“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.”
That’s how Louis CK signed off in a November 2017 statement admitting to years of sexually inappropriate behavior toward women, both colleagues and fans. Now, less than a year later, CK’s “long time to listen” has apparently ended: He performed in New York City on Sunday night.
The unannounced appearance at NYC’s Comedy Cellar was the disgraced comedian’s first reported public performance since he retreated from the public eye. His 15-minute set started at around 11:00 p.m. ET and was “like, classic Louis,” according to Mo Amer, another comic on the bill that night, per the New York Times.
CK’s surprise appearance reportedly drew a positive response from the crowd, which greeted him with a standing ovation before his set started. Not everyone approved, however.
Comedy Cellar owner Noam Dworman was at home in bed when CK took the stage, but he told the Times that he received a call from an angry customer the next day. “He wished he had known in advance, so he could’ve decided whether to have been there or not,” Dworman said.
In texts to the owner, staff at the club echoed Amer’s assessment of CK’s set. It was “typical Louis CK stuff,” Dworman told the Times. “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.”
Tangentially, have you checked out Hannah Gadsby’s wonderful Netflix comedy special, Nanette? Or Ali Wong’s Hard Knock Wife, a follow-up to her excellent 2016 special, Baby Cobra? Also, the supremely talented comic and White House enemy of note Michelle Wolf has a relatively new HBO special of her own, Michelle Wolf: Nice Lady.
No reason for mentioning those, really. Just making some recommendations. (Also, did you know NYC has tons of other great comedy clubs?)
Anyway. As you might imagine, some on the internet aren’t pleased that Louis CK is apparently trying to stage a comeback. Especially alongside the near-simultaneous revelation that disgraced TV news anchor Matt Lauer is doing the same.
I think some of you think that because we’re alone on stage, that stand-up is a completely solitary line of work, but it’s not. You spend tons of time with other comedians, often in situations where there’s an imbalance in power.
— Bris Farley (@IanKarmel) August 28, 2018
This shit isn’t hypothetical. It isn’t an argument on the internet. Letting these creeps go with a slap on the wrist has wide reverberations and creates a climate that just isn’t fucking safe for comedians, and especially comedians who are women – but also comedy club staff.
— Bris Farley (@IanKarmel) August 28, 2018
And you know how it’s clear Louis CK still doesn’t get it? Dropping into a show without the audience’s knowledge, which could include women who have been victims of this kind of thing. Informed consent still appears to be a remarkably fuzzy concept for him.
— Charlotte Clymer🏳️🌈 (@cmclymer) August 28, 2018
One of my fondest memories is singing my song about loving Louis CK right before he did a drop-in. The idea of him doing a drop-in now feels awful.
I believe people can grow and change, but this urgency to bring him (and others) back SO soon just sends such a bad message.
— Allie Goertz (@AllieGoertz) August 28, 2018
Louis CK is back after 9 months, meanwhile, it took Winona Ryder 20 years to get out of celebrity shoplifting jail.
This will never not bother me.
— Geek Girl Diva (@geekgirldiva) August 28, 2018
I wish all the people crying “so Louis CK can never work in comedy again?” felt as strongly about all the women who could never work in comedy again.
— Jennifer Weiner (@jenniferweiner) August 28, 2018
Talk to me about “redemption” when women who are harassed by their colleagues get more than a headline and five seconds of sympathy if they’re lucky. Louis CK had a great career. All the good parts still happened. And now they’re over.
— Sady Doyle (@sadydoyle) August 28, 2018
Many wonder “how long” Louis CK should be “punished” for before he’s “allowed to do comedy.”
Not sure, but
1) he’s not been punished.
2) For non-famous men, each count of indecent exposure and false imprisonment (which CK’s admitted to) carries a sentence of ~1yr in jail
— Amir Talai (@AmirTalai) August 28, 2018
If you are at a comedy club or a music venue and a celebrity accused of sexual harassment or assault like Louis CK shows up for a surprise performance, it is your ethical duty to LEAVE. Walk out. Punish him, and the business that hosted him, by removing your patronage.
— ella dawson (@brosandprose) August 28, 2018
UPDATED Aug. 28, 2018 1:31 p.m. ET An earlier version of this post erroneously stated that Michelle Wolf has an HBO special coming up. That special, Michelle Wolf: Nice Lady, actually first aired in December 2017. I apologize for the error.