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.
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.
This is what Tig Notaro has to say about sexual harassment on her show, in the lives of her staff, and about Louis CK. All cued up. Just press play. https://t.co/Xc7Obu01Vd
— Jesse Thorn (@JesseThorn) November 8, 2017
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.