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The Choice We Make By Supporting Louis C.K.'s Comeback

His widely-contested return is a testament to the privilege all men yield

By Michael Arceneaux

In November 2017, after years of swirling allegations, five women accused comedian Louis C.K. of sexual misconduct via a New York Times exposé. Not long after, he released a statement about the stories recounted within the article, acknowledging, “These stories are true.” At the end of his remarks, he offered a pledge: “I have spent my long and lucky career talking and saying anything I want. I will now step back and take a long time to listen. Thank you for reading.”

His self-imposed exile was short-lived. Presumably quickly bored with his listening tour, Louis C.K. made a surprise appearance less than a year later at the Comedy Cellar in New York in August 2018.

The owner of the club, Noam Dworman, received some complaints. “I understand that some people will be upset with me,” he told a New York Times reporter. “I care about my customers very much. Every complaint goes through me like a knife. And I care about doing the right thing.”

Yet, he went on to claim “there can’t be a permanent life sentence on someone who does something wrong.” And he hasn’t been alone in that stance. In a recent live interview with the editors of BUST magazine, Emily Rems and Callie Watts, for the publication’s Poptarts podcast, fellow actor and comedian Janeane Garofalo issued the following declaration: “Leave Louis C.K. alone.”

Garofalo, who is not Queen Cersei, and thus cannot immediately get what she wants, nonetheless continued. “Enough of that,” she added. “There’s so many issues we’ve gotta be motivated on. He’s been my friend, I stand by that, he’s been my friend since 1985 and I think he has suffered and when he performs at the Comedy Cellar and people get all irate, if you... if nothing else, care about his daughters.”

The fact there is already a widely-contested debate over whether or not it is acceptable to book disgraced comedian Louis C.K. is a testament to the privilege C.K., and by extension, all men, yield.

You would think this wealthy, famous white man of immense privilege had been tortured by the way his apologists speak about him. Sure, he apologized. But while doing so, he claimed that he would retreat from the spotlight, only to abandon that pledge within a year. People do deserve second chances, but there’s something to be said about earning them. Louis C.K. offered words and reneged on the actions he promised to attach to them. Boo hoo to this buckethead behaving badly.

Dworman claims that when his customers complain, it hurts him, but it looks as if whenever that happens, he turns to money for comfort. Not to mention, he maintained that his club has a “swim at your own risk” policy.

Vulture recently spoke with 17 comedy bookers from across the country on whether or not they should put the controversial comedian on their stages. Thankfully, a bevy of other comedy bookers differed from Dworman, denoting that they have a soul.

As many made plain, it’s not so much that he’s banned for all eternity; it’s that he needs to make penance. Wende Curtis, owner of the Comedy Works club in Denver, felt that C.K. has not offered that, and so turned him down when she was approached in April by C.K.’s assistant about a potential Comedy Works gig.

Admittedly, she initially responded to the assistant’s request with a list of available dates. “It wasn’t until after I had sent that back that I really realized, this is Louis C.K. and he wants to come in,” she explained in an interview with Jezebel.

And upon finding out more information about the allegations against him — including reaching out to one of his accusers — she ultimately wrote back to his assistant, “I just can’t.”

Although Curtis said she “respects his comedy” and realizes “everybody makes mistakes” and believes in second chances, she ultimately feels that C.K. has not tried to truly make amends.

Upon more research and reaching out to other New York comics, Curtis assessed: “It seems like he thinks, ‘I did a fuckin’ year, fuck you, I’m coming back.’ That’s my speculation, though I don’t know. So I did say this, from my club, from me right now, it’s just not the right thing.”

If there were any doubt about C.K.’s attitude toward the problems of his own making, consider his controversial set from a December show in Long Island in which he mocked the survivors of the Parkland school shooting and nonbinary people.

“They tell you what to call them,” he griped about teenagers who use the pronouns they/them. “Oh, OK. You should address me as ‘there’ because I identify as a location. And the location is your mother’s cunt.”

On the Parkland survivors: “Cause you went to a high school where kids got shot, why does that mean I have to listen to you? Why does that make you interesting? You didn’t get shot. You pushed some fat kid in the way and now I gotta listen to you talking?”

James Dolce, the owner of Governor’s Club where C.K. made these reprehensible remarks, took no issue with his set. “You know who you’re coming to see,” Dolce told the Daily Beast's Kevin Fallon. “The people who were upset about it probably weren’t at the show. He got a standing ovation.”

Louis C.K. was accused, among other things, of masturbating in front of women. His response to being outed for his despicable behavior is to now show his ass. Zoom, look at this comeback trail go.

As much as I believe in forgiveness, that should only be afforded to those who are genuinely remorseful. Louis C.K. is not. He is just a small man who gained great fame by portraying himself to be a far more progressive and insightful straight white man on television than he was off-camera and off-stage. Now, with his career rivaling the iPod in terms of relevancy, he has turned to a new shtick: becoming Diet Dennis Miller. It appears his frame of mind is that if he can’t make the masses laugh the way he used to, he may as well get chuckles out of those who share the political viewpoints of the likes Rush Limbaugh, Tucker Carlson, and Lou Dobbs.

If Louis C.K. were actually interested in writing his wrongs, he would have offered a serious act of contrition, and ideally, some form of restitution: using his voice to speak against the culture that allows men to think they have a right to harass women in this manner; using some of that fortune of his to assist organizations that work on the behalf of abused women and girls. Anything besides cracking jokes about non-binary kids and mass shooting survivors.

It did not have to be this way; at the very least, he could have stuck to his pledge and learned to be a better person — in silence.

But his ego and his privilege wouldn’t allow him to, so now he continues his pattern of antagonizing the most vulnerable among us. If that makes you laugh, such is your right. Just know that is a choice, and undisputedly, a telling admission.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of MTV News.