There’s dark humor, there’s black humor, there’s gallows humor, and then there’s this “standup set,” miles past the event horizon of some distant black hole, from Manuel Oliver, whose son Joaquin died in the Parkland mass shooting almost a year ago. Oliver didn’t appreciate his son’s death being comedic fodder for disgraced workplace masturbator Louis C.K., who has been trying out Parkland-related standup material lately; here’s C.K.’s joke about resenting the fame and attention the Parkland survivors got by calling for gun control after their classmates were shot to death in front of them, as told in a leaked set from December:
You’re not interesting because you went to a high school where kids got shot. Why does that mean I have to listen to you? Why does that make you interesting? You didn’t get shot, you pushed some fat kid in the way, and now I gotta listen to you talking?
After that joke—along with some really fresh material about the link between ethnicity and penis size—went over like a lead balloon, C.K. dropped it in favor of this reverse backflip in a San Jose set last month:
If you ever need people to forget that you jerked off, what you do is you make a joke about kids that got shot.
So here’s Manuel Oliver’s response, in a promotional video for ChangeTheRef.org, a non-profit organization he and his wife founded Patricia Oliver founded in their son’s memory to fight for gun control.
It’s probably ghoulish to look at something birthed from that much pain and admire its construction, but that is an exceptionally well-made video. The opening uses handheld street footage to evoke both the general convention of opening a standup special with “behind the scenes footage” and the very specific feel of the opening credits of Louie, down to the Cooper Black font on Oliver’s fake posters promising “a bullet straight to the funny bone & leg bone & backbone.” That’s dark, but it has nothing on the abyss that is the rimshot that plays during Oliver’s standup routine. It’s as much of a metaphysical puzzle as it is a punchline: Joaquin Oliver gets to participate in a joke about his own murder to make the point that his murder isn’t good fodder for jokes. For all the talk about Louis C.K.’s gifts as a filmmaker back in his pre-scandal days, he never built anything that perfect, or that brutal.
Here’s Manuel Oliver’s set:
Hey, everybody, how’s it going tonight? Recently, I heard this great line from a comedian. He said, “If you want people to forget that you were jerking off, just make a joke about kids getting shot.” And I thought, “Jokes about kids getting shot? I can do that!”
You heard the one about the kid that walks into the school on Valentine’s Day? Skinny kid, wearing headphones, gets dropped by his dad. And he says, “I love you,” and gets out of the car and walks into the school. And then gets shot to death a couple of hours later. [Rimshot]
You guys ever heard dead baby jokes? I got a dead baby. His name was Joaquin Oliver. He was going to be eighteen. But now he’s dead. And that’s not a joke.