Louis CK makes surprise return to stand-up comedy following sexual misconduct scandal
Louis C.K. rose to become one of the biggest voices in comedy, thanks to his popular stand-up specials and critically acclaimed FX show, Louie, which won two Emmy Awards. However, last November, his career came to a crashing halt. Five women accused the comic of sexual misconduct, describing incidents where he exposed himself and masturbated in front of them.
These women were, for the most part, comedians still developing their careers. They said Louis grossly abused his position of power, and, in some cases, soured them on pursuing a career in comedy. Rumors of Louis' disturbing behavior had been around the comedy community for years - now, they were no longer rumors. Thanks to the downfall of Harvey Weinstein, and the rise of the #MeToo movement, the victims had the courage to come forward.
"These stories are true," confirmed Louis in a written statement. "At the time, I said to myself that what I did was okay because I never showed a woman my dick without asking first, which is also true. But what I learned later in life, too late, is that when you have power over another person, asking them to look at your dick isn’t a question. It’s a predicament for them. The power I had over these women is that they admired me. And I wielded that power irresponsibly."
Louis CK did not face legal consequences for his behavior, but the reaction from Hollywood was swift. FX cut all ties, Netflix cancelled his second comedy special, and HBO removed all of his content from on-demand services. Also, The Orchard cancelled the release of his movie, I Love You, Daddy. That's probably for the best, considering the subject matter: Louis plays a father whose teenage daughter, played by Chloë Grace Moretz, starts dating a man 50 years her senior.
On Sunday night, Louis made a surprise return to stand-up comedy, nearly ten months after the sexual misconduct scandal. At the Comedy Cellar in New York City, he performed an unannounced fifteen minute set for a sold-out crowd of 115. According to The New York Times, the audience gave Louis a standing ovation before he began. Noam Dworman, the owner of the Cellar, said Louis did not discuss his scandal; instead, he talked about "typical Louis C.K." stuff, like racism, tipping and parades.
"I understand that some people will be upset with me [for letting Louis perform," Noam told NYT. "I care about my customers very much. Every complaint goes through me like a knife. And I care about doing the right thing." However, he said "there can’t be a permanent life sentence on someone who does something wrong... I think we’ll be better off as a society if we stop looking to the bottlenecks of distribution — Twitter, Netflix, Facebook or comedy clubs — to filter the world for us."
Noam added that he was surprised Louis returned so soon. "I had thought that the first time he’d go on would be in a more controlled environment. But he decided to just rip the Band-Aid off." On Twitter, many people voiced outrage about Louis' comeback, claiming he didn't wait long enough, and had not been adequately punished. As one Twitter user put it, "Louis CK being 'banished' from stand-up comedy wasn't some kind of petty punishment, it was a f*cking workplace safety issue."
However, actor/comedian Michael Ian Black defended Louis' return to comedy. "Will take heat for this, but people have to be allowed to serve their time and move on with their lives," wrote Michael. "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." He went to argue that "men who do terrible" things should have a "pathway on redemption." (And yes, he definitely took heat for tweeting that.)
Last May, Rebecca Corry, one of the five women who accused Louis of sexual misconduct, wrote an article about her "lose-lose situation" for Vulture. "[Since coming forward] I’ve experienced vicious and swift backlash from women and men, in and out of the comedy community," the writer/actress/comedian revealed. "I’ve received death threats, been berated, judged, ridiculed, dismissed, shamed, and attacked."
She went on to discuss the possibility of a Louis CK comeback. "The idea that C.K. reentering the public eye would ever be considered a ‘comeback’ story is disturbing," she wrote. "The guy exploited his position of power to abuse women. A ‘comeback’ implies he’s the underdog and victim, and he is neither. C.K. is a rich, powerful man who was fully aware that his actions were wrong. Yet he chose to behave grotesquely simply because he could. The only issue that matters is whether he will choose to stop abusing women."