Nine months after he admitted to masturbating in front of multiple unwilling women throughout his comedy career, Louis C.K. made an unannounced appearance at the Comedy Cellar this weekend for his first stand-up performance since his career cratered. It was too soon.
The Times reports that C.K. appeared at the famed club around 11 p.m. on Sunday wearing his traditional black V-neck T-shirt. He performed a 15-minute set that, in the words of Cellar owner Noam Dworman, touched on "typical Louis C.K. stuff" like racism, waitresses’ tips, and parades. "It sounded just like he was trying to work out some new material, almost like any time of the last 10 years he would come in at the beginning of a new act," he said. The difference this time? It was too soon.
Another comic who performed that night, Mo Amer, said "it was like a wow moment." The sold-out crowd of about 115 reportedly "greeted him warmly, with an ovation even before he began." It was too soon for that too.
C.K. reportedly did not address or mention the fact that he sexually harassed multiple women over the course of years and repeatedly denied any such accusations as false rumors as well, thereby gaslighting the victims as well as his own fans. It was way too soon for him to think that he could just move on without addressing the elephant in the room.
The fact that Louis, a comedian whose whole thing is plumbing the depths of his own psyche, apparently didn’t mention his most recent, famous news in his surprise set tells you all you need to know about his desire for “redemption,” right?
— Paul F. Tompkins (@PFTompkins) August 28, 2018
Last November, C.K. was accused by five women of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior, including the aforementioned masturbating-in-front-of-them in hotels and backrooms of comedy venues, much like the one he performed at this weekend. C.K. admitted that it was all true, which led to FX Networks cancelling their production deal with him, and caused the release of the film that he wrote, produced and starred in, I Love You, Daddy, to be shelved indefinitely. That move was not too soon, because that movie (which I somehow saw just a few days before it was permanently pulled) was absolutely bonkers terrible!
In his apology, C.K. wrote, "I have spent my long and lucky career talking and saying anything I want. I will now step back and take a long time to listen." Nine months in celebrity jail (live in nice apartment, eat nice food, spend nice time with family) is not a long time, therefore it was too soon!
Dworman noted to the Times that he felt torn about the situation and his responsibility as a comedy club owner:
“I understand that some people will be upset with me. I care about my customers very much. Every complaint goes through me like a knife. And I care about doing the right thing.”
But, he added, “there can’t be a permanent life sentence on someone who does something wrong.” The social standards about how to respond to errant behavior are inconsistent, he said, and now shifting ever faster, and audiences should have the leeway to decide what to watch themselves. “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.”
A permanent life sentence is called "prison." C.K. will never go to prison for what he did. Being prevented from performing your job/craft/art/very witty masturbation jokes in order to create safer spaces (ie, reasonable work environments) for other performers who have never masturbated in front of unwilling victims is not a permanent life sentence, it is a consequence of your actions. And being ostracized socially for terrible behavior is closer to restorative justice, or at the very least, karma.
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
Fellow comedian Michael Ian Black wants to know how the MeToo movement moves forward with these men now: "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," he wrote. Some might argue that the market for standup comedy will decide whether his career continues—if audiences don't want to pay to see him, so be it. Of course, knowing the state of comedy discourse and the flourishing of MRA dudes these days, it probably wouldn't be very hard for him to make money again.
Dworman might be torn about all this, but THE VERY LEAST comedy club owners could do is not allow C.K. to perform unannounced ever again. Considering his behavior, people need to be given the chance to boycott and/or protest his appearances beforehand, to be able to consider whether or not they want to use their money to see someone who sexually harassed multiple women, and has not acknowledged it in any way or offered any public contrition (like a donation to RAINN) since promising to take "a long time to go listen." Instead, he is choosing to talk.
So this was much, much too soon. He couldn't even deal with a year out of the spotlight. Leonard Cohen, who was a much better human being and much better artist than C.K., spent five years at a Buddhist retreat in the middle of the '90s just to get his head straight, and he never masturbated in front of anyone at work. C.K. could have taken a page out of Cohen's book and fucked off to a Buddhist retreat for five years, but instead, he returned to the stage of Comedy Cellar to make jokes about...waitresses' tips. Dear god, how did we function as a society without this particular incisive voice making jokes about tips?!?
Regardless of whether you think C.K. deserves the chance to one day perform comedy again in front of an audience (that is between you and your wallet), nine months was too soon. He hasn't even given a Dan Harmon-level mea culpa! Go live in exile for five years, and maybe we can talk about this again (or maybe not, no promises).
At least we don't have to worry about any other #MeToo men trying to...
— Page Six (@PageSix) August 28, 2018
NOT TODAY SATAN.