In April, there were murmurs around the comedy community about how disgraced stand-up Louis C.K. might manage a comeback. Now, less than a year since it was revealed he masturbated in front of five female colleagues, he’s back.
THR reports C.K. performed a surprise comedy set in New York City on Monday night at the Comedy Cellar. It was 15-minutes long, in no way addressed his admitted sexual misconduct, and “was greeted with an ovation by the crowd.”
Comedy Cellar owner Noam Dworman told the New York 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.”
Notice how Dworman used this moment to promote the importance of his club in C.K.’s career? Classy guy. The Times also spoke to a male comedian who was super stoked to see C.K. turn up. They did not speak to any female comedians about C.K.’s set.
Meanwhile, Matt Lauer, who was fired from NBC over allegations of sexual harassment, is eying a return to television. Page Six (via Vulture) reports he told fans who spotted him dining in New York City, “I’ve been busy being a dad. But don’t worry, I’ll be back on TV.”
These men abused their positions of power to sexually harass women. C.K. admitted it. Lauer denies everything. This is not a matter of bad press and staying out of the public eye for a minute. This is a matter of workplace safety. And shame on any club owner or network exec who plays a part in either performer’s comeback. By giving C.K. or Lauer a platform, they are publically declaring they value one male celebrity over the safety of their female staff. They are giving an abuser a new hunting ground. They are complicit.
And shame on every Comedy Cellar attendee who sent the message to C.K. last night that he’s done his time. He shelved a movie. He lost a bunch of gigs. And he sat out being in the public eye for a few months. Maybe in that time, he’s sincerely experienced major self-reflection. We haven’t seen that. We owe him nothing. His apology was insufficient. His comedy has made a tradition of making him seem the pathetic fool to win us over, even in the face of terrible behavior. And last night, it seems he didn’t dare confront any of that so he could play to a safe and familiar crowd who didn’t dare challenge him or hold him accountable. It’s too soon.
Eventually, there may be a path forward for the accused of the Me Too movement. Admittedly, I’m not sure what I’d even want that to be. But neither of these accused men has done anything that shows they comprehend the gravity of their trespasses. They’re dipping their toes in so soon suggests they hope we’ll forget the details and go back to happily smiling along as they joke or deliver puff piece interviews. Please don’t forget.
Don’t forget the stories of the women they abused in the workplace. Don’t forget that C.K. called one of his accusers and apologized for an offense unfamiliar to her, meaning he got her confused with some other woman he pressured into an unwanted sexual scenario. Don’t forget how these women saw their careers hurt because of him. Don’t forget how Rebecca Corry has received death threats for speaking out about CK. Don’t forget Lauer’s button that locked his office door at a distance. Don’t forget that Lauer smugly rejoiced in the firing of Ann Curry, who went to management when a female staffer came to her in tears over his horrid behavior. Don’t forget Lauer allegedly sexually assaulted a co-worker at his desk while she was unconscious. Don’t forget that each of these men treated their workplace as a kingdom where they could do whatever they wanted to the women around them, protected by their popular public personas, which scared women into silence.
Those personas gave them power. If we allow them to be easily polished and their abuses forgotten, we are 100% part of the problem. We are complicit.
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