On Sunday, Louis C.K. freed himself from exile and made his return to the stage and the public eye, performing a surprise set at The Comedy Cellar to an apparently delighted crowd. The reaction from the world at large and on social media? Less delighted, with notes of support from C.K. fans and peers mixing with a chorus that is questioning whether enough time has passed since C.K. admitted to masturbating in front of women without proper consent. Eager to weigh in on the debate, Uproxx writers Allison Sanchez and Jason Tabrys evaluated their feelings about C.K., his return, and what it all means for the #MeToo movement and this cultural moment. Here’s their discussion on the whole controversy.
Jason: I guess the first question is, are you surprised that Louis C.K. is inching toward making a full comeback?
Allison: Not really. After he put out his apology statement, I thought it would be less than a year before he slowly started playing tiny, surprise shows in small venues. But, at the same time, I’m disappointed that his time of just “listening” to women, as he referenced in that statement, was so short-lived.
Jason: I assumed, of all the people taken down by the #MeToo movement, that he had the easiest path back since his site meant he could drop a special without begging Netflix or HBO to align with a confessed sexual predator. But I’m also surprised it took such a short amount of time. I don’t know what the right amount of time is.
Allison: I guess for me, what has been upsetting isn’t (just) about the “right amount” of time to wait. I can’t (and wouldn’t try to) stop him from working when he chooses to. But I’m saddened by the response of the audience. A standing ovation? It’s like he’s Tracy Morgan coming back from his horrible car accident or Tig Notaro’s vulnerable set about her illness and mother dying. It only took a few months for people to stand and cheer as if they were applauding Louis C.K.’s perseverance after what he’s been through this year. If a woman even makes an accusation, it can derail or ruin her career forever. But as the abuser, Louis C.K. didn’t have his career derailed. He had a ten-month pause. What Louis C.K. got was a vacation.
Jason: It’s the kind of reaction that makes you think that the media and social media are an echo chamber and that the world beyond their reach just doesn’t care about people’s misdeeds so long as they can give them what they crave. Be that some kind of crude reinforcement of their belief that their lot in life is someone else’s fault (ala Donald Trump) or a laugh. That’s a really depressing thought. It’s also depressing that, by all accounts, C.K. didn’t delve into the reality of the moment and what has transpired in his career and in the world over the last 10 months. But, if he had, would it have made this more palatable?
Allison: I’ve been thinking about that. I don’t think him finding ways to be self-deprecating and talk about what he did would have been better. Because that’s his schtick right? He lovably says that he’s disgusting and women don’t deserve how men treat them. I think him folding that into it would have also been a way to normalize it.
Jason: A mea culpa Trojan horse of sorts.
Allison: Right. I worry if we laugh, we’ll begin to stop thinking about it as abuse and assault. So… I don’t know what the answer to that is. I probably wouldn’t have found it to be better. And, ugh, I was about to say, I guess there’s no way for him to win on that one. But that’s part of the problem, isn’t it? That we’re conditioned to believe that he’s supposed to have a way to win again? And it’s not fair if he doesn’t?
Jason: That’s a good point and one I didn’t consider. I assume he did, though.
Allison: I think Louis C.K. studies and understands human behavior in a way that makes him a fantastic comedian. But those same excellent observational skills make me skeptical that his apology (or anything that follows) aren’t well-calculated. He’s smart. He’s an amazing writer. Of course, his apology was well-crafted. But, at the same time, it also rings false. Because I don’t believe for one second that he didn’t realize — when he asked to masturbate in front of female comedians — that it would make them uncomfortable. I think that was a large part of the appeal, having the power to make them uncomfortable. And I don’t know that he’s done anything to make amends with the women whose lives he so grossly impacted.