Last night, comedian Louis C.K. made an unannounced return to stand-up comedy with a 15-minute performance at the Comedy Cellar in New York, one of his formerly regular venues.
C.K., who is also known for creating the semi-autobiographical comedy series Louie, was not expected to return to comedy at all (or at least for a very long time) after five women accused him of sexual misconduct last year.
The long-time comedian allegedly masturbated in front of women and while on the phone with them in the early 2000s, when his career in comedy was taking flight. The accusers were all comedic associates who looked up to him.
In his November apology letter/hiatus announcement, C.K. admitted that he had used his leverage as a successful comedian to pressure the women into watching and/or listening to him perform the lewd acts.
Ironically, much of C.K.’s most well-known stand-up material ridicules male entitlement. Some fans even saw Louis as an ally for women, so the news of his misconduct came as a surprise to those who didn’t know him personally. However, his jokes also contained eerie themes of masturbation and sexual assault, peaking in an uncomfortable episode of Louie in which his character sexually assaults a female friend (played by Pamela Adlon, a real-life friend of C.K. who was not an accuser).
In hindsight, this episode and much of his stand-up material sound like thinly-veiled memoirs of his own misconduct.
Before the accusations came to light, Louis C.K. was wrapping up production on a new film called I Love You, Daddy, which allegedly also contained distressingly sexual scenes. Production was halted, and the film was shelved.
Witnesses agreed that last night’s performance was akin to a typical, pre-scandal Louis C.K. stand-up show, although he didn’t address the accusations or the resulting hiatus from his career. In fact, he did not use sexual themes in his material at all.
Upon his unexpected arrival, the crowd met him with a standing ovation.
Twitter, however, was not as accepting of the news of his return. When news erupted of last night’s performance, many Twitter pundits, activists and fellow comedians voiced their continued disdain for C.K. Many feel as though a nine-month break wasn’t long enough considering the circumstances and repercussions of his behavior, and that he shouldn’t have been allowed to return to the public eye at all.
Multiple women Louis CK pulled his dick out in front of lost opportunities to pursue their careers because this guy and his enablers wanted to keep them quiet https://t.co/1muHlsXr9T
— dan solomon (@dansolomon) August 28, 2018
The answer to “but how long should [insert male celeb who sexually assaulted multiple women] have to wait before he gets his career back?”
UNTIL EVERY WOMAN WHOSE CAREER HE RUINED TO KEEP HIS ASSAULTS SECRET GETS HERS BACK, plus the # of years she had to wait.
That’s just math
— Ashley Nicole Black (@ashleyn1cole) August 28, 2018
Others argue that C.K.’s acknowledgment of and apology for his past misconduct shows growth and maturity and that he should be allowed to continue his wildly successful career in comedy.
As one of the most influential present-day comics, many think that C.K. should be atoned for his sins from over a decade ago.
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
The energy spent hating Louie by a lot of these left-twitter checkmarks could be diverted into being funnier than him and outperforming him, which is what their jobs should already be, but boy would they lose a lot of likes by not hopping on the moral-police wagon
— Jose Swervo (@GokusADick) August 28, 2018
Some would speculate that C.K.’s return to and relative acceptance in the public eye will open the door for other, more serious offenders taken down by the #MeToo movement to return to their careers without resistance.
Matt Lauer, former Today anchor and alleged sexual pervert, was reportedly heard telling fans in a private setting that he would be returning to his high-status career “imminently.” He has also apparently had recent meetings with NBC producers regarding a possible return.
Time will tell whether Louis C.K.’s return was a special exception due to his apology and apparent period of introspection or if it opened the floodgates for widespread denial of sexual misconduct by successful white men.