While popular comedian Louis C.K. has built a reputation for riffing on profane topics, he’s also consistently and incredibly honest with his audience.
And when he sat down with late-night host Conan O’Brien to discuss the problem of kids using digital devices too much, Louis C.K. said a number of things that likely got parents in the crowd (and watching on TV) sending back loud applause Thursday.
“I just don’t let em have it,” Louis C.K. told O’Brien about the smart phone epidemic. “Yeah, it’s easy. Just say, ‘No, you can’t have it; it’s bad for you.’”
When the child responds, “But I want it!” Louis C.K. offers, “I don’t care what you want.”
He followed that simple wisdom with what may have been his the statement of the evening: “I’m not there to make them happy.”
O’Brien, laughing with the audience, replied “that’s a terrific philosophy.”
Louis C.K. explained, “I’m not raising children; I’m raising the grownups they’re going to be. I have to raise them with the tools to get through a terrible life. That’s the way I look at it.”
On the issue of some parents struggling to deny their children the technology that seemingly all the other kids have, fearing their kids will feel “weird,” Louis C.K. noted, “let your kid go and be a better example.”
“I think these things are toxic, especially for kids,” he observed, referencing smart phones. “They’re bad.”
He added that kids who use them all the time “don’t look at people when they talk to them and they don’t build up empathy.”
He also reasoned that it’s harder for children to work out mean streaks when they’re traded in person because they see their adversaries’ reactions, which tells them what they’ve just said is hurtful.
However, he noted, texting mean comments results in no visible opposing reaction, so it’s easier for kids to carry out.
“You need to build an ability to just be yourself and not be doing something,” he said. “That’s what the phones are taking away. To just sit there. That’s being a person.”
But Louis C.K. wasn’t done.
Describing a very funny anecdote of hearing the Bruce Springsteen song “Jungleland” on his car radio and feeling very nostalgic, he offered a rather profound treatise on our collective inability to face sadness and our constant need to fill up downtime on social media to fight feeling alone.
“Underneath everything in your life, there’s that forever empty…that knowledge that it’s all for nothing, and you’re alone. It’s down there,” he said. “Life is tremendously sad just by being in it.”
When Louis C.K. heard “Jungleland” on the radio, rather than giving in to the temptation to repair his loneliness and sadness by texting friends, he said he instead pulled over to the side of the road and cried.
For what he discovered next, check out the eye-opening clip from TBS, via YouTube: