Comedian Michael Ian Black doesn’t shy away from asking tough questions. He’s currently working on a book about rethinking masculinity, and although A Better Man: A Letter To My Son isn’t due until 2020, Black’s still contributing to the discussion by observing deeper problems within seemingly unsolvable societal dilemmas. For example, he reflected upon the Parkland school shooting with an extended discussion about how “boys are broken.” Yet his quest for nuanced discussion on difficult issues led him into controversial territory when he publicly supported Louis C.K.’s return to standup following his sexual misconduct scandal.
As the Louis star began to feel out a return in surprise gigs last fall, Black spoke out to support the reemergence efforts. “Will take heat for this, but people have to be allowed to serve their time and move on with their lives,” Black tweeted at the time. “I don’t know if it’s been long enough, or his career will recover, or if people will have him back, but I’m happy to see him try.”
Indeed, The State ensemble member took some “heat” for his remarks, and he now speaks with Esquire about the fallout. He admits that he’s felt “terrible trepidation and angst” about inserting himself into the #MeToo conversation. While also promoting his Obscure podcast (sort-of about Thomas Hardy’s Jude The Obscure?), Black say he regrets not seeing the whole picture on Louis:
“I immediately regretted it. What I didn’t recognize is that so many women still don’t feel seen or heard with this issue. And I was already pivoting to, ‘How do we help the men here?’ That was totally the wrong question to ask, because the women need to come first.”
Black also touches upon how his empathy for Louis doesn’t take away from the empathy he feels for victims as well:
“To me, having empathy for somebody like Louis does not negate the empathy I have for somebody who’s a victim of somebody like Louis. Those things are not mutually exclusive. I have a lot of sympathy for the defensive crouch a lot of men feel like they’re in right now. A lot of guys want to be as supportive as they can, but really worry about saying the wrong thing. But if you’re not f*cking up sometimes, you’re not asking hard enough questions.”
However people felt (or still feel) about Black’s support of Louis C.K.’s return to stand-up sets, it’s clear that the former is treating the subject with more refinement than the latter. After all, the director, writer, and star of I Love You, Daddy‘s recent turns at comedy clubs include him alternately complaining about how much money he’s lost and also trashing teen survivors of gun violence. As for Black, he’s committed to continuing difficult conversations while always learning where improvement is possible. And, as he told Esquire, he’d like to be a “small voice” to help men understand women’s perspectives on these issues and, hopefully, “be a little bit of a go-between.”