Last night, Louis C.K. returned to stand-up comedy in a surprise show at the Comedy Cellar for the first time since admitting to sexual misconduct in 2017. He acknowledged wrongdoing after five women publicly accused him of masturbating in front of them without their consent, among other related offenses.
Like Harvey Weinstein before him, C.K. became a poster child for the #MeToo movement, representing swaths of men in the entertainment industry whose power and success allowed them to commit various acts of sexual misconduct without fear of penalty - many for decades. Some of the accusations levied against C.K. dated back to 2002, and his behavior was first publicly addressed in a Gawker article in 2015 titled "Louis C.K. Will Call You Up to Talk About His Alleged Misconduct." But it wasn't until the New York Times ran their detailed exposé in 2017 that C.K. issued a statement admitting guilt and walked away from public life as his professional opportunities and engagements disappeared.
His self-imposed exile ended last night as he performed a surprise set at New York's famed Comedy Cellar, the same Greenwich Village Club with which he and so many other prominent comedians like Dave Chappelle and Amy Schumer have had longstanding relationships. Surprise drop-in performances by major comics are something of a regularity at the Cellar, like other major clubs, because they provide a welcoming environment for said comics to work out new material. The New York Times reported C.K. performed for about 15 minutes and according to club owner Noam Dworman stuck to “typical Louis C.K. stuff.” Dworman, who was not present but was alerted to the appearance by an employee and watched a video of the performance later, went on to say, “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.”
Last night's performance amounts to a tepid return to work and public life, but it's a return nonetheless. While his reception at the Comedy Cellar was warm by all accounts, public backlash has been swift and generally split between two camps - those who feel that the punishment of losing one's reputation and career is inappropriate when meted out by the court of public opinion, and those who feel that maintaining wealth and comfort while completely avoiding prosecution for admitted crimes is no punishment at all.
Of the men who have faced accusations levied as part of the #MeToo movement, Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby are the only ones to face criminal charges (though the Cosby saga arguably began before the #MeToo movement started). Others like Matt Lauer and Bill O'Reilly retreated to lavish estates after they were fired. To date, no discernible recompense has been made to the women who accused C.K. and others over the years and suffered career backlash as a result of those accusations or as a result of simply rejecting his inappropriate advances.
Source: New York Times