The case against Louis CK: Women publicly acknowledge his indecent exposures

It’s no longer a rumor.

The incident, first reported by comedians to their friends and colleagues in the hours after Louis CK allegedly forced them to watch him masturbate in his hotel room during the 2002 HBO U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, has gone public today, as Dana Min Goodman and Julia Wolov have put their names to the allegations in an interview with The New York Times. They joined three other women who told similar stories about similar encounters with CK, dating from the late 1990s through the mid 2000s.

I’m disappointed.

Not because a comedy hero hasn’t always acted heroically offstage, but because we all knew about stories like these — if not these exact incidents spelled out by the Times — and let him slide for so long. I’m disappointed that CK himself never came out and publicly apologized for his behavior, even if he did privately message some of these women to apologize. I’m disappointed in myself for never calling CK out publicly or privately. I could have asked him earlier. I could have said something to him when we’d make small talk here in New York City or elsewhere at a comedy festival.

I look at this photo now of us, taken by a friend during the official afterparty for Montreal’s Just For Laughs in 2009, and cannot help but think about how CK and I had just arrived there from having both watched Bill Cosby from the wings at a JFL gala. If I only knew then what I know now. Truth is, Cosby already had settled the major civil suit against him that had revealed him to be, at the least, a serial philanderer and womanizer. The worst we wouldn’t find out until more recently, when his deposition in that suit came back to haunt him and provide proof that dozens of women weren’t lying about how he mistreated them. And even in 2009, as Louis’s star ascended thanks to his renewed focus on stand-up and his then-revolutionary deal to make Louie for FX, everybody knew he was a perv. He’d already joked about sucking “a bag of dicks” onstage, and in his failed HBO sitcom, Lucky Louie, joked about not having a private place to masturbate. He was lewd, crude, and everybody loved laughing with him.

The larger, sadder truth is that too many men have disappointed too many women for too long.

Domestic violence. Rape. Sexual assault and harassment. Shutting women out of jobs and careers, paying them less, not listening to them, not believing them, stalking them, threatening them. It’s all bad. Taking your penis out, whether you masturbate or not, without consent is criminal behavior. Men know better. They should act better. We should behave ourselves.

Calling it “fake news” isn’t an answer.

No matter what CK tried to tell Vulture for its New York magazine cover story in June 2016. He called Gawker’s coverage of his sexual perversions something to ignore: “That’s nothing to me. That’s not real.” He added: “Well, you can’t touch stuff like that. There’s one more thing I want to say about this, and it’s important: If you need your public profile to be all positive, you’re sick in the head. I do the work I do, and what happens next I can’t look after. So my thing is that I try to speak to the work whenever I can. Just to the work and not to my life.”

So was he trying to speak to his life through his work? Was he trying to tell us he was self-aware when, in an episode of Louie, he forces himself on longtime friend Pamela inside his apartment, only for him to tell him to stop “jerking off,” then call him too dumb to be a good rapist?

Was his new film, I Love You Daddy, more than just an homage to Woody Allen’s Manhattan, but also another acknowledgement of his own bad behavior?

Kudos to comedian Tig Notaro, who received a life-changing career boost twice from CK — first when he released her Largo “cancer” performance as an album on his website, then when he helped seal an Amazon Prime deal for her semi-autobiographical series, One Mississippi — and still forced the media to pay attention and connect the dots. In an episode of the current second season of One Mississippi, a man in a supervisory position to one of the female characters forces her to watch him masturbate. Notaro didn’t name-check CK when asked about it, but did make great pains not only to note he was no longer actively involved in her show, but also that he and any other man should address allegations this serious.

To the Times, Notaro emailed: “Sadly, I’ve come to learn that Louis C.K.’s victims are not only real, but many are actual friends of mine within the comedy community.”

When the Times asked him about it this summer at the Toronto Film Festival, where I Love You Daddy premiered, CK declined to address it, saying he wouldn’t talk about rumors.

He was supposed to attend the NYC premiere of his new movie tonight, and also appear on Friday’s The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, which normally would tape today. He canceled both events in the wake of this Times story.

Because it’s no longer a rumor.

I’ve asked him to comment. I only wish I had asked, or he had answer, a whole lot sooner. Actually, strike that. A much better wish is for men to stop mistreating women altogether. It doesn’t matter how bad our transgressions are or were. We need to re-educate ourselves to love one another without harming one another.

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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2 thoughts on “The case against Louis CK: Women publicly acknowledge his indecent exposures

  1. P.S. The Cosby and CK situations are similar in one key aspect: Both comedians probably thought they had settled their indiscretions privately enough to protect their professional legacies; Cos, paying out a huge settlement to end his previous court case many years ago; CK, by reaching out to his victims to issue personal apologies. They deluded themselves into thinking this wouldn’t resurface.

    You can try to dismiss some of the individual allegations all you want.

    And of course, the particular perversions and sexual crimes of the two comedians are not equally comparable. But that’s not as important in the longer run or the bigger picture.

    How they differ? Cosby continued to lash out at entire demographics for not living up to his standards, which made him a hypocrite in retrospect. CK at least made an effort to repay his karmic debt to comedy and comedians, whether it was offering women opportunities to perform on his arena tour, helping other comedians make and sell their stand-up specials, albums and TV series, or in the case of Tig Notaro, an album and a TV series. Which made Tig’s decision to speak out that much braver, professionally.

    Cosby still faces another trial, and at his age, his days already are numbered.

    CK could come back from this. He might not, but he could. George Carlin and Richard Pryor were no saints in their personal lives, either, and they still rank at the top of most everyone’s all-time greatest comedian lists. CK would have had a much better shot at professional redemption had he come clean publicly before now. Here’s hoping he still does.

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