Tonight Louis C.K. performed stand-up for the first time since longstanding rumors of sexual misconduct were confirmed last November, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The disgraced comedian, who lost his deal with FX and had his previous work removed from HBO and Netflix after admitting to jacking off in front of unexpecting women, did an unannounced drop-in at the Comedy Cellar in New York tonight, performing a 15-minute set of new material that didn’t mention the sexual misconduct that he’s now best known for. So if you’re wondering how long a man thinks his career should be negatively impacted by masturbating in front of unwilling, unconsenting colleagues, it’s apparently just under 10 months.
This isn’t a surprise, of course. As Jamie Loftus wrote for Paste just earlier this month, “many of the men whose actions were spoken out against by victims are already working on re-entering their communities.” That includes men like C.K. The same Hollywood Reporter ran a piece back in April where various comedians and figures within the industry discussed C.K.’s inevitable return. Notably, Comedy Cellar’s owner Noam Dworman was quoted as saying that he didn’t “think people want this to be a life sentence.” As terrible as C.K.’s behavior was—and as uncomfortable as it makes women within the comedy industry—it has always been just a matter of time before C.K. and sympathetic parties within the business tried to hand-wave it all away.
Compared to T.J. Miller, of course, C.K.’s ten-month disappearance feels almost commendable. Miller, who has been accused of sexual assault, who has been accused of bullying by Silicon Valley costar Alice Wetterlund, and who was arrested earlier this year for reporting a fake bomb threat against a fellow passenger on an Amtrak train, has basically kept on working. He performed at the Hollywood Improv earlier this summer, as well as Kristen Schaal and Kurt Braunohler’s popular Hot Tub show in Los Angeles, and just this past week did a show at The Creek and the Cave in Long Island City. Miller has had no problem getting booked at comedy clubs throughout the US and around the world, and that’s inexcusable.
Similarly, it’s inexcusable for venues and bookers to let Louis C.K. perform on their stages, less than a year after admitting to his predatory misconduct. How would women booked at those clubs feel about having to be near somebody with C.K.’s history in order to do their job? What has C.K. done to prove that he’s genuinely penitent and won’t pose a threat to women again? Were women in the comedy industry even consulted about how C.K.’s return would make them feel? This might be a strong stance, but all of us here at Paste believe that women should be allowed to do stand-up without having to fear Louis C.K.’s messy, middle-aged dick making an uninvited appearance at some point during the night. If clubs and promoters genuinely cared about their talent, the safety and welfare of potential victims would be of greater concern to them than the return of an admitted sex predator, no matter how popular or funny that predator might’ve once been. C.K. hasn’t done anything to earn his way back yet, and the jury’s still out as to whether there’s anything he could do to make that possible. Returning to one of the most famous comedy clubs in the country, less than a year after the scandal broke, looks bad not just for C.K. and the club that let him on stage, but for the comedy industry as a whole.
Garrett Martin edits Paste’s comedy and games sections. He’s on Twitter @grmartin.