan culture, the stan wars, One Direction, things of that nature (the vomit shrine really exists, btw). Young stans might blow up Twitter, but the boomer stans hold court in the YouTube comments. Deep dive into the aching comments of Jackson Browne’s heartbreak anthem “Fountain of Sorrow,” because the comment section is not always toxic. Sometimes it is full of wistful, nostalgic boomers who will always remember the summer of ‘74. The spirit lives on. Unlike the victims of Barry, Bill Hader’s hitman who dreams of stardom. The season finale was this week, and we will tell you how it was in the link below. As for our finale, it is this: Have a good night and see you tomorrow.
Louis C.K. in Paris
The comedian is alive, kicking, and telling the same old jokes
The queue to get into Louis C.K.’s Paris show was long, primarily made up of French people excited from the standard Saturday evening headiness and the gentle hum of summer warmth. Inside the Casino de Paris — the 2,000-seat venue where he performed to two sold-out audiences this weekend, press not invited — the crowd was still buzzing. In front of me at the lip of the mezzanine level, two young couples were busy taking selfies. A French man to my left kept taking photos of C.K. during his set. Behind me sat another couple — a Ukrainian-Canadian woman and her French husband — who told me they liked C.K.’s comedy from his Netflix specials. The woman said she didn’t really know much about his admitted sexual misconduct, although she did offer, completely unprompted, that she knew everything about the recent Johnny Depp/Amber Heard trial from watching YouTube videos. (I didn’t ask which side she came down on.)
Louis C.K. is famous in France. Or as famous as a stand-up comedian can be. Stand-up comedy is a relatively new phenomenon in this country, where comedy tends to be more of the sketch and theatrical variety; the form is still considered somewhat déclassé, especially among the more well-to-do, and dedicated stand-up clubs are scarce (and all in Paris). If people in France have an understanding of stand-up, it’s mainly through streaming services like Netflix, which made comedy specials a lot more accessible. But recognition trends toward the big names: the Dave Chappelles and Louis C.K.s of the comedy world. Often, French fans might not even be aware of the controversies surrounding their favorite anglophone comedians — they gravitate to the same few stars, but don’t understand the surrounding context, as Paris-based comedian Paul Taylor once told me. If they do, they view it from a different angle: Mentions of transphobia, sexual harrassment, toxic masculinity are all attributed to the invasion of American “wokisme” — a talking point for politicians from all stripes in the recent presidential election.
So it was an ideal place for C.K. to stop on his ongoing European tour, his latest and most international attempt yet to mount a comeback after apologizing in 2017 for masturbating in front of multiple women without their consent, mocking teen survivors of the Parkland school shooting in leaked audio from a set in 2018, joking about sexually harrassing women in another set in 2019, self-releasing new specials in 2020 and 2021, embarking on a 24-city U.S. tour last year, and winning a comedy album Grammy in April. Continue reading
Checking In With the University of Austin
Bari Weiss’s unaccredited university launched a summer program called "Forbidden Courses"
The University of Austin, the unaccredited, anti-woke university launched last November via Bari Weiss’s Substack (not to be confused with actual institution of higher learning the University of Texas at Austin), officially has students — approximately 80 of them, working away on their unofficial certificates from June 13 to 24.
The school was the brainchild of a small group of centrists, intellectual dark web affiliates, and Real Time with Bill Maher roundtable regulars — including historian Niall Ferguson, Bari Weiss herself, Atlantic contributor and former American Enterprise Institute president Arthur C. Brooks, Palantir co-founder Joe Lonsdale, and evolutionary biologist Heather Heying, who resigned from Evergreen State College in 2017 over her husband’s pushback against an equity initiative that led to campus-wide protests and the couple eventually filing a lawsuit against the school. (All but Brooks are currently listed as the school’s “founding trustees;” Brooks serves on its board of advisors.)
UATX claims it plans to seek accreditation, but until then they are now offering a postgraduate fellowship for the fall. They still seem to be planning an “undergraduate curriculum” for some point in the future, which will include a two-year thesis-like project, called interchangeably a “north star” or “Polaris Project.” For that, the site suggests students might “compose a symphony in honor of lost languages” or “develop a white paper for a new cryptocurrency that solves a technological problem in the finance industry.” Continue reading
Meet Me at the Roadside Shrine to Harry Styles’s Vomit
In Kaitlyn Tiffany's sharp and funny 'Everything I Need I Get From You,' online fandom is serious business.
Imagine that it’s 2008, and a 13-year-old boy, soon to be Bar Mitzvahed, is at the Miley Cyrus “Best of Both Worlds Tour.” He’s really there for the opening act, the Jonas Brothers, but he dutifully wears the Miley t-shirt he bought upon entry, having convinced himself that confessing his affection for the brothers is tantamount to coming out as gay (and that stanning Miley Cyrus, somehow, is not). Shortly thereafter, on a teeny-bopper gossip site called “OceanUp,” he’ll see a photo of Nick Jonas playing catch or maybe frisbee on the beach with his brothers, and the sight of Nick’s unusually large and sun-burnt nipples will awaken something in him. A year after that he will come out, as both gay and a Jonas Brothers fan, and hitch a ride to Jones Beach to see them in concert. By the time he’s 18 he will go away to college, begin having sex with men, develop marginally better taste in music, and more or less forget the Jonas Brothers altogether, treating the news of their break-up and subsequent solo projects and eventual comeback album with smug disregard, as one might an old ex-boyfriend.
In Kaitlin Tiffany’s sharp and very funny new book, Everything I Need I Get From You, the subject is fangirls, not fanboys, and the band is One Direction, not the JoBros, whose eventual obsolescence was hastened by the British quintet’s arrival stateside in 2012, a development I took as a personal affront. But the stories — of teenage identities shaped in and by the thrall of parasocial obsession, of the internet as a site of youthful conspiracy, idolatry, and lust — are all the same. Fangirling, after all, is the lingua franca of the young, the newly horny and maladapted. And if fandom is not exactly native to the internet, the internet is native to fandom. After all, some of its earliest practitioners were Deadheads, Tiffany writes, who “innovated the idea that the internet might be organized by affinity,” providing fans — and, she argues, young women in particular — with a place to indulge infatuations that, in the harsh and imperious world beyond the monitor, were taken to be signs of duress if not genuine lunacy. Continue reading
Aching With Strangers in the Comments of a Jackson Browne Song
The 1974 anthem "Fountain of Sorrow" seems to elicit a universal pang
Welcome to Net Positive, a series about nice places and things on the world wide web.
I don’t know where I was when I first laid ears on Jackson Browne’s heartbreak anthem “Fountain of Sorrow.” It’s my mom’s favorite song; I remember hearing it in the back of her car in August 1997, while my siblings and I ate ice cream beside a toxic lake in Northwest Indiana the weekend before school started. I certainly listened to it, ripped from Limewire, on my iPod a lot in 2004, when I lay in bed with mono for three months instead of going to school. I heard the song again two weeks ago for the first time in a while, driving through Philadelphia’s Main Line in a rental car with my sister and an old friend of ours, trying to find a place to buy Altoids, a lint roller, and safety pins to fix my gaping dress buttons before a funeral.
This song, which is seven minutes long, is about a guy who stumbles upon an old photograph of his ex-girlfriend (reportedly Joni Mitchell). Continue reading
‘Barry’ Comes Undone
Season 3 of the HBO dark comedy is sometimes incoherent but always captivating
Early in the third season of HBO’s dark comedy, Barry, there’s a chase scene: Gene Cousineau, played by Henry Winkler, flees the trunk of a car in which he’s been held captive and sprints through suburban Los Angeles, eventually jumping a fence into someone’s backyard. The camera then shifts — we’re suddenly in the dining room of the middle-aged lesbian couple who live there, mid-breakup, as one woman says to the other, “I just don’t understand why you’re leaving me!”
“You have too many dogs,” the other replies, as through the window we see no fewer than two dozen dogs, large and small, rushing to attack Gene.
“Me?” says the first woman.
At its core, Barry has always been a show about self-delusion. A hitman (the titular Barry, played with nice-guy sincerity by Bill Hader, who co-created the show along with Alec Berg) longs to leave his sordid profession behind, not due to the moral implications of killing people for money, but because the gig is alienating in the same way all jobs are: shit pay, bad hours, asshole boss, and a lack of fulfillment. Continue reading
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