Louis C.K.'s Surprise Comedy Club Performance Sparks Fierce Debate
One of the unresolved questions hanging over the entertainment industry amidst the #MeToo movement is when, or if, there is an appropriate time for performers to make their return to the stage or screen after being accused of sexual impropriety. That conundrum was brought into sharp focus on Sunday night (Aug. 26), when comedian Louis C.K. did a 15-minute, unannounced walk-up set at New York City's Comedy Cellar, his first public performance since the Louis creator admitted to sexual misconduct last fall.
The setting was a natural one for the stand-up comic and TV producer, who was accused by five women of sexual misconduct in a New York Times expose in November amid the firestorm of accusations against disgraced former Miramax studio boss Harvey Weinstein. But the reactions have been swift, and in many cases, harsh, with many questioning why, as fellow comedian Aparna Nancherla wrote, "Louis CK getting a standing ovation for dropping in to a comedy club less than a year after admitting to sexual misconduct tells you all you need to know about how society applauds powerful men for doing less than the minimum of decency."
C.K. was accused of masturbating in front of a number of women. He later admitted to the sexual misconduct, and subsequently lost his production deal with FX. He also saw the cancelation of the release of the film I Love You, Daddy, which he starred in, directed and wrote. HBO and Netflix similarly cut ties with C.K. in the wake of the controversy.
According to the Cellar's owner, Noam Dworman, C.K. did a "typical" set of jokes about tipping waitresses, racism and parades for the crowd of 115 or so, but did not make any reference to the sexual harassment claims or their effect on him. And while at press time Dworman said there was only one complaint about the comedian's return, a number of C.K.'s peers weighed in with strongly-worded opinions about what the set represented to them, and to the #MeToo the movement at large. A majority of the reaction posts were harshly critical of C.K.'s ability to slip back into the limelight less than a year after the allegations, with a scant few coming to his defense.
On the other hand, Saturday Night Live "Weekend Update" co-anchor Michael Che reportedly defended C.K. on his Instagram Story on Tuesday (Aug. 28), writing, "What’s interesting to me about these articles against Louis CK performing again, is how important fame is to people...a lot of what I read says that CK shouldn’t get to be a ‘famous’ comedian anymore. Because to them, he’s still winning. Isn’t that strange?...meaning he can be shamed, humiliated, lose millions of dollars, lose all of his projects, lose the respect of a lot of his fans and peers, and whatever else that comes with what he did. But since he can still do a comedy set for free at a 200 seat club a year later, it means he got off easy. THAT’s how coveted fame is...just because it looks to you like someone is 'getting off easy' cause they still have the perks you would kill to have, doesn't make it so."
Check out some of the reactions below.
I’m still on the same shampoo bottle as when louis ck’s time out started— Sarah Lazarus (@sarahclazarus) August 28, 2018
louis ck getting a standing ovation for dropping in to a comedy club less than a year after admitting to sexual misconduct tells you all you need to know about how society applauds powerful men for doing less than the minimum of decency— Aparna Nancherla (@aparnapkin) August 28, 2018
Louis CK is spearheading the #MeTooSoon movement— melinda hill (@melindahill) August 28, 2018
Many wonder "how long" Louis CK should be "punished" for before he's "allowed to do comedy."— Amir Talai (@AmirTalai) August 28, 2018
Not sure, but
1) he's not been punished.
2) For non-famous men, each count of indecent exposure and false imprisonment (which CK's admitted to) carries a sentence of ~1yr in jail
Louis CK being "banished" from stand-up comedy wasn't some kind of petty punishment, it was a fucking workplace safety issue.— Bris Farley (@IanKarmel) August 28, 2018
I wish all the people crying “so Louis CK can never work in comedy again?” felt as strongly about all the women who could never work in comedy again.— Jennifer Weiner (@jenniferweiner) August 28, 2018
A) You know how many talented women and POC comics are knocking on doors trying to get some time in front of audiences or powerful people in this business? And Louis just gets to glide back in on his own terms? Gosh, does it payoff to be in the boys club..the white boys club https://t.co/hewlglA2a7— Kathy Griffin (@kathygriffin) August 28, 2018
B) I'm so used to the boys club in comedy things like this don't shock me...but that doesn't mean situations like this don't make me angry and frustrated for the people who have struggled to be heard and seen in a business that appreciate diversity.— Kathy Griffin (@kathygriffin) August 28, 2018
Can you imagine the bank you're working at hiring back the guy who jacked off in front of women without their consent because it had been like, a year or something?— Bris Farley (@IanKarmel) August 28, 2018
One of my fondest memories is singing my song about loving Louis CK right before he did a drop-in. The idea of him doing a drop-in now feels awful.— Allie Goertz (@AllieGoertz) August 28, 2018
I believe people can grow and change, but this urgency to bring him (and others) back SO soon just sends such a bad message.
“Hi, I’m Louis CK. Welcome to my show, ‘The Self-Aware Rapist.’ Man, guys like me are the worst. Just the worst, the worst, the... yes, yes, I’ll accept this medal for my bravery. To continue, just the worst, worst, worst, worst, worst...”— Sady Doyle (@sadydoyle) August 28, 2018
Comedian Michael Ian Black was one of the few peers who defended C.K., and the response was, as he expected, vigorous.
Will take heat for this, but people have to be allowed to serve their time and move on with their lives. 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. https://t.co/QmqdGJnIjy— Michael Ian Black (@michaelianblack) August 28, 2018
I expect a lot of this, so I will say only that I'm not going to defend what he did or what he lost or what his punishment "ought to be." I'm only saying that we're in uncharted waters and we need to figure out how to move forward. https://t.co/HWo8DjqxVo— Michael Ian Black (@michaelianblack) August 28, 2018
That would have been your right. I'm sure they would have refunded your money. I'll just make the point that, unlike other careers, when he does stand-up, Louis works for the audience. They will determine if he's welcome or not. And the answer may very well be that he's not. https://t.co/5x7XlL9crC— Michael Ian Black (@michaelianblack) August 28, 2018
My empathy isn't for Louis. It's for the recognition that we're in a cultural moment in which some men who do terrible things have no pathway for redemption. That lack of a pathway creates a situation in which we are casting people out but not giving them a way back in. 1/2 https://t.co/9o4U8TfniW— Michael Ian Black (@michaelianblack) August 28, 2018
The #metoo movement is incredibly powerful and important and vital. One next step, among many steps, has to be figuring out a way for the men who are caught up in it to find redemption.— Michael Ian Black (@michaelianblack) August 28, 2018