Comedian Louis C.K. performed for the first time since #MeToo allegations against him were made public, performing on-stage last night at a New York City comedy club. C.K, who admitted last year to multiple sexual misconduct allegations levied against him by five women, was welcomed back with a standing ovation from a 115-person crowd before he’d even cracked a single joke, according to the New York Times.
The New York Times reports that C.K. made a surprise and unannounced appearance at Greenwich Village’s Comedy Cellar late Sunday evening. C.K. did not touch on the sexual misconduct allegations that shook the comedy world when they became public last year, but performed a 15-minute set that riffed on “racism, waitresses’ tips, and parades,” according to the Comedy Cellar’s owner Noam Dworman. “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,” Dworman told the Times.
After being accused of misconduct by five women in a New York Times report in November 2017, C.K. issued a statement confirming their allegations. “These stories are true,” C.K. said. Their accounts varied, but all involved the comedian non-consensually masturbating in their presence or while speaking to them on the phone, often in the context of business meetings or while on set. Their accounts raised questions not only about how this behavior was ignored for such a long time—one journalist published an account in VICE of her travails in trying to report on the C.K. rumors—but also on the pressures placed upon women in the male-dominated comedy world.
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Since confirming the allegations against him, C.K. has stayed off the comedy scene: He lost his production deal with FX Networks, and a film he had written, directed, and starred in was shelved. Some critics believed that C.K, alongside other outed abusers like Matt Laeur and Charlie Rose, deserved a “second-chance”, arguing that his months-long absence from the world of international comedy was adequate punishment. Others were more critical, arguing that people like C.K. are able to enjoy the privilege of picking up their careers when a suitable period of time has lapsed, while the women they harassed and allegedly drove out of the industry aren’t afforded similar options.
According to the Times, only one audience member called the club following his surprise performance to complain. “He wished he had known in advance, so he could’ve decided whether to have been there or not,” Dworman said. But several other patrons followed up with emails expressing how glad they were to be able to catch the comedian's set.
Meanwhile, one of C.K.’s accusers hasn’t experienced the warm welcome the comedian enjoyed onstage Sunday night. Writing in Vulture, comedian Rebecca Corry spoke of the aftermath of going public with her allegations of misconduct. “Since speaking out,” she wrote, “I’ve experienced vicious and swift backlash from women and men, in and out of the comedy community. I’ve received death threats, been berated, judged, ridiculed, dismissed, shamed, and attacked.”
It’s yet to be seen whether this marks C.K.’s return to international comedy. “There can’t be a permanent life sentence on someone who does something wrong,” Dworman told the New York Times, even while acknowledging that he was surprised by how quickly C.K. has reappeared. “I didn’t think it was going to happen as soon as it did.”