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Louis C.K. gets philosophical over cellphones on 'Conan'

Louis C.K.EntertainmentBruce Springsteen

 

Plenty of comedians crack jokes about the role of technology in contemporary life, but leave it to Louis C.K. to lace the observational humor with a little existential dread.

On Thursday's "Conan," the multi-hyphenate actor-writer-director-producer-editor, who's up for approximately a million Emmys on Sunday night, explained why he won't let his young daughters have cellphones, despite their constant begging. 

"I'm not there to make them happy," he said defiantly. "I'm not raising the children, I'm raising the grown-ups that they're going to be."

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But what could have been a typical Grumpy Dad riff turned, like so much of his comedy, into a surprisingly profound rumination on the human condition. 

"I think these things are toxic, especially for kids," C.K. said, arguing that it's easier for children to unleash their meaner impulses -- say, via a cruel text message -- when they don't have to see the pain that follows. 

And cellphones are just as detrimental to grown-ups, because they're a fleeting distraction from, well, the soul-crushing pain of being alive.

"Underneath everything in your life there's that thing, that empty, forever empty, that knowledge that it's all for nothing and you're alone," he said. "Life is tremendously sad."

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And that, according to C.K., is why we can't resist the urge to text while driving: "People are willing to risk taking a life and ruining their own because they don't want to be alone for a second because it's so hard."

But sometimes giving in to that "forever empty" feeling, rather than reaching for your cellphone, can be cathartic. By way of example, C.K. shared a recent experience of his own. He was driving when the song "Jungle Land" by Bruce Springsteen came on the radio.

"I started to get that sad feeling and I was going to reach for the phone and I said, 'You know what, just don't,'" he recalled. "Just be sad."

C.K. was so overcome with emotion that he had to pull over to the side of the road, where he cried like a baby.

"I cried so much, and it was beautiful. Sadness is poetic -- you're lucky to live sad moments," he said. "When you let yourself feel sad, your body has like antibodies that come rushing in to meet the sadness. I was grateful to feel sad and then I met it with true, profound happiness."

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