Who Gets a Second Chance?

Sep 01, 2018 · 295 comments
Robert Allen (California)
It is a very difficult subject and a person that has wronged someone can only apologize, make sound decisions going forward and hope to be forgiven. Not all wrongs are created equally. Louis has been publicly shammed and lost his jobs so how long should he wear the Scarlett Letter? Is there protocol on how long a comedian has to stay off stage for an offense? Can Louis be held liable for the rest of his life? Should he be put on a registry (which is more private than the public shaming he has received) for offenders even though he was not convicted in a court of law? Perhaps Aparna could have offered some ideas on how Louis could become a human again.
Jeffrey Cosloy (Portland OR)
We need a new police force; one dedicated to keeping the shamed down permanently. Only then will the rest of us feel victoriously entitled.
V (Brooklyn)
Louis CK's behavior was reprehensible and inexcusable. I am completely in support of the women who were on the receiving end. But while Ms. Nancheria does an excellent job of continuing the discussion and connecting it to broader societal issues that must be addressed, she doesn't suggest what would have been an appropriate penance in her mind. Louis CK has been publicly shamed and shunned, economically punished and permanently branded as a predator. Aside from his victims filing criminal charges, and there being a trial, what else should be done? This is surely an example of a societal ill as old as civilization itself: powerful men use that power to get sexual gratification at the expense of women, and sometimes children and other men. This is terrible and hopefully is finally being addressed in an effective way. But Louis CK is not responsible for the actions of all men, merely his own. He has been punished demonstrably for those actions. It is solely up to his victims to judge if that punishment is sufficient, and having been punished, he does indeed deserve a second chance.
Scott S (Brooklyn)
Let people vote (and laugh) with their feet on this one. There is no electoral college for artists, so if you don't like him, don't watch him.
Hans Christian Brando (Los Angeles)
While many may expect disgraced entertainers simply to disappear, that's neither realistic or fair. In a way it's rather courageous for Louis C.K. to attempt a return to the spotlight and face whatever he is likely to face--very possibly a hostile audience far above and beyond the heckling that any standup comic deals with. If he's willing to risk the boos and taunts of an unforgiving crowd outraged that he's back at it so soon (the time frame, of course, being completely subjective), and if venue owners are willing to risk empty houses if it turns out that nobody--least of all female--wants to put down money to be in the same room with him, why begrudge him the opportunity? He can always do what Fatty Arbuckle did nearly a century ago after his own scandal: retreat behind the scenes and work under an assumed name.
Jonathan Ben-Asher (Maplewood, NJ)
This is the fourth NY Times piece on Louis CK that in four days. From the focus on him, you'd think he was Harvey Weinstein, who, assuming the accusations are true, should go to jail for a long, long time. But he's not. Does he deserve to be banned forever from public appearances? As someone wrote, he did 15 unannounced minutes in a small venue. And as far as I can tell, he did quite a public penance when this stuff first came out. So, I'd say that people who think he shouldn't perform should just not watch him. I think we dispensed a few hundred years ago with putting offenders in stocks in the town square.
kjb (Hartford )
Maybe it was too soon for Louis C.K. to appear in public and practice his craft. But I suspect for some, it will always be too soon given the absolutism that runs through the MeToo movement. The victims of sexual assault and sexual abuse deserve justice. Unfortunately, the MeToo movement fails to deliver. Justice is calling out wrongs through due process and administering a proportional response. The MeToo movement requires unquestioning belief in the victims, silence or self-flagellation from the accused, and career capital punishment regardless of the degree of harm. Anyone with a sense of fair play recognizes that this is wrong, but the MeToo crowd seems oblivious to how its tactics undermine its credibility, and therefore its goals. The victims of sexual abuse deserve better.
Nyalman (NYC)
There is no second chance committee. Either people will watch him again or not. That’s life.
Peter Silverman (Portland, OR)
If the purpose of his not working is to inflict pain on him, it’s up to whoever is judging him to decide how much they want him to feel. If the purpose is rehabilitation, he is proprably the best judge of that.
D (West Coast)
Perhaps the title of this article needs a follow up: "Who Decides Who Gets a Second Chance?" Among the many questions Ms Nancherla seems to pose and answer, she leaves out one important question which would be pertinent to this issue: When does victimhood become a bludgeon? Mr. Louis C.K. engaged in acts which were unusual and out of mainstream behavior (i don't personally know of a single man who has pulled a similar stunt). Not criminal, but rather unusual enough that his reputation suffers. But as a comedian, who can draw laugher from the most ridiculous things, does this just become part of the shtick which we laugh at? Comedians are used to drawing laugher, we can simply say, "well, guess that's Louis being Louis". The severity of the socially unusual is diminished by the fact that he is a comedian. If his acts were criminal, being a comedian notwithstanding, Mr. Louis C.K. would be facing jail time. Louis C.K.'s behavior reaffirmed for me the answer to what is and what is not socially acceptable. "Who Gets a Second Chance" seems to pose another question: What type of person am I becoming.
Diana Ferriero (NJ)
I keep a post card on my refrigerator that reads: THE BEST APOLOGY IS CHANGED BEHAVIOR. There is nothing that Louis CK has done in these past 9 months which comes close to approximating an apology. He stayed off the celebrity radar in his luxurious home(s) and/or yacht. Such a punishment. Did he ask to meet with the women he abused so he could hear from them directly, no media filter, what his horrific behavior cost them emotionally, financially? Is he treating with a therapist to understand why he did what he did and why he thought it was ok? Has he set up a foundation? a charity? to provide abused women a place to seek treatment shelter? I’m proposing that women boycott the comedy clubs and other venues that permit Louis CK to perform until such time time as he has demonstrated changed behavior and a true recognition of the horror he inflicted.
Gary Valan (Oakland, CA)
How is what Louis C.K. did privately in front of women, on the phone with them and saying what he was doing any different from a man dropping his pants in public or in a subway where people are trapped. Indecent exposure? mentally disturbed? public indecency? Let us not forget he was an influential man in his world, with the power to affect the professional lives of other comedians, he had some measure of control over them. In these public exhibitions we make sure the person is taken by the police and brought up before a judge. Maybe they spend some time in jail, a psychiatric evaluation done. There is probably no option for a mea cupla and take your millions and go home. I don't know how such a person gets back in public life, what price does he pay that his victims and society can accept? As a civilized society we all subscribe to a form of decent behavior in public that is different from what you might do alone in your home or with other consenting adults. There cannot be different rules for public figures, even stand up comedians. Maybe other comedians should make a statement by telling the owner of this comedy club that they will not perform there and make it public. Other clubs will take notice. Does anyone have the guts to do it? or will they form a "protective circle" around Louis C.K. and hope all this goes away?
Wonderful article. It was nice to get a perspective on Louis C.K. from a woman in the industry. To answer the question, "Do his victims deserve a second chance?", my answer YES! Let's all move on and enjoy the fruits of everyone's talents. Art and justice are NOT incompatible with each other.
Leonard D (Long Island New York)
"Me Too" has arrived way past due - It must have been very difficult for victims of sexual predators to come forward without shame and guilt. But . . . I think we're dealing with an issue of scale - and just how much harm has been done. Creeps like Weinstein held his victims futures in the balance - Cosby resorted to drugging his victims - Trump, the biggest creep of them all, used cash - and I'm sure we will soon hear of many, many, many more women violated by Trump. All three of the above men have one thing in common - They ALL deny all claims against them - making them the lowest of creeps around. What Louis C.K. did was wrong - no question - But nowhere near the depths of Trump, Weinstein, and Cosby. Plus, Louis "came clean" - he acknowledged his wrong doing and formally apologized to his victims. Another great man fell by means of Me Too - Al Franken. Yes, he did a few silly and offensive deeds - he readily acknowledged them, and apologized. His honesty cost him his Senate seat - while Trump is stilled allowed to be president - He should be tried and incarcerated. We must recognize that our comedians ARE the "canaries" of our society - Any good comic has their finger directly of the pulse of our culture - if not - they wouldn't be funny - I think Louis C.K. has suffered enough and we should look forward to great social lessons from his future work.
Hans Christian Brando (Los Angeles)
Incidentally, "When he dies a slow, miserable, painful, penniless death, then maybe I'll think about forgiving him" is not really the moral high ground you'd think it would be.
Betsy (Oak Park)
My comments are not exactly on point, but every single time I hear about Louis CK, I flash back on other men forced out of public life by the "Me Too" movement. I stop for a moment to seethe about the outrageous unfairness experienced by Senator Al Franken. Was his conduct so verboten to have forced him out of the Senate, where his presence is desperately needed right now? What he did to his female comedy companion, on the plane ride to see the troops, is disgustingly juvenile and offensive. He deserved to be called out, & to be given a fair form of punishment. But we are living in extraordinary times, & we need ALL of our best foot soldiers, even our more imperfect ones, without proven pureness. Whenever I think about the abomination of Mitch McConnell preventing a duly elected President, with a full year left in his term, from having Merrick Garland's name to even leave the committee for consideration on the Senate floor, and then I look at the gross harm done to us all by current Republicans engaged in the active dismemberment of our democracy, I consider the faux-"transgressions" of someone like Franken, and see all the other places where our countrymen's indignation should be more appropriately aimed, & I want to scream. Please put this all in context of the times. Use your energies to fight true enemies, and triage your focus. Forgive my digression from the topic at hand. I support "Me Too". It is important, and worthy. People were hurt. But we can't live in a vacuum
Jojojo (Richmond, va)
I don't know who gets a 2nd chance. I don't know who gets to decide. Professor Avital Ronell of NYU is getting a 2nd chance. She is suspended for a year after being accused of sexual assault of her advisee. Her female colleagues wrote a letter supporting her and condemning her male accuser. I wonder if, had the professor been male and the accuser female, these women would have written the same letter. I wonder also if that male professor would lose his job or be similarly suspended. I don't pretend to know, but I do wonder. The same sort of excuses listed for LCK in the article were used in support of the professor, and in support of Asia Argento, accused of sexual assault of any underage male who had earlier been in a film Argento directed, and to whom and about whom Argento had written heated, suggestive messages.. Kirsten Gillibrand insisted that Al Franken immediately resign from the senate, yet she was happy to have Bill Clinton, who was accused of many sexual misdeeds including rape, share her campaign stage. Seems a tad hypocritical and politically opportunistic. METOO has been wonderful, and those who have come forward have shown courage. I support METOO, having been molested for years by my aunt as a small child. But if we who support METOO can turn on male accusers and fail to condemn female attackers, we lose all moral authority to condemn any abusers in the future.
jv (New York)
Internet pontificators don’t have the authority to make any rules concerning who’s allowed to work and who isn’t. If the Asia Argento and Sarah Jeong épisodes taught us anything, the social justice warrior and #metoo movements have no authority, moral or otherwise. Let’s all breathe a sigh of relief for that.
joymars (Provence)
I’ve read the comments on the other editorial (well written) on this subject. I am as disgusted with the majority opinion that LCK is an OK dude as I am with him. One comment said it succinctly: Trump’s followers give him a pass, LCK’s give him a pass too. I am doubly disgusted. Have we lost the concept of decency? Are both sides going to lose it due to a cultural/political war? Are LCK’s fans all Trump supporters and are now inured to indecency? The reason why disgraced entertainers are dropped is because the money men know the audience will shrivel. Their disappearance from the stage has nothing to do with the power of the #MeToo movement, and I wish these comments would stop filtering the facts of this depraved creep through those politics. Why not call Bill Cosby back? Disgusted.
Lois (Michigan)
Women have been saying "men don't get it" for so long it's not not a very effective answer anymore, even though true. There is a strong element of narcissism in those who seek audiences and Louis CK's behavior is consistent with that personality trait. Narcissists are never good friends or partners. Clinicians note that the personality traits most glaringly objectionable in these individuals are that they don't believe rules apply to them and that everyone is out to get them. Louis CK fits the mold. He's the kind of comedian guys love because his act is almost exclusively about sex -- having it, looking for it, watching how other guys act when they're looking for it, and how disgusting his naked body looks. It evokes more cringes than laughs. The punishment for his egregious behavior should be that if he ever entertains again, he must not mention sex in his act. In that event, his career would die a natural death.
Andrew Manitsky (Burlington, Vermont)
He’s not going to address it in a surprise appearance where he is working out a new set. Think about it. He will address it in a brand new comedy special, the way Pryor addressed his demons. Perhaps his behavior with these women wasn’t the smartest, but he’s not so dumb as to waste the opportunity on a surprise secret gig.
mark (los angeles)
Thoroughly confused by the authors point here. Who is stating the “victims” don’t deserve a second chance? And what does the author believe Louis CK needs to do? There is also an unfathomable logic jump here; ignoring, hanging up or using better judgement in circumstances isn’t connected to removal of a gender from society; that point makes no sense?
El Jamon (Somewhere in NY)
It was at the Eastville Comedy Club, when it used to be down on the lower east side. A regular open mic crowd bought their obligatory beverages, took their notebooks into the dark showroom and put their names on the sign up sheet. Louis CK was there. This was before we all knew he was a different kind of exhibitionist. It was a long time ago, when I first started doing stand up, myself. A fellow 40 year old father, Louis was my hero. Somehow he was making it work, being a father, a stand up comedian, a film maker, a writer. Louis got up and did his set to a sparse room of fledglings. Then, he hung out. He sat in the back and listened. When he laughed it was because someone had earned it. Never an obligatory chuckle. Most stand ups hang out after their set, at an open mic, for a polite length of time. Then, you gather your stuff and skeedaddle to the next mic, elsewhere in the dusky city streets. But Louis stayed. So we all stayed. Nobody was going to duck out, if Louis was going to endure to the end. And endure we did. Open mics are brutal, not because the audience of other comics offer no bell curve, but because we're all working out new stuff. Major comics, like Louis, can drop in on the Comedy Cellar and pick up as much time to work out new stuff as they'd like. Pro shows are their open mics. But, Louis stayed. He stayed until the end. He is gross, no doubt. Still, what about redemption for a fool? Let him stay until the end.
I thought America was where everyone gets a second chance.
OMG another piece on Louis CK in which he is chastised for "coming back." Ms Nancherla has no argument here. (Not mention that she argues from a point of view "as a woman in stand-up comedy" not from a rational set of premises.) The idea of a "second chance" is misguided and trivial and not a premise. A second chance is an opportunity to try something again after failing. Louis didn't fail at anything, certainly not at being a comedian. Hence, the idea of us allowing him a "second chance" is ludicrous. He did make a mistake, however, and behaved in despicable ways. Which he acknowledged and apologized for. Ms Nancherla appears to be upset (angry?) that Lous CK is attempting to restart his career after less than a year. And why not? What's he supposed to do? Ms Nancherla also appears to be upset that an additional apology wasn't included in his act. But why should it be? We all heard him the first time. Ms Nancherla wants, for all intent and purposes, retribution and doesn't feel she got it. He's back on the circuit and she's not sure he paid enough to show up there. Perhaps she's worried about the competition. It's not a matter of "second chances" it's a question of whether people/audiences forgive him for his actions or not. People will vote with their laughter and their wallets.
Cletus Butzin (Buzzard River Gorge, Brooklyn)
(looks at watch) By my count this topic is on the downward slope of it's media interest allotment. A few more months at best... time enough for the overlooked hypocrisies to penetrate through the thickest of skulls into the most vacuous and shrillest echo chambers. "Hang on... if it was so horrible then why did she take the part?" "Wait a minute... this went on for four years?" You can feel it... like another fog rolling in...already the next outrage is up from the dressing room and is moving to it's place in the wings.
Carl (California)
Acting as an opinion journalist for a paper that separates itself by relying on good journalistic values, I respectfully suggest that your piece would be stronger if you stuck to the truth. The idea that the two female comedians who went back with him to his hotel room were held back in their careers because of their gender, or because he didn’t support them is simply false. They tweet their comedy constantly under the hashtag @danaandjulia. They get around 15 likes per comment. Their subject matter is often graphically sexual and rarely funny. They simply have no talent.
I hope you are never so unfortunate as to require redemption.
Und wenn schon (North Carolina)
He was not funny before and he is not funny now.
A Grown Up (NY)
Apparently it is Aparna who gets a second chance. This is the second NYT op-ed this week questioning whether Louis CK has paid enough penance to perform again. One was enough, thanks.
Erasmus (Brennan)
I ask, in all sincerity: what do you want of him? What do you want him to do? And are you the one who should decide? If not you, who?
Aaron (Orange County, CA)
It would probably be easier if he were funny! The guy isn't funny - Him and Dane Cook - total self absorbed ego maniacs. They aren't funny!
Rick (Summit)
His core audience aren’t delicate flowers. The people showing righteous indignation aren’t the same people who go to late night comedy clubs. There are other comedians that know how to keep it clean and family friendly. Louis CK can come back and the people who don’t like him can boycott his shows.
tanstaafl (Houston)
Reading tweets you see the worst of human nature, and there's a lot of it. Social media depresses me.
Phyliss Dalmatian (Wichita, Kansas)
Who ??? I thought his career was rightfully dead. Is this a resurrection or a reanimation ??? SAD.
Robin Pilgrim (San Francisco)
Ok, so, he showed up and did ten or fifteen minutes at the Comedy Cellar, right? It’s where comics go to work on material. Let’s assume he is going to make a comeback, and address everything publicly and donate the money or whatever... Where exactly is he supposed to develop that material and form it? In his living room? In his head? It doesn’t work like that. Routines take months to hone. Joan Rivers did stand up about a week after her husband committed suicide and destroyed her career. Audiences were horrified. But she persisted. If CK had done this appearance on late night tv or had a comedy special with a big paycheck, or was acting like an entitled narcissist I can understand the negativity. But the man is slowly reentering his field as privately as he can, without fanfair, without income, and he needs to work on his material and earn his way back. Let him. Delay the judgment for a little while. His immediate statement after the allegations became public was honest as can be. You don’t think he is going to be honest in addressing the pain he caused these women? Or make amends? Of course he is. Give him a little time, give the women he victimized a forum, I am sure there will be a forum for everybody. And can we stop putting his awful hurtful illegal behavior on the same level as Weinstein’s rapes? It was horrible workplace behavior, and he needs to make amends for it. Yes. But for the love of Pete, can we act like the tolerant forgiving society we wish we were?
They (West)
Among the many questions you posed, there was one which you neglected and is perhaps pertinent to this issue: At which point does victimhood become a bludgeon?
John (NYC)
My thoughts are simple. Only Louis C.K. knows, or knew, what was long enough for him. All the rest of us now know what the duration means (for him). Fine. He's now had his second chance. Also fine. It's decision time for all the rest of us now, isn't it? I won't speak for all the rest but as for me...well....move along there Louis, go find a new career because in this one you are done. End of story. John~ American Net'Zen
Randy (Santa Fe)
If Louie C.K. had raised the issue of his behavior in a comedy set, you'd have accused him of exploiting his victims and mining sexual misconduct for laughs. I doubt there's anything Louis can do that'll be satisfactory to you, other than permanently give up his career.
Alexis (Pennsylvania)
In order to earn forgiveness and a second chance, you need to repent. What has Louis CK, or any of the other men who are rumored to be planning post-#MeToo comebacks, done? Going away for 9 months, being silent, and then coming back and making a joke about rape whistles doesn't seem to suggest that Louis CK has done much self reflection. It's not my job, as a random woman, to forgive Louis CK. He didn't sin against me. His victims get to decide when he's forgiven, and I won't tell them when he's earned that from them. What I can say is that Louis CK, or any of the other perpetrators, won't have earned my attention or my money until I can see that they've put in the time and effort to work on themselves.
Steven Block (Belvedere)
Yet another vapid too soon essay. CK’s behavior was, for sure creepy. So what. He’s funnier and has more interesting things to say than the author. I’ll take creepy over boring anytime.
br (san antonio)
well i'm a guy so not sure i get vote yet. but at some point it needs to stop being just women venting. the sexual behavior is just kind of sad. and Sarah Silverman still loves him so there's that... the crime is the people he squashed while they were trying to get their start. not sure how he can make amends for that.
Bill (San Francisco)
I was a big fan of Louie. A large part of what made me think he was a great comic was what I perceived as his honesty, his willingness to speak about things others were reluctant to talk about - and make me laugh, sometimes uncomfortably. But I couldn’t watch him now because he wouldn’t seem honest. He would have to talk about what he did and how it affected the women and show some evidence of having processed it in a way that seems honest. Otherwise, for me, he has no credibility anymore. What he did wasn’t rape, but it was still harmful. The women affected have every to be angry about his masturbating in front of them and the subsequent effect on them. I have to discuss Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette. I found it not entirely successful for the opposite reason from what Ms. Nancherla mentions some men had. Ms. Gadsby repeatedly mentioned she felt she needed to give up comedy. As I was watching I agreed! I wanted to tell her she has something else to say. She may want to continue as a performer, but she doesn’t have to be funny. Maybe she can be a compelling monologue performer. The parts of Nanette that were least successful for me were the jokes. I wanted to tell her she doesn’t need to be funny if she doesn’t want to be. She can go elsewhere and I’ll still want to listen.
Doctor Woo (Orange, NJ)
I don't know if second chance is the right way to describe this. If people want to hear him they will come to hear him. Personally I never thought he was funny, couldn't listen to more than a couple minutes before turning the channel. Really he's a creep, a self admitted one at that. But guess there's an audience for everything. These days it seems like 'shame' is a lost concept. Esp with the idiot in chief. There's plenty of well known politicians & artists who have tried to come back after some incident. Some successful, some not. I would love to hear him be heckled though. That might be fun.
Marion Grace Merriweather (NC)
If you want to know why your President denies everything, intimidates people into silence, doles out hush money, and shoves gag orders down people's throats, all you need to do is see what happens when someone actually admits to acting inappropriately in the past. Enjoy your ridiculous country.
true patriot (earth)
showing people things whether they want to see them or not, continued
Michael Devine (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Even a person sympathetic to #metoo looks at a column like this and mutters "really?" She uses words like "hate" to describe what is more accurately dismissal and promotes a victim trope that debases all women. #metoo will only succeed when it moves past its Jacobin phase. Columns like this work to undermine it.
ricoissauve (CLRH2OFLA )
Unbelievable, this piece of human waste thinks people want to hear ANYTHING from him. The egoiste desperately wants to be relevant. I feel sorry for his child.
Marion Grace Merriweather (NC)
The Louis CK feigned outrage industry is impressive.
AVIEL (Jerusalem)
Seems to me he is a sleazy pervert not ashamed of his actions. Should he be barred form working if people want to pay money to see him perform?
J.C. (Michigan)
Is there really any need to keep reading? Don't we all know what's coming by now? I mean, this the THIRD piece in this paper on this EXACT theme in the last two days! C'mon NY Times, can't you do better than this? Do you really need the clicks that badly? I don't care how long Louis C.K. takes before he comes back. The more pressing issue is deciding how much longer we have to keep talking about it.
cj (philadelphia)
Let the man live. The recreational outrage is ridiculous and the times loses credibility publishing articles like this.
Susan (Hackensack, NJ)
I'm not sure I understand this bit about Louis C.K. I guess modern life has passed me by. I would have thought that a man who masturbates in front of others has serious mental problems. Why is this a "Me too" issue? Seems to me that the issue of whether Louis C.K. should get a second chance is less important than the issue of getting him a good evaluation and a good therapist. Maybe I'm just not cool. But we don't go around asking whether those guys on the subway lifting their overcoats in front of little girls deserve a second chance. Why here?
Michael S (Austin)
Don't know if Louis CK has felt the full force of his predictiment yet. If people don't like him, then they don't have to go see him, furthermore they can boycott the comedy clubs he performs at. I doubt he'll get any offers from HBO or FX. He's a pariah and his career is finished so I'm not seeing any second chances coming his way.
Philip Cafaro (Fort Collins Colorado)
A surprisingly humorless essay from someone who calls herself a comedian.
Jay David (NM)
Louis CK acted like a pig and admitted it. I don't watch him anymore. However, as far as I know, Louis CK was never accused of raping anyone. When we put people who commit piggish acts in the same class with rapists, we are basically lessening the impact of rape. In fact, in the end #MeToo will die from its own hand by its insistence on classifying every piggish act as a crime. And Mr. CK, of course, as the right to try to make a living. And he has a right to try to redeem himself.
AIM (Charlotte, NC)
Welcome Back Louis C.K. ! Those who are jealous of your talent and your popularity will always criticize you. Pay no attention to them ! Your fans are with you. By the way, what exactly did the " Victims" of C.K. suffer through?
Eugene Patrick Devany (Massapequa Park, NY)
The word “shun” sounds intolerant, and perhaps biblical, but that is what needs to be done when a moral limit is passed. Redemption is always there for those who can make the track back to civilized ways. In our freedom loving commercial society, Louis C.K. can make a good living if 95% shun him and just 5% pay him tribute. Children, especially bad boys, know it is fun playing war, crashing toy trains, and blowing up almost anything. When real people (including the unborn) are victims of a cruel and perverted imagination, we need to laugh at Mr. C.K.’s attempted come back, boo his seldom funny lines, and cheer his failure. After all, what do you really expect from someone who knows less about masturbation and porn than Bill Maher?
J. Cornelio (Washington, Conn.)
Can't wait for the return of the Garden of Eden which we'd all love if it weren't so ... well, BORING. Maybe, though, what we need is a return to the Victorian Era where not only was sex outside marriage verboten but sex inside marriage had to be age appropriate, missionary position and, of course, opposite sex only. Yeah, tweak that with a matriarchy making decisions rather than a patriarchy making decisions and we can get as close to the Garden of Eden as many of these MeToo mavens seem to want.
Daniel Kinske (West Hollywood, CA)
His victims never got a second chance. He is just a ginger pig.
Bethany (Oregon)
Just like Bill Cosby, Louis C.K. can crawl back under his rock and stay there. He is no longer someone whose work I will consume or appreciate.
Hymie (Sydney)
So what? the people pontificating here in paragraphs need to get a life beyond social media. Very boring.
Mixiplix (Santa Monica)
Can all comedians just please go away for awhile? I don't want to see your lame stand-ups, I don't want to see you with your own dumb show. Just go. Away.
Marina beirne (Whitefish, Mt)
He needs to slither back into the hole from which he came.
Tee Jones (Portland, Oregon)
"Imagine trying to voice your dissent when it’s your entire career on the line. The women who came forward as victims of Louis C. K. had nothing to gain except to be bullied, ridiculed and insulted. Do they get a second chance?" Funny, I feel the same way about murder victims and their families; about rape victims and their entire lives; about innocent people brutalized by the violent tendencies of people who demonstrate zero decency. And yet, there are plenty of people who are all to willing to forgive those in prison simply because they personally haven't suffered the debilitating lifelong grief gifted by such perps. If Louis CK can't be forgiven, I refuse to forgive anyone whose sin is deeper than masturbating in front of--clutch my pearls!-- anyone in this day and age.
Hortencia (Charlottesville)
Mr. C.K.: You want a second chance? Ok. Then go try to get a real job, one where you have a registered sex offender record. Just because you are a famous comedian should not give you a pass beyond all others. What you did was reprehensible, morally wrong, disgraceful and delinquent. You know it and you know that we know it. Don’t give us any of this second chance fly by night blah blah stuff. Join the real world, Mr. C.K., the world of your every day brothers.
G-man (San Francisco)
I think central to this discussion is the nature of CK’s comedy which was the rubbing up against the core of moral values of our society. I liked his performances because of the sometimes breathtakingly daringness and because in reverse it somehow showed how powerful our shared values worked within ourselves. I always thought that you only can do stuff like that when you are way above the suspicion of violating these standards. As tragical as it might be for him personally but i do think he has completely pulled out the floor underneath himself by violating the values he made fun of. How would I ever be able to listen to a joke where he goes on about his daughter’s sexuality without being completely grossed out. I would feel complicit in a pervert conversation.... I think his career is dead and this is not über-moral liberals prejudging an innocent guy. It was his own making. He brushed up against moral borders, he violated them himself and now it might be time for him to find a new job.
EKB (Mexico)
I wasn't there when he asked, but it seems to me that a man who asks women permission to masturbate has psychological rather than criminal issues. As a woman who has definitely suffered at the hands of aggressively sexual men, I still wouldn't include Louis CK in their numbers, just as I wouldn't include Al Franken. There needs to be some subtlety and, given the culture, some forgiveness for lesser transgressions.
Sera (The Village)
I have to make this clear: If there was no crime, no misdemeanor, no attack, and no real harm, then there was no "victim". It may seem uncaring, but it's not. I do care that people are treated with respect and not used as live porn love dolls. But they walked away. If we continue to call them victims then we're doing them a disservice, marginalizing them, and treating them as receptacles for our outrage about a decent man who did some stupid things. Louis C.K. seems to have made a sincere effort to come to terms with his problems. Actually, he seems to be the only victim here: The victim of his own neurotic obsessions and his inability to have normal sexual relations. It's a hard world; I wish him the best of luck.
Earthling (Pacific Northwest)
Something is very sick & twisted & perverted & entitled about an adult male who whips out his penis & starts masturbating in front of women or girls. There is something sick about a man who gets pleasure and arousal from intimidating & humiliating & discomfiting women. Is he announcing it is a man's world where he can do what he wants? When did he start; how many victims? What are his other perversions & masturbatory fantasies? Will he go on to rape? Why his hatred of women? "These stories are true," LCK said. "At the time, I said to myself that what I did was okay...." Exhibitionism is a sexual disorder. Most start the behavior in their late teens. Risk factors for male exhibitionistism include antisocial personality disorder, alcohol abuse, and an interest in pedophilia. Power, control & a pathological desire to elicit fear & shock play into why a man engages in exhibitionism -- he gets aroused by the women's fear & humiliation. It is an act of rage against women. Women are often left frozen in shock, paralyzed. Most exhibitionists do not seek treatment unless caught & are required to by a court. Louis CK has not sought nor undergone treatment for his disorder. He is still sick & a danger to females. The man has two daughters. There should be no comeback until he has made reparations to his victims & his psychiatrist (and not misogynistic Dudebros) certifies his mental fitness. Keep your daughters and female selves away from this guy. He is still sick.
DW (Philly)
He needs to totally go away, he's disgusting. just go get a job, live your life, and shut up.
fast/furious (the new world)
I was a huge fan of his show "Louie," which was brilliant. This led me to want to see Louis CK's standup & I attended his 2013 show at the Kennedy Center. It was horrible. There was a long routine about a very elderly woman whose little dog got trapped in her toilet & she had diarrhea all over him. (I apologize to the NYT comment moderators but that was the routine). It was disgusting. The show was alternately horrible or boring. And I'm not offended by weird comedy...that wasn't comedy. My feeling about Louis CK now is what he was accused of by numerous women wasn't really different than the weird men who masturbate on the subway or flash women on the street. This isn't just about whether CK now thinks he was wrong or is 'sorry.' Women understand CK's behavior refuses to acknowledge there are any boundaries of decency when it comes to what strange men can inflict on women as the mood strikes them. And we're supposed to "normalize" it. It's notable CK's accusers were strangers. He wasn't masturbating in front of people close to him or that he cared about - he did this to people he'd never have to see again - they were disposable. Disposable human beings, there to mistreat & humiliate. 8 months later, literally nothing indicates CK understands what was wrong with his actions. He doesn't understand why former fans want nothing to do with him. This indicates he's detached from reality in a dangerous way. Which makes him someone I want nothing to do with.
fast/furious (the new world)
Society CAN decide to cast out a person who violated their privilege to be among us. Too many people are focusing on the fact CK appears not to have committed a crime. Is that the only acceptable standard for whether you want to see a performer? It's arrogant & disturbing for a performer to believe they're an exception to social norms because they're talented & famous & can act out anyway they want with people they encounter in their professional community. The people CK harassed - a polite word for what he did - included female fans he encountered. The comedy community can decide whether he 'gets a second chance' - but that community includes women performers & fans, many of them disgusted & infuriated with this talented man who betrayed the trust of some of his colleagues/admirers/fans. It's worth remembering Paul Rubens (Pee Wee Herman) was arrested in 1991 for masturbating alone in the dark in an 'adult theater.' Rubens largely stayed out of sight until staging a film comeback in 1999. That's 8 yrs, for a crime that didn't involve another person. And Paul Rubens is much more talented that CK. Then there are performers who didn't commit a crime but who committed a breach of public behavior so grave people don't want to see them again. Like Michael Kramer, who shouted racial epithets at the audience at a comedy club. He's had little career since. CK would be wise to take a longer time out & give more serious consideration to why all this happened.
s.stone (berkeley)
I'm having a really hard time reconciling victimhood and feminism. I thought that women were interested in being equals with men. They can't do that and then complain about how damaged they are when men misbehave. Imagine men claiming to be victims of women who masturbated in front of them. It's absurd! The "me too" movement can't empower women if they insist on behaving like fragile flowers or "snowflakes." Time to grow up!
Richard (Pennsylvania)
Louis CK returns to the Stage of the Comedy Club (take 2) “I’d just like to say right off, that I am not going to ask anyone if I can masturbate in front of you. (applause). Yeah, I’m sure that is a relief. For me too, and not that old kind.. It’s true, I once gained a good bit of kinky pleasure by it, but no more. Where once I quivered and ejaculated, now I cringe. All the tweets and the comments were the mirrors I had to look in. They told me that I was part of all that: From Weinstein to Judge Roy, we live in one fetid lump. Some people defended me, but I especially don’t want to be around those people. I don’t want to be defended by such lumps or their reasons. So, I just shriveled off into isolation. I have been unable to do anything that seemed anything like exposing myself. And going onto a stage is always going to be a kind of exposing. But these nine months in isolation have cured me. I checked out of the physical world and into this other place. Social media and old media writing about social media were the voices constantly whispering in my ear. Now, I’ve nothing kinky left in me. It is as if I have gone through one of those conversion therapy programs. It has worked. I am no longer the person I once was. So I came here tonight to begin the slow process of making a person out of whatever I am. Whatever pieces I can still find left of me, maybe I can repurpose. If you can find a chance to laugh, that would help. If you can’t, what can I expect?”
Mixilplix (Santa Monica )
And his worst crime? He's unfunny
Bruce (Cherry Hill, NJ)
Comedians can be more than just funny. They can become politicians, like Senator Al Franken or educators like Dr. Bill Cosby. Ba-dum-bump! Comedy is difficult and I am no comedian. My attempt at a joke may be tasteless to some. Certainly it is not very funny. But, it should give everyone pause. We do not really know anything about those people who brighten and enrich our lives with comedy. Sometimes we learn that they are awful people. Sometimes we learn that they were terribly sad people (Robin Williams we still miss you!) I don't know what punishment Louis C. K. deserves but I do not think I can ever enjoy his humor the way I once did.
Bob (Parker)
Welcome back Louie! Haters gone hate
Charlie L. (USA)
This issue reminds me of all the creepy things I experienced as a young man. Can't speak for the present generation, but thirty years ago there were women who did things that now are considered "rape" without a second thought. I got picked up hitch hiking by predatory women twice my age who leveraged meals, places to stay, favors of connections to work, etc. If men decided to blow the whistle this whole Metoo thing could be turned on its head.
Tim (Colorado)
I wish Ms. Nancherla would tell us what the punishment should be. Another year in comedy jail, is that enough? Maybe he should have his offending organ removed, is that the just sentence? Please, give us some guidance. It's incongruent for Ms. Nancherla to insist what Louis should have said in his set at the Comedy Cellar, does anyone tell her what to put in her act? If she has issues with Louis, let her tweet or let her talk about it in her stand up. It's a free country with free speech, let the people decide who they'll pay to see perform.
Maria (Brooklyn, NY)
Right. Do the women he assaulted get a second chance? If so many of his fans are "ok with what he did which was no big thing and not a big deal and they could of left and..) then it shouldn't have been that disturbing to them, that the women simply stated what LCK had done. Clearly that is not the case now and wasn't when so much of a "whisper" went around about what he later admitted to. It is no small part of this story, that LCK lied for years, covered up with help from friends- derailing job/opportunity prospects for the comedians. Apparently what LCK did is not a problem but saying something about it is. Yuck.
Tony (CT)
Is this the 4th of 5th NYTimes Article or Opinion Piece on Louis CK's Comeback? Not really a fan, but all this talk has me interested in going to his next show.
Eric (Thailand)
I think many answers on the same subject, good or bad, in one way or another we’re already given to Ms Gay published opinion. After reading a few here, I would just add this makes me think of civic rights privation to those convicted of a crime. To my knowledge, M. CK has not been convicted or is being under investigation now. But to the only 9 months comment, the economic damages he endured are more tangible with contract and project cancellations that were running for way more than just a mere 9 months period and an image deficit which is also costly. So has m. CK being deprived of its economic rights somehow by being cast aside from the comedy scene ? And for how long exactly ? Being forbidden to exercise the only profession you know is a very material punishment. And no one here is the judge on this’ matter but the audience in the end. In the absence of civil suits, they are the only judge left. Not the bro brotherhood with their claws pseudo white gloves, not Ms Gay or Ms Nacherla either.
Jim Allen (McIntosh County, Georgia z)
Who really knows who Louis C K really is? I do know one thing though. Forgiveness is the predator's pass. Ask an abused woman, wife, and/or mother. Why is the immeasurable but central element in his abuse denied oxygen? Pain. The inflicted are mocked and ridiculed and shunned. And Lois C.K. is center stage again.
SteveRR (CA)
I really enjoy how the Grey Lady has seen fit to engage opinion-writers who seem to honestly believe that using pejoratives "Horsedudes of the Bropocalypse" is a substitute for actually making an argument.
Robert B (Brooklyn, NY)
Since the US open is on, it's worth noting that what Nancherla proposes is like deciding to play tennis in the middle of 42nd street, instead of with nets, and line judges, on a tennis court. Courts of law exist for a reason. Assessments of culpability, and punishments, must exist within specified parameters and be commensurate with the offense committed. As a former prosecutor, and a criminal and civil rights attorney, I've dealt with almost every offense imaginable. Under NY criminal law Louis C.K.'s conduct constitutes Indecent Exposure, though it's unclear whether Exposure, or Public Lewdness, applies. Exposure of Person is a Violation, with a maximum sentence of 15 days. (A typical offense is disorderly conduct). A violation is not a crime. Public Lewdness is a Class B Misdemeanor, the lowest criminal offense, it carries a maximum sentence of 90 days in jail or one year probation. (A typical Class B Misdemeanor is prostitution). Sentences for multiple offenses such as those Louis C.K. committed typically run concurrently, and courts routinely impose probation, not jail time, with a mandatory psych evaluation, and court mandated therapy. None of this happened because this was dealt with solely as an exercise in public outrage. It means that there are no limits to Louis C.K.'s expulsion, but also no pressure on him to stop, which means he'll likely to do it again. Repeated displays of contrition by Louis C.K. may make Nancherla feel better, but they accomplish nothing.
Samantha (Los Angeles)
Well - I can vote with my $/eyes. I'll never watch him again. He's joined the ranks of Mel Gibson, Tom Cruise and Woody Allen. Bye Felicia.
Ms.Sofie (San Francisco)
Sex is messy. Period. Full stop. The "victims" here can have all the chances they want. All these women were adults and at no time did LCK force them to do anything at all. That they were embarrassed by weird sexual encounters, well what can I say except the #MeToo movement moved very fast on a flawed man but definitely no sexual predator. I care little for your self aggrandizement as a self appointed judge of what I can tell is little more than self promotion. I can differentiate between sex and assault and in my book LCK retreated when I never would've, so kudos to him.
Becky (Brooklyn)
So important! Thank you!
Well your "movement" has worked. I'm uncomfortable to say my honest thoughts or opinions. And to be accused of victim shaming. So I'll just say my comment is this.. No comment.
crispin (york springs, pa)
Surely this CK story is being covered excessively. Also haven't you now run several columns saying exactly the same thing? Isn't there any news?
Beachi (New Hampshire)
In his comedy, the laugh (or is it a grimace of self awareness?) is usually on the hapless individuals who somehow pierce Louis C.K's smugly clueless persona to make an impression on his singular minded existence. He's repeatedly showed us who he is. Does that make him less funny now that we know it's not an act? Even in his ineptitude, the source of many of his riffs, he still maintains that superiority of an entitled, arrogant narcissist.
Lou Malzone (Freeland, WA)
The women victimized my Louis C.K. do get a second chance. It is the point of your article. It won't be easy to take, but they should take it. It's up to them to exercise their courage for their careers as they did to expose Louis C.K. as a sick puppy. Why did the women in the audience not do a slap-down of Louis C.K.? Why? Because he is a bully and he was a surprise. Did he got a passing grade on his "second chance"? Jury is still out. Now we'll see if anyone will give him a booking. I hope not, and if he gets one, then no woman should buy a ticket or accept an invitation to the show. Boycott him (womancott him?)
Lawrence (Washington D.C,)
''It’s why a Netflix special like Hannah Gadsby’s “Nanette” was criticized by straight male colleagues of mine for “not being stand-up” because it wasn’t all easily digestible setups and punch lines. '' We hopelessly regressive cis male neanderthals have the sexist counterrevolutionary paternalist male dominating hetero normative and sexually repressive belief that comedy should be funny. Shame, Shame Shame. . I guess I am born to Baal. I would bet that Louis would fill a hall at a higher ticket price than Hannah. And that the audience would have a better time. That's why they call it entertainment. Maybe you can do a schtick about reselling hair shirts on ebay famous men and women have worn.
Aristotle Gluteus Maximus (Louisiana)
So he flogged his Bishop in front of women and he actually asked them first. OMG! Did he trap them in a room and force them to watch? Tie them to a chair and tape their eyelids open? This is merely kinky sex and it's not really sex of the Bill Clinton kind, "I did not have sexual relations with that woman..." There was no physical contact. Sure, it's creepy but strange men on the street are creepy. You just walk away from them. Women just have to keep their place on the pedestal as the poor defenseless sex who are entitled to special considerations because of their inherent weakness. Therefore any offence against them, perceived or otherwise, is punished mightily and swiftly. If he punched people in the nose there wouldn't be this kind of systematic massive condemnation of his behavior in the mass media making sure everyone knew about it. He would be forgiven and be allowed to continue working.
Teg Laer (USA)
Who gets a second chance? The person who: -admits to their behavior; -sincerely and completely regrets/repents/apologizes for their behavior; -atones for their behavior; and -demonstrates that they will not engage in the behavior again. It does not seem to me that Louis C.K. is ready for his second chance quite yet.
Pete (CA)
I imagine that a creative comedienne could could easily get an entire hysterical set out of lampooning L.C.K.'s illness. The problem is how the BroClub that is standup would react.
RickP (California)
Two NYT articles have required the reader to click a link to learn what C. K. admitted to doing. He admitted to abusing power. He wrote that he never exposed himself without obtaining consent. There is an allegation about a phone incident which did not involve consent. If he's addressed that allegation, I missed it. Each of us can judge his behavior. I do think that it would have been appropriate to say something about he's engaging in the sort of self-examination he alluded to.
Jonathan (Los Angeles)
As a massive fan of Louie CK, I stand behind women and his victims. I don't give him much thought anymore. I do hope that he genuinely apologies which he has yet to do. It is more than just making a statement and being quiet. He needs to reach out to these women and apologies to them privately. Make restitution to his victims and to women in our society. He needs to articulate publically what actions he is going to take to rectify what he is done. The damage is real and he has the power and privilege to make this right. In the end it does not matter what he say but what he does. I hope he does these things not so he gets to come back but because it is the right thing to do and he knows it. All he has to do is ask his two daughters.
Shawn (Astoria)
The #MeToo movement has served an important role in exposing abuses of power across differenr industries and fields. And no reasonable person is saying that Louis C.K.'s actions were excusable. But I am genuinely confused by the amount of backlash about the man doing a surprise set at a comedy club in what might be the start of an attempt to reignite his career. We can't just brand every person that has been exposed as engaging in some type of sexual misconduct through the #MeToo movement as someone who should never show their face in public again. Each case needs to be reviewed on its individual facts. What he did involved overstepping boundaries and likely abusing power. But does that mean he should be excommunicated from the comedy world forever? How long exactly should he stay away from the stage? How exactly was he supposed to address this issue to a crowd of people who didn't know he was coming and who were just there to have a good time? For the #MeToo movement to maintain its credibility, there needs to be an understanding that there are different levels of sexual misconduct, and the level of backlash should not be the same for each case. There are people like Weinstein, and then there are people like Aziz Ansari, who seems to have done nothing but had awkward sex, yet his career has suffered. And then there are people like Louis C.K., who fall somewhere inbetween. Let's maintain the credibility of the movement by perhaps relaxing with the scarlet letter branding.
Harley Leiber (Portland OR)
Yes. The women get a second chance. They have to create the opportunity for that chance. Louis CK is no longer blocking their way. Get out there at open mikes, run your 5-8 minutes, kill, bomb...revise..try again. Day in and day out. Your material will either make people laugh or not make people laugh. There are no free laughs in standup. It's brutal. But for the chosen few it's the best deal ever... Louis CK coming back? Remaining silent about why he had to leave, what he did, what he's thought about, and where's he's been? His choice to tell or not. If he came to Portland he'd sell out. Why? He's funny.
Doug (SF)
My daughter introduced new to Louis CK years ago, and his admittedly raunchy humor was something we shared on long car rides. However, I was sufficiently disgusted by what I learned of his private behavior and lack of contrition that I'll not listen to him or watch him again. The author and other readers can make the same choice. Without #metoo we wouldn't have been informed. The public shaming was the only way to shine a light on his deeds. That said, Louis CK has the right to pursue his craft with whoever will hear him. We have the right to keep protesting granting him a stage but we need to ask whether we are helping or damaging the #metoo movement. We know what he had done. Let his audience decide whether or not they forgive him.
Andy Butler (California)
Who does get a second chance? The question the author advances in our age of hyper exposure of everything you have said or ever done is probably one of the most profound societal questions we face. Though Aparna fails to answer this question, we should view this as a talented comedian's first airing of a new routine, but this routine, in the spirit of Richard Pryor and "telling like it is" has the potential to force our society to have this conversation. Aparna, you touched on something much bigger than CK. Now run with it.
No Bandwagons (L.A.)
The grandstanding has got to stop. People are acting like Louis C.K. shot up a school. The response is completely disproportionate to his offenses. And of course this has nothing to do with helping the “victims." No, this has to do with gathering together in one big mob and feeling the joy of pure unbridled hate pulsing through one’s veins as Louis C.K. is once again dragged through the public square and mercilessly stoned. He's lost his livelihood: all of his TV shows and his movie deals. He’s been publicly humiliated. He’s been called every name in the book - and turned into a pariah. I am not by any means condoning Louis C.K.’s behavior. He hurt people. He damaged some women’s careers. I get that. And I'm glad he got taken to the cleaners the first time out. But he apologized and owned up to his behavior. So when does this stop? Sure, go online and post about how Louis C.K. is a terrible human being. But this is not a courageous act. Quite the contrary. You know full well that you will receive rapturous applause from a mob who cheers loudest when they get to watch someone be kicked and spat upon as they lie already bleeding on the ground. Look what happened to Asia Argento - who went from MeToo revolutionary leader to scoundrel and outcast in the course of one news cycle? MeToo started out as such an empowering movement. I still support its main points. Which is why I find it so depressing to see it devolve into blind, incoherent rage.
Blessinggirl (Durham NC)
This feminist is getting tired of all this precious editorial space being given to the eternal shaming of someone who was sexually creepy. Louis CK is not a rapist. To my knowledge, he didn't ruin or stunt anyone's career because of his creepiness. What about women and girls who are trafficked? What about the abuse occurring this minute in migrant detention centers? Being a feminist is not a "gotcha," snarky endeavor reserved for women and men willing to use their energy debating the unworthiness of a wealthy man . Rather, it involves a focus on uplifting those who are vulnerable and powerless.
Tony Randazzo (Wall NJ)
I’m sorry, but am I missing something? Ms Nancherla asserts that the victims of Louis CK had nothing to gain “except to be bullied, ridiculed and insulted.” I don’t recall anything like that happening. What I remember is he was busted, pure and simple, and his career was derailed. There was no debasing of his victims. His movie was mothballed, the projects he had in the works were cancelled, and this resulted entirely from the credible accounts of the women he victimized. He apologized publicly - not that it matters much unless some restitution is offered - and he went dark. Until he came out unannounced and performed a set. The audience didn’t have the opportunity to voice protest or acceptance; did anyone walk out? Not reported. So he’s not really back until he headlines a set or gets booked on late nite or gets a cable deal or…. So he’s not back. Not yet. And, please, let’s remember that he did not commit violent acts. His were bizarre, inappropriate, and affronting but not assaulting. There is a gradient to measure the dimensions of a crime; his misdeeds were not trivial but they were small in comparison to actual physical violence. Second chances are given by the business and the public. He has not had a second chance yet. So don't get your dander up and agitate like he did.
Wade (Dallas)
Whether Louis C.K. is telling a joke, masterbating in front of a small horrified audience, or trying to regain his currency as a famous comedian, it is unlikely he will incorporate remorse as part of his act. . . there's nothing even remotely funny about supplication. And how could anyone believe, even for a moment, that he understands the full depth of his own depravity? He was not really punished, but only sheltered from the backlash of his own misbehavior. . .appearing on stage after his self-inflicted exhile is just another punchline for a worn out routine of personal and professional lechery.
NG (Portland)
We won't get anywhere expecting the creeps to change or not to show up again. We should expect a return to the status quo (not that it's shifted much anyway). CK's 'pop-in' is symbolic of just that return. Have we gotten anywhere with MeToo? Not really. Because we still have a ways to go before we have true equity. What we need to see for meaningful societal change is gender and racial Parity: In professional life, domestic life and political life.
When we consider Louis CK and comedy, one factor to consider is that comedy is not merely his livelihood, but also his art and most likely one of (if not the) greatest passions of his life. Perhaps an artist can continue to paint in exile or a chef can cook for small groups of family members or friends, but a comedian cannot practice his/her craft without an audience. So in effect, expecting Louis CK to completely disappear for however long would make Ms. Nancherla happy, would not only require him to forgo making money but rob him of one of the major points of interest and passion in his own life. That's not usually ideal for someone trying to develop new behavioral patterns and better ways of interacting with society at large. We also have to consider the context of his appearance. It was an unscheduled (likely unpaid) appearance at a famous but also small comedy club. This was not a MSG appearance or a Netflix special for which he was paid millions. And frankly the small scale of the venue and the nature of the event did not make it the right forum for a statement of contrition. It's fair to think he still needs to publicly address his behavior, but this venue and this crowd (who are expecting laughs) probably weren't right for that discussion. If Louis CK wants to get back to tours and Netflix specials he needs to do more to regain the public's trust, but in the meantime there's no need to deny him the right to even practice his craft on a smaller scale.
Jane (Seattle)
But what about the women for whom comedy or acting may have been a passion as well as a livelihood? Many of these women have seen their careers destroyed by the backlash, what about their need to make an income?
Dwyer Jones (Lawrenceville, NJ)
As an American, I am thoroughly sick of calls from self-appointed "enforcers" of political correctness on the left and the right that anyone accused of sexual or other misconduct should be shunned and ostracized from appearing in public before they have been allowed due process. Even someone accused of sexual crimes as vicious as those attributed to Harvey Weinstein still has the right of presumption of innocence until convicted. The operator of the Comedy Cellar, where Louis CK appeared, stated in this newspaper that he has supports freedom of speech. When Kathy Griffin was photographed holding a fake bloody head of Trump, our tax money was wasted by the Secret Service interviewing Griffin twice about her possibly hostile intentions toward Trump. Various entertainment venues immediately buckled to conservative pressure and cancelled her scheduled performances, probably paying many thousands of dollars to Griffin in cancellation fees for their political cowardice. If you don't like any comedian, actor, or politician, deny them your support. But don't deny them rights without remembering that the same thing can happen to you.
Jonathan Pine (Hanover, NH)
What are we gonna do, walk Louis naked through the streets like Cersei Lannister shouting SHAME and wringing a bell? If all social justice means is publicly judging everyone in the harshest and most self-righteous way possible, then I'm really not interested in being part of that mob.
Great essay and continuation of this discussion. Just the fact that he made a joke about rape whistles proved he hasn’t done a single thing to redeem himself. Yes, everyone should get a second chance but that means doing the work. The world isn’t going to, and shouldn’t, just hand him a second chance. We also are not responsible for handing him his instructions towards redemption. He’s a grown man who knows that forcing himself on women is wrong and disgusting. If he knew enough to cover it up then he is knows enough to figure out how to make amends. Men and women who disagree should imagine him doing that to you then you lose your livelihood because of it. Now how would you respond to his comeback? Women lost their careers and more because of it. He got a comeback. It’s revolting, pathetic and wrong.
Robert Crosman (Berkeley, CA)
Sorry, @JJ - I missed the part where women lost their careers because of "it." "It" would have to be because of complaining that L.C.K. did what he did in front of them. Now, after nine months in hiding, he's resuming his career. My guess is that they'll get their careers back, too, if they ever lost them in the first place. Louis deserved to be outed and shamed, but now it's time for all involved to go on with their lives.
Charlie L. (USA)
@JJ "Redeem, redemption, disgusting, amends, wrong." The Puritan impulse in the United States has an amazingly long half life. We love to shame because we know we're perfect.
Charlie L. (USA)
Nice to hear Louis is back. He doesn't owe anyone any explanation. Certainly not the author of this piece who seems to think she can dictate the terms of his reentry. Jeeez, what a society of scolds this metoo thing has made us.
Daniel (Los Angeles)
You know what? I’d be happy to pay to see Louis CK do a set and I’ll bet there are a whole lot of other people who would as well. It’s not up to you or anyone else whether to give him a second chance.
Charlie L. (USA)
@Daniel Of course. Why not? Someone give me one reason why I wouldn't want to hear more material from this guy? Anyone?
Chintermeister (Maine)
So, how long is long enough? I'm pretty certain the author doesn't have a specific answer to that, and I'm also confident that for her, and for the more shrill members of the #MeToo movement, there will never come a time when they will forgive Louis C.K.
Jojojo (Richmond, va)
@Chintermeister I wonder where the writer stands on Asia Argento and Prof Avital Ronell.
nom de guerre (Kirkwood, MO)
Perhaps he could start to redeem himself by helping to promote the careers of the women he offended.
jond (Westford NY)
All the talk about what people think Louis CK should or should not do amounts to intellectual vigilantism. In this country people are punished according to the law, not by what their enemies or detractors think should happen to them. People like Louis CK can offer whatever the market will bear. Anyone who disagrees with his decision to start performing again is free to not attend his gigs.
Amelia (NYC)
He needs to go away. Zero tolerance.
Jojojo (Richmond, va)
@Amelia Same goes for Weinstein, Bill Clinton, Trump, NYU Prof. Avital Ronell, and Asia Argento.
jrd (ny)
Stand up is not an art form in any decent sense of the word, and if sexual misconduct merits lifetime unemployment and shame in this fundamentally exploitative business -- do you folks ever talk about anything but sex and identity politics? -- how about looking beyond libido offenses for once? Perhaps men aren't the only offenders?
Hotblack Desiato (Magrathea)
Ms. Nancharia has to either come up with a specfic number of years that Louis CK has to stay away or let it go. Even a murderer let out after doing his or her time gets a second chance, because the state has mandated the exact length of the punishment. This open-ended, non-specific punishment is both unworkable and unfair. Even our worst criminals know what their punishment is. Louis CK deserves no less. And if Ms. Nancharia - and those like her - can't come up with anything then they will have to live with the men they hate taking the second chance, even if it's on a timetable they don't ike.
CharlesFrankenberry (Philadelphia)
What feminist writers fail to understand about this issue is the same thing anti-Trumpers don't understand about constantly badgering others about the President. The more you condemn CK, the more straight white males are going to dig in and support him, giving him standing ovations and most of all, paying attention to the man A) Because he is still the funniest comedian in America and B) The system of misogyny will live and thrive no matter how many men you bring down and C) Don't tell us who we can't and can't see based on your rules.
Charlie L. (USA)
@CharlesFrankenberry It's not just straight white males who are supporting him. It was a single mother who introduced me to CK and she finds the scolds trying to dismiss him just pathetic. Your overall point is well taken. I never go to comedy clubs, but this article and the high horse attitude calling for his 'redemption' sparks my interest in seeing him live.
joymars (Provence)
And how will those men’s love lives go? I wager not well. A goon is a goon.
fast/furious (the new world)
@CharlesFrankenberry The funniest comedian in America is Dave Chappelle. Or Chris Rock.
D. Gallagher (Maywood,NJ)
I know something about Louis CK, but nothing about his accusers in. “ the trade”. Anyone with previous involvement in#me too should be identified as such.
McQueen (NYC)
I think what he did is terrible and wouldn't give him a dime of my money, but he has no obligation to ban himself or talk about what you want him to to talk about.
Karen Carr (Portland OR)
Thank you! I, at least, would much prefer to hear from the women Louis CK prevented me from hearing, rather than to ever have to listen to him again. Performing for the public on a stage is a privilege, not a right, and he has abused the privilege and should lose it. How long, if he continues to perform, before he returns to sexually harassing women? Or did he ever stop?
Brad (Oregon)
What CK did, while wildly inappropriate, was not criminal. He wants a comeback, people will either turn up or not. The market will decide, not the social fascists. It’s not at all uncommon for highly creative people to be highly flawed. That doesn’t forgive it, it merely acknowledges it.
Njlatelifemom (NJregion)
Well, he wasn’t my cup of tea in his first go round so I will not drink from the well in his “next” life either. Everyone dies without oxygen. Don’t buy tickets. It’s the best way to weigh in.
Charlie L. (USA)
@Njlatelifemom Exactly why I'm now going to go to a comedy club for the first time.
D Priest (Outlander)
The author is ruminating about justice for what are effectively misdemeanour violations. The victims have the courts as a venue of recourse, and then there is the shame factor for Louis CK. But the author wants a more satisfying narrative that fits into her concept of how the world should work. She seeks the kind of moral retribution that is frankly more disturbing than the original offence. Is it not enough that Louis CK is now the comedy equivalent of the neighbourhood pervert who has to go door to door explaining his conviction? Is it not enough that thinking people will now see the rancid aspects of his personality that he deploys for his stand up and not watch? His ultimate punishment will be a ruined career. Don’t watch, don’t go and don’t laugh. Change the channel. Next!
Albert Edmud (Earth)
Who gets to decide who gets a second chance? Who gets to be judge? Who gets to be jury? Who gets to be jailer?
Sally (California)
A modest proposal and some concrete steps: To atone and repair the world: LCK might consider the following: a) donating one year's worth of his income from performance to any of the following: 1. battered women's shelter 2. sex education 3. A charity of the victims' choice At the end of the year, he might continue to donate a percentage of his income - -say 10% or so -- to continue to atone for each sexually inappropriate thing he has done. We only know about a small fraction of what he has done.
Sparky (Brookline)
It could be worse, just look at the Catholic Church. They have not even bothered to ask for a second chance, or completely account for all the damage they have done in destroying so many. Just forgive and forget and move on seems to be their only message to their audience. It also says a lot when Lance Armstrong, who admitted to doping in 2012 to win bicycle races, is still in the doghouse, or look at Pete Rose’s banishment from baseball for life, but men who have sexually abused women and/or children seem to be forgiven pretty quickly, and are allowed back in the game. What does that say about a culture that values truth in sports more than the safety of its own women and children?
R (V)
Am I the only one noticing all of the authors of these opinion articles purport to know what Louis C.K. thinks and feels? I know many of us are beyond tired of hearing what men think while women’s voices are diminished but this is just silly. Speaking for someone else is something we men are rightly criticized for. The wheels of (social media) justice are spinning out of control...
Andrew (Los Angeles)
Louis hasn't been convicted, or even charged with an actual crime. His entire "trial" and condemnation was done via the court of public opinion/Twitter, so this is the same court that will evaluate when it's an appropriate time for him to come back. Clearly that time is now, as he received a standing ovation and by all accounts crushed his set at the Cellar. Anyone who loves comedy should want Louis CK to have a second chance. That isn't condoning what he did, but the punishment for his sins is the public and corporate backlash that he has already paid. He shouldn't have to punish himself further just to make some people on Twitter and the NYT staff happy.
David G. (Princeton)
I have never wanted to know about the personal behavior of celebrities. If he/she committed a crime he/she should go to jail. If he/she's irritating or offensive or just not funny, I won't watch. If he/she's funny, I laugh. Louis C.K. used to be funny. As near as I can tell he didn't commit a crime (Maybe he did, I don't know - but he hasn't gone to jail). If he's not funny anymore, I won't watch.
Cranky (NYC)
I wonder if his mother is alive, and if so, what she had to say about his behavior. I wonder what his sister's opinions are on the subject. I'd really like to know what he told his two daughters.
J. Russell (Oregon)
People really seem to believe that vigilante punishment, mob-enforced "penance"--just because it's done on Facebook or in New York Times comments--actually amounts to something like justice. People say, "Maybe we should have a rule that... <insert off-the-top-of-the-head 'rule' here>." Well, we do have rules. Lots of rules. A good many are codified in our justice system. You don't like Louis C.K.? Not happy he can't be jailed? Fine. Don't go to his shows or watch them streaming. But seriously, don't be dreaming up specious "rules" on what is an acceptable or "proportional" penance that "we" should impose.
Mike Murray MD (Olney, Illinois)
The self righteous and shallow scolds of this nation have been holding High Carnival for a year. It is time for a return to what passes for sanity here.
mj (the middle)
Such a complicated thing. First off, it's all about him. You understand that, right? HE has to feel good. HE has to get back to it. HE was the one wronged. Predatory men in regular industries are bad enough but men in comedy... there has been a long list of ick factor. It's like comedy is the last bastion of really really abnormal behavior where you can still hold some sort of job. A long time ago I worked at Caroline's Comedy Club. Ick, doesn't even begin to describe most of these male comedians. And the more famous they were the more creepy. He's not going to EVER get it. Because it's all about him.
BoingBoing (NY)
I am glad Louis CK decided to come out of hiding and perform. The enduring beauty of his stand-up was him trying work through/understand his worst/dark impulses. So the next time he decides to do a show I will be there. Pearl clutching bullies who demonstrate no sense of proportion in their hysterical responses are advised to stand clear of his next show or better yet watch "Nanette" again and again and pretend it's stand-up.
Lisa (NYC)
I'm feeling more regret, day by day, that I am part of the camp known as 'women', for far too many of us seem only too happy to categorically bash men, to hold up behaviors such as Louis' as 'the problem with men', etc. Seriously, it's tiring. And honestly, I get it...that many hetero men want to just throw their hands up in the air. Of course what Louis did was creepy. It was weird. I'm sure the women were very uncomfortable. Do hetero women mistreat men in a variety of ways? Absolutely. Maybe men need to start their own #MenToo movement? Lots of people do stupid things. Lots of people mistreat others. Take advantage of others. Abuse others. Ignore others' calls for support or a kind ear. Life ain't perfect, and it's so tiring of everyone (i.e., PC folks) to now want a perfectly-curated life completely devoid of offense, offensive people and even people who disagree with their politics.
Nancy (California)
@Lisa you expressed it perfectly. Women have been advocating for years not to be seen as victims, yet these days that’s all they can talk about. If any woman’s career was ruined by his behavior, who are they? Why would they allow their careers to be “ruined” by this? I agree, his behavior is weird and creepy, but not enough to ruin someone’s life.
Mmm (Nyc)
I understand the implicit criticism here of Louis C.K. Because he's being as selfish as ever now that he's trying to force his comeback like nothing ever happened. BUT from the perspective of the audience of people that are his fans, I suppose you can't deny the world is better off if he continues to create and perform. Maybe he can donate the proceeds or devote his life to gender equality justice? Win win?
Alan Chaprack (NYC)
So, let me get this straight: a guy admits to sexual harassment in the workplace and we agonize as to how long he should be shunned. Some non-gender specific guy gets out of jail after a stretch for murder and we should allow her to vote - with which I agree - and prospective employers should not take her past into consideration when deciding whom to hire? What am I missing here?
Dana (Santa Monica)
I have never been a fan of Louis C.K. But he has every right to perform at any venue willing to host him to whomever is willing to pay to see him.
Kristin (New York)
This assessment is so spot on.
Yes, Aparna, everyone moves on. Louis, his accusers, and the wider public. Changed but moving forward. Louis C.K. does not have to live in your prison. And, yeah, I'm buying a ticket to his next show.
Charlie L. (USA)
@K A ticket to his next show. Me too.
Ronny (Dublin, CA)
Certainly the majority of sexual predators are men. But as we have seen recently women can also be predators. Both men and women deserve due process, a fair punishment and a chance to rehabilitate themselves just like any other criminal be they man or woman.
She-persisted (Murica)
Let this discussion focus on Louis C.K’s victims’ needs rather than on male insistence that Louis C.K. be granted redemption.
sapere aude (Maryland)
Not to excuse Louis C.K.'s behavior but only the law prescribes length of sentences not comedians or editorial writers. If laws were violated the accusers had every opportunity to pursue the matter legally.
GreaterMetropolitanArea (just far enough from the big city)
I'm getting tired of hearing predation by Louis C.K. and others favorably compared to the horrific many-decades-long abuse by Cosby and Weinstein. Was it gross, irresponsible, and criminal? Did it affect victims' personal and work lives? Yes, and that's all we need to know.
Jeff Bowles (San Francisco, California)
If you want this to change, pass a law. If you want to try to destroy someone's career using innuendo and rumors, gossip and ill-founded morals, have at it. There is a cost, a cost to you. Don't be surprised when you expose yourself to criminal or civil charges for that behavior. Defamation and deprivation of livelihood are things you should concern yourself with. You're not better than him. None of us are better than anyone else. Stop pretending that's the case.
Joshua Schwartz (Ramat-Gan, Israel)
Louis C. K. thinks he deserves a second chance. Now it is up to the audience. As far as I know he has never been charged or indicted. That being the case, there is nothing to prevent his attempt at reviving his career except for the court of public opinion. If I also remember correctly his performance received a standing ovation. My comments are not a statement of moral judgement, just of reality. It is Ms. Nancherla's right to attempt to influence the court of public opinion . It is Louis C. K.'s right to attempt a comeback.
ImagineMoments (USA)
Ms. Nancheria's column stands in sharp contrast to the recent one by Roxanne Gay, and is much more effective advocacy for #MeToo than Ms. Gay's. Whereas the latter was filled with all manner of SJW buzzwords, self righteous pontification, and grand decrees about what justice is or is not, Ms. Nancheria makes a simple, clear statement about her own preferences and asks us to think about the victims. Thank you, Ms. Nancheria for speaking in the first person, and for being honest: ".. it felt so glaring that he chose not to mention his public exile". That statement I can understand. I can empathize with Ms. Nancheria, even though I've a man, and never been a victim of #MeToo behavior. I'm left thinking, "Yeah, that's only right in this situation, I should boycott his material". And when she asks "Do the women get a second chance?" I find myself wondering who they are, and if they performers, checking out their current work. Seems something I can do, as part of society. Ms. Gay's column felt like someone screaming at me, and I couldn't listen. Ms. Nancheria speaks quiet truth, and I can hear it clearly.
Ben Alcala (San Antonio, TX)
@ImagineMoments "quiet truth" I guess you must have missed the part where she called men disagreeing with her on Twitter "four garden-variety Horsedudes of the Bropocalypse"? Or the part where a male colleague is obviously too stupid to laugh at a female colleague's "hour investigating and questioning what stand-up comedy is and how the power structures underlying it work" because "it wasn’t all easily digestible setups and punch lines"? Not much "truth" in those two anecdotes, and definitely not "quiet".
J (New York)
How long should Louis C.K. stay out of the spotlight? He should stay away until venues are willing to put his name on their marquees and audiences are willing to buy tickets. Louis C.K. career was not halted for reasons of justice. More like repulsion.
JJM (Brookline, MA)
Who gets to decide on whether Louis C.K. gets a second chance? The public. If the audience doesn't laugh, if clubs don't book him, if he finds that he is persona non grata on television, if hardly anyone watches his YouTube videos, etc., etc. then the public will have decided.
C.L. (Kennett Square, PA)
This is America. While it may be anathema to some (many?), Louis C.K. has not lost his right to speak and therefore to perform. However, because this is America, people have the right not to hear him and the right to protest him. (As for me, I used to be a fan but am no longer.)
This is the NYT's second op-ed in just days expressing dismay that Louis C.K. hasn't fallen on his sword, so to speak. But, look, this is not an individual before a court of law. He owned up to exhibitionism with women. Yes, it's perverse, it's off-putting, it's inappropriate, it's embarrassing for his kids as well, but he's not a monster. And he will have to live with stigma for the rest of his life. People who've done that and even worse are still among us. It also really wasn't necessary for him to begin his set by again addressing his past wrongdoings; that will precede him now wherever he goes and whatever he does. Anyhow, who's to say that this audience even wanted to hear a rehash of the flashings or the fallout? Comedy is one way of having a break from, or even a laugh at, the things we have to contend with the rest of the time. People who don't want to grant Louis C.K. the opportunity to perform again, or find him too edgy for their taste, can speak with their feet and leave. But, please, give him the right to try a comeback, and give the rest of us the right to decide what we can move on from.
Justin Sigman (Washington, DC)
So now we need sentencing guidelines for #MeToo targets? Mandatory minimums are in order for anyone ostracized from society and career by a Twittermob? They have to stay outside the sacred precincts for ten years, like ancient Athenians? Cant you just revel in whatever schadenfreude follows the public shaming of #balanctonporc (naming your pig)? How much blood do social media vigilantes need to draw from these victims (yes, victims) of mob violence before being sated? Employing Twittermobs to effect social change was already a morally dubious proposition. If history teaches anything, its that channeling public outrage into well-armed mobs is more likely to lead to lynchings of innocents, violent excesses or atrocities toward the guilty, persecution of scapegoats, and broken panes of glass than it is to achieve Justice. Twitter is already a powerful weapon and we know Twittermobs make mistakes, so let's focus on fixing that before addressing whether #MeToo's existing retributive justice system inflicts sufficient pain... "All movements go too far" -- Bertrand Russell
rainwood (Seattle)
The patriarchy lives on as evident in the comments. What has Louis C.K. done to deserve a second chance? Try to make life better for his victims? Nope. Try to make life better for women in comedy? Nope. Show that he's learned a lot while he stepped away? Nope. Acknowledged that he's been part of the problem, and is actively working to make the entertainment industry better? Nope. All he's shown is he's learned nothing, and his time away has meant nothing. Time for him to crawl back under that rock, and count his millions. He'll be fine. His victims, not so much.
Nina (Los Angeles)
I could care less about Louis CK, never watched his show. However, if he gets a second chance, why not Al Franken who contributed considerably more to American politics & life than LCK ever did.
NA (Chicago)
This piece starts out well only to devolve into just another recital of all of the damage done by C.K. It seems no matter what, this author (or the next), are simply not willing to explore the forgiveness or rehabilitation of anyone. If Louis had started hit set by by apologizing then the opinion would be that he doesn’t get off that easily, and how dare he think he can just apologize like that! It’s Lose-Lose for Louis: He’s at the mercy of their opinion until they decide somehow, some way he can earn their forgiveness- they’re just not willing to tell him how.
Hk (Planet Earth)
As usual with mass justice, it’s not always doled out fairly. In this writer’s opinion Sen. Al Franken paid far too high a price for wrongdoing that was neither contemporaneous, ongoing or outrageous. His accuser was a right wing conservative who took advantage of a mob mentality for political gain. Sen. Franken: If anyone should show up at comedy club and take the stage unannounced - it’s you!
Frunobulax (Chicago)
Had he been some average office worker, or a barista, fast-food worker, mechanic, or pretty much any type of employee and not an entertainer no one would have ever put up with that behavior for a second. You would simply be fired if not prosecuted. But of course the wider world would be ignorant of your nasty little habit. Having money, and not facing the possibility of criminal indictment, gives you basic immunity from much of the problems the average pervert would have to deal with, assuming you can handle the extended public shaming. It is easy to say, as I and others have, that the opinion of the marketplace will ultimately control. But this does leave out of the equation any recompense for the victims. The suggestion that he should probably atone in some more direct way (and perhaps get some therapy) is not unreasonable, although the doubtless disgusting imagery of those encounters perhaps cannot be so easily bought down.
Michael (New York, NY)
In no way do I condone his behavior, or have much respect for him as a person, however... As far as I know no court has imposed a lifetime (or any length of time) sentence forbidding him from performing. His ability to perform depends on only one thing: an audience interested in paying to see him. If he can attract that audience, he's performing. That's all there is to it. Are there lots of brazen, shameless people around ( in entertainment and elsewhere)? Yes, and unfortunately there's nothing new about that.
A (USA )
Keep in mind that in this case he showed up for a set unannounced and imposed himself on a paying audience who did not expect him there
Ben Alcala (San Antonio, TX)
@A "imposed himself" Reportedly the audience gave him a standing ovation. To me that says that it was hardly much of an imposition on the audience. Those that felt imposed upon were free to walk out the door, because nobody was forcing them to stay there. Or do you agree with the author's unsupported allegation that women are powerless to leave and stay and laugh rather than be called "humorless or a buzzkill"?
Hank Schiffman (New York City )
Transgressions can be viewed absolutely and relatively. LCK comes up dirty. And the writer is positioned to attest to it. As someone witnessing our world fall apart, I'm hammered by the relative scope of his sordid behavior in light of what passes for morality in the White House, the GOP and the enablers in public. Thus I am left with the conundrum of the sanest among us seemingly eating our own while Rome burns brightly.
Luna (Ether)
This whole 'second chance' thing baffles me...as though entire series of violations are not the equivalence of as *many* chances. The second woman whose trust and faith in a civilized world where that these men violated WAS THE SECOND CHANCE.
DW (Philly)
@Luna Exactly. Actually he's on at least his 6th chance. (Undoubtedly more, but 6th that we know of.)
Drew K (San Diego)
It’s not necessarily his quick return that I find troubling - it’s his apparent disregard for what he did. Alas, his brand of humor (while often funny) has always had an aire of misogyny — I doubt he’ll ever change/learn/evolve. I think a better “come back” would have been to address his wrongs head-on — there must be some great comedic material wrapped up in his personal shortcomings.
Lumpy (East Hampton NY)
“His actions affected their careers.” Could someone please elaborate how their careers were affected? Were they in a subordinate employment position? Did he threaten to use his influence to derail their prospects if they went public? Were they assaulted? Raped? The public needs real closure on the actual consequences of his actions. If all acts of boorish and repulsive behavior are captured up in the same broad brush as rape, sexual assault, and career derailment, the horror of these crimes are severely diminished.
Matthew (NYC )
@Lumpy if you make even a minimal effort to look into it you’ll see the answer to almost all of those questions are YES
Jason Murray (Sydney, Australia)
The idea that he would address the allegations against him in a 15 minute drop-in set at the Cellar is ridiculous. It would have been a completely unacceptable display of ego, and would have been unprofessional and disrespectful to the paying audience who were there to see comedians doing comedy. As a working comedian, the author knows this full well. The entire framing of this as his “return to comedy” is also completely exaggerated hysteria (or if you’re cynical, an opportunity to solicit attention by manufacturing outrage.) It was a quick, unannounced drop-in to his local club, and treating it any different is, as yet, unwarranted. And speaking about the Cellar as though they are complicit in some kind of abuse against their customers is just reckless and unfair.
S A Johnson (Los Angeles, CA)
@Jason Murray comedians use the good, bad, ugly, and disgusting of their lives all the time. Your definition of "professionalism" in comedy is strange.
Luisipher (Lafayette, CA)
What is penance and how long must it last? The public portion is variable, with the understanding that not everybody’s timetable will ever be satisfied. For the offender, however, the penitence should be life long. Not because it’s cruel, just that people (excepting psychopaths) generally can’t help reflect on their actions, especially those they regret. We can’t pretend to know how long Louis CK should be shamed, shunned and shunted from the stage. We don’t have any special insight into his character, so can’t possibly know what he’s been thinking. However, he doesn’t have to turn his public appearances into a public display of his thoughts (or lack thereof, if that’s the case). And even if he did, and said all the “right” things, there would still be reason (perhaps rightly) to question his motives and/or whether he should be listened to at all. Everybody is going to have to make their own decision about how to receive him, just as they would with anybody looking for redemption.
Judy Tosca (Ashland VA)
When I was a student in Boston in the 1970's a man next to me did what Louis CK did and the thought disturbs me to this day. I have had a terrific life filled with my sons and husband and brothers and male friends. But that one act, so creepy and strange, is a bruise that is there, not felt, till I hear of Matt Lauer or Louis CK and I can't conceive of anyone thinking they are alright ever again.
DW (Philly)
@Judy Tosca Me too. The ladies room, in the American Embassy in Paris, in July 1981. On the beach in Playa del Carmen, June of 1984. (Only that was worse.) I could go on … these events are burned into one's brain.
Tony (New York City)
Thousands of people are wrongly imprisoned and when finally they are released no one gives them a chance.it is difficult to wrap your mind around the fact that he feels he has the right to go out and do comedy as if he did nothing wrong.
Forgiveness Is Sacred (Washington)
It's my understanding that the women involved have forgiven him. If this is the case, who are we not to forgive him?
Momdog (Western Mass)
I want to see Louis address what he did. If he is brave and creative, he can find a way to ask for our forgiveness and make us laugh at the same time. Not seeing that. Acting like he can ignore what he did and just go on is cowardly. Opposite of the brutal honesty and vulnerability that is stand up at its best. He hasn’t earned a second chance yet.
Gkatny (Near NYC)
Of course the punishment should fit the crime and the primary offense was less serious than rape, but the women who came forward were then retaliated against. They lost professional professional opportunities and received threats of bodily harm. The loss of income and cost of being associated with a shameful act continue, even though they did nothing wrong. Where are their second chances and how long will they have to wait for them? They have already waited far longer than nine months.
Carl (California)
@Gkatny to be fare, the two women who’s story broke this thing open, aren’t talented and never had a career to speak of.
Louis CK 's behavior was inappropriate, creepy and just sad - it was not criminal. The author points out that he said he would "listen" for a long time and questions if he has been listening all along and if he thought less than a year is a long time to listen. I would imagine he meant he will continue to listen to others as should we all. We have to stop pretending to misunderstand people to get some point across. He claims, and no one contended otherwise that he thought he had consent from the women involved. In the meantime, at the very least, grown women should work on giving unequivocal responses/reactions to men who put them in uncomfortable positions. Women are not helpless. It was a pretty low-key "comeback" attempt and if there's no audience for him then he won't be successful. He is entitled to try.
Eric (Thailand)
To add a though to my previous comment, I would imagine informing the victims in n this list of his will to return under the public’s eye would be something decent to do under the circumstances. If not for permission, at least for some form of civility in the matter.
Chris (CT)
Public shaming has gotten even more out of control in the #MeToo era. There is no spectrum of misbehavior, just an immediate and permanent ban from public life, a one size fits all sentence; death by a thousand tweets. Louis messed up bad, he hurt people, and I hope he addresses this directly and at length in the future. I hope he can make it up to the women he hurt. But berating him for not remedying the entire fallout from his misbehavior in his first unannounced return at a comedy club is absurd. He knows the Twitter outrage mob will never green light his return. He did the right thing to get back out there and let the audience decide if he is welcome. Would you pay to see Louis C.K. perform again? Ultimately the free market will have to determine the fate of his career.
MTS (Kendall Park, NJ)
Here’s the problem: How long would have been long enough for you? (And what if that had not been long enough for me?)
J.C. (Michigan)
@MTS It's for good reason that in our justice system the victim doesn't get to decide guilt or punishment. Why would you expect it to be different for you?
ted (ny)
You write: "He subsequently admitted to the behavior and released a statement of apology that, bizarrely, included a list of his projects at the time and mentions of his victims’ admiration for him" The reason he mentioned their admiration for him was to drive home how badly he let them down. In addition to behaving like a creep, he betrayed their trust in him. His behavior was reprehensible. But the apology felt genuine to me. Your comment seems like willful misinterpretation. I'm not even sure I understand the main thrust of your piece here: "Do [the victims] get a second chance?" Coming forward was brave, but I don't understand what you mean by "second chance." What was their first chance? There's been no allegation that these women lost their careers over this series of incidents (as far as I know). This is a piece of writing in search of a thesis. It's okay that you want nothing to do with Louis CK and think he should go away, but the only way that happens involuntarily is if the justice system gets involved.
Adam (Baltimore)
Ms. Nancherla comes from a good place but the second chance is really decided by the public, not so much from Louis CK. As for the women he humiliated, I am hoping he has apologized to them and/or offered to help them with their careers. But ultimately their 'second chance' really depends on them continuing to perform and no one is stopping them from doing that. I sincerely hope that Louis has sought help for his behavior and I am sure in the last nine months he has thought deeply about it, I am certain of it. But I do hope this episode makes clear that there are tiers of sexual aggression in our society. This is no Weinstein or Cosby. We need to continue to have a dialogue about this issue to avoid the black and white debate that is all too common.
RSEK (Durham)
The problem with this article is that it seems to promote the idea that forgiveness is somehow humiliating. Forgiveness is an effective balm, especially for the forgiver.
Meli (Massachusetts)
What has he done to earn a second chance? How has he compensated his victims or made any retribution?
Bill Brown (California)
I've never been a fan of Louis C. K. But at the end of the day it isn't up to me, you or anyone on social media whether he gets a second chance. It's up to his audience. If they want him back he will be back. If they don't he'll stay away. The fact that he reportedly got a standing ovation after his performance appears to indicate some people are willing to forgive and forget. I'm not saying this is right or wrong or that he might not have to do more penance. But it isn't up to his critics whether he will have a career or not. I think what really chaps some of the Louis C.K. detractors was that his comedy set was a surprise. By doing this he cleverly diminished their power to stop his attempted comeback with a media ready protest. He also subtly exposed that idea of societal justice... however you want to define it ... can be circumvented. If he's going to climb back up the ladder he has to start somewhere. Playing the Comedy Cellar for free isn't the same as getting paid $20 million dollars for a Netflix special.
wynterstail (WNY)
Was this about being angry that Louis C.K. got back on stage without permission, or anger about how she has been treated by the world of stand up comedy? I have to agree with some other commenters that what he did was lousy, but apparently didn't rise to an actionable offense. I'm not sure what she's proposing should happen in lieu of criminal charges. Trying to shame everyone who doesn't agree that anything less than total condemnation is victim-blaming, etc. is weirdly ironic. On the scale of bad things that happen to people, this has to compete for our outrage with some pretty horrific stuff. It was wrong. I don't think he'll be repeating that stunt any time soon. And I hope the women involved are compensated for what happened. And that's it.
Leigh (Qc)
Louis C. K. presented an unadvertised fifteen minute set after keeping his distance for nine months from the love of his life: making an audience laugh. In this reader's opinion he's certainly entitled to try for a comeback. What's his alternative? Going through the rest of his life wearing sackcloth and covered in ashes?
Erin (Oregon)
I love her comedy! That's point #1. He could have given the affected women money, or a project, or...or...or... Instead he just waited for us to get distracted. Well he won't get a second chance from me, and I thought he was hilarious...
Anne-Marie (Toronto)
FX investigations of Louis CK uncovered no new allegations of sexual misconduct (NYTimes Jan 7 2018). He had been with FX since 2009. During this time, he produced Better Things and One Mississipi. While Pamela Adlon and Tig Notaro are both incredibly talented, it is reasonable to believe that Louis CK played a role in making it possible for the rest of the world to appreciate their talent. He used his celebrity status to raise money for the Fistula Foundation who help women all over the world (see Fistulafoundation.org to learn more about their initiatives). In 2014, after he tweeted about the Fistula Foundation, the enthusiasm from potential donors was so great it actually crashed the website. He is also knows to have given a significant portion of his earning to other charities, (Pablove Foundation, Kiva, etc...) He has acknowledged that he misused his power, which is exactly what he had been accused of. But it seems that for many it was not explicitly apologetic enough. And Tig Notaro have not shy away from expressing the opinion that the good that he did was for the sole purpose of covering his tracks. But we need to remember that the fact that she feared it was the case does not make it so. We all have our bias. And from my vintage point, I see something different. I see someone who was aware that he hurted women personnally and professionnally in the 90 and up to 2005, and has try to redeem himself.
kathleen (Washington State)
I keep seeing "what do we want from him? what should we expect?" like no one has ever be clear about it. 1) Amends - he should be out there making amends to these women specifically and to women in the industry in general for contributing to the toxic culture. That may take the form of actively promoting their careers and making contributions to the cause. 2) Not behaving like an entitled jerk who sulked in the corner long enough, thank you very much. Public and repeated mea culpas, genuine ones, not the self-serving calculated one from last fall would be in order. And calling out other men for their generally terrible responses would also be, including, nay, especially his defenders. This is not new. People have been pretty clear, no one is expecting permanent exile for most of these men even though many woman have and continue to be exiled, blackballed, labeled as "difficult to work with" not even because they complained but because they were victimized and are now inconvenient. But people do expect some real consequences, some evidence of growth and commitment to do better before these men re-enter the public sphere. He doesn't deserve a spot in the line up. His humor isn't so indispensable that any number of other comics couldn't fill that hole. And he most definitely has not made adequate amend or demonstrated any real growth.
fast/furious (the new world)
@kathleen I still remember deviant men who masturbated in front of me in public places when I was a teenage girl. 'What do I want from them?' Not to ever think about them again - 50 yrs later. I wish I could forget about them but it doesn't work that way.
Jason (Brooklyn)
As a society, we should absolutely give people a second chance -- AFTER they've atoned for their wrongdoings. As parents, we give our kids second chances AFTER they've been appropriately grounded for their shenanigans. We give criminals their lives and full rights back (theoretically, at least) AFTER they've served the appropriate time for their crimes. By any measure, it is way too early for Louis CK to presume he's back in society's good graces. How is less than a year away from the public eye sufficient compensation for the emotional damage to those women, as well as the damage to their careers? I suggest that Louis come back AFTER he's followed most if not all of the suggestions outlined by Jenny Yang in her tweet thread -- including apologizing personally to each of his victims; using his network to support their careers and open doors for them; using his influence to create and fund policies and nonprofits dedicated to combatting workplace harassment in comedy; and donating to RAINN.org and encouraging his legion of fans to do the same. That's for starters, at least. https://twitter.com/jennyyangtv/status/1034506640769175552
Peter Silverman (Portland, OR)
I think pretty much all men and all women have treated someone badly at times, and there are no sentencing guidelines if the misbehavior didn’t rise to the level of a crime. Naturally we all have opinions about what other people should do. Though I found this piece annoying, I looked up the author on youTube found her wonderfully smart and funny.
A (USA )
I’ve thought a lot about these victims and the backlash and suffering they have been subject to. Like them, I was a victim of being masterbated at in the workplace. There is no way to express the extent of trauma this causes in public or to an HR department in a way that does not actually cause an increase in the trauma itself. I would have flashbacks and cry during sex after this happened to me. There was no way I was going to discuss my sexual problems in the workplace to justify to anyone the extent of the impact this had on me. If you haven’t dealt with this type of assault it is hard to imagine the personal intimate trauma caused. In my case, the struggle to get the situation properly addressed only increased my stress and eventually I found employment elsewhere.
Debbie Penetration (Austin, TX)
@A I am sorry that that happened to you. Thank you for sharing. <3 <3
alan (Holland pa)
which crimes require prolonged shunning of individuals, and which ones are just outside my jurisdiction? am i to fire an employee who cheated on his taxes? never speak again to a friend who cheated on his wife? fire someone for getting a parking ticket? his offense was to the specific women involved. unless they ask me to shun him why should i pay attention to anyone elses opinion.
Solo (Planet Earth)
Louie should certainly address his past miss behavior. Ignoring it is an insult. i personally would like to see him in some serious situations, interviews explaining his mind set. Going on with his stand up is just insulting.
Y.N. (Los Angeles)
Louis has been gone for a year now. I doubt it's been a fun hiatus. I'm sure he met scorn most places he went; I'm sure friends dropped him; I'm sure his life seemed irredemably bleak. He may have deserved every bit of it, but the point is, he served a sentence--without ever setting foot in court. I'm willing to let him come back and try to make me laugh again. If he reoffends, back to the pillory.
J R (Brooklyn)
If even a few people at the NYT comment section are not getting the core of the issue Ms. Nancherla is posing, then we truly have a problem. I was a huge Louis C.K. fan. I saw him live at the Beacon theater twice, and once at the comedy cellar (that time, it was a very pleasant surprise). I bought his specials straight from his website, and watched his show. I loved his work, as he is truly a master at his craft. As a jazz musician, I saw the parallels in his performance, and further examined the close relationship that comedy and jazz used to have in New York in the mid 20th century. But in order to present and toy around with the moral issues of society, one has to not punch down. In comedy and in life. As I remember a lot of his lines, he punched down plenty. And I let him, because I thought he was a “good person” inside. That was my mistake. And let’s be perfectly clear - he has not at all made amends. He may deserve a third chance down the road, but the second chance he had, he just squandered woefully.
@J R Evidence of the fact that Louis C.K. is not a “good person” is the fact that he sometimes punched down in his routines? That could describe nearly every comedian in the past 20 years, including Michelle Wolf.
Tom (Home)
I'm glad that Louis C.K.'s unknown competitors are being given the power to decide when their much more successful rivals get to return to the marketplace. This worked super well during the McCarthy Red Scare era. We can trust also-rans to be utterly fair about not hounding their betters from jobs the rivals would otherwise never be considered for.
Michael (Los Angeles)
"Second chance" is the wrong term because Louis is guaranteed to continue receiving a rapturous welcome from most comedy fans. The mistakes he made make him human, not a criminal subject to some three strikes law.
Janey (Riverside)
How do you know what he did or didn't do to make amends? Is there some sort of public hearing that's suppose to take place, that we don't know about, so that he can grovel and publicly declare all the things he's done to repair the damage? Also, I like how the writer knew what everyone who had a different opinion than her was thinking. Obviously any woman who didn't agree with her must be self-loathing. And I'm not even a fan of the guy.
joe (New Hampshire)
Everyone needs to make a living and stand up is what WCK does and his customers are the public so, he's back. Don't like it? Don't support him. The Me Too movement is all well and good. Social activism that improves the life experiences of huge segments of our planet's population are an important and a necessary part of progressivism, like equal rights, civil rights and Black Lives Matter. Hopefully it's the beginning of the end of the journey for women not to be treated as chattel as they have been probably since the beginning of time with few rare exceptions. With all the craziness going on in the world and the internal assaults on our Democratic institutions, sometimes it seems like we're obsessing about polishing the stemware on the Titanic. But maybe, if our Titanic gets saved, we'll find ourselves drinking to each other's health from sparkling champagne glasses!
Andrea Johnston (Santa Rosa, CA)
It’s sad and tiring to read about giving a financially successful professional man d”a second chance ( at what? doing it again?) when the women he abused and damaged personally and professionally haven’t had a first one. Thank you for making this point so clearly. It can’t be expressed enough because silencing non-famous women is endemic.
Elizabeth (Saint Paul)
Perfecly made points. Unfortunately, I am losing any faith I may have had, in straight men as a group.
Glenn Ribotsky (Queens)
I think all of the discussion of Louis C.K.'s little stand-up set comes down to this dichotomy: When we've pronounced "Shame" on somebody in the public sphere, we like it when they are publicly contrite, and may be willing to grant them a little bit of absolution, or at least a "second chance". And we don't like it when they aren't publicly contrite. Suppose Louis had addressed the situation in his first set back. Or suppose he does it in his next set, or in the near future. Would our conversation about this be somewhat different? I'm betting it would. But that says more about us than it does about him.
Cat Law (Australia)
I guess I want to believe that people can go away and work on themselves and through receiving the right kind of help they can change, atone and come back into the world again. I don't condone Louis CK's actions but I do think he might be able in 9 months or a year to re enter without having to discuss the minutiae of his misconduct. Personally I wouldn't want to see him pour his heart out at the Comedy Cellar, not the right place for that. I know that rehabilitation programs can lead to change and that people can come back in whatever time frame so much the better for knowledge and skills they gained from it.
DW (Philly)
@Cat Law was he in some kind of rehabilitation program?
Tony Ferrara (New York, NY)
Louie was tried and convicted in the court of public opinion. No judge presided over that court so justice was not vindicated by a clearly defined sentence imposed after fact gathering that would have included victim impact statements. The author’s complaint is directed to the lenient self-imposed sentence. It is now up the court of public opinion to decide whether the sentence was just. Will they come and laugh or stay away?
gadfly (Austin)
If we are to base the answer purely on time spent away from limelight then shouldn't the public give another chance to Michael Richards before Louis CK? Or should the answer be based on who is better at what they do? I think most people would agree that the question of who deserves second chance would hinge at least in part on what the person in question has done to right the wrongs that were exposed to light. And with Louis CK while i don't think the public would have demanded he use his clout and connections to assist the women who suffered professionally the negative consequences for exposing him. I think it's fair to say that a significant portion of the public did expect him to speak on what he learned from the time he is taking to "listen" as he stated in his apology. While that might not be easy for him, i don't think that is too high of a bar to climb. That he hasn't done so is not just a betrayal of whatever trust was generated by his open letter, but also s professional failure as a comedian, since as Ms. Nancherla pointed out that personal honesty was an essential part of his comedic act that brought him both the prominence and the limelight that he is attempting to regain now. Eric J. in the comments pointed out that restorative justice is based on what the person should do to repair the damage done to earn a second chance. I think the answer has to be more than stay X amount of time out of limelight. Generally second chances are earned through redeeming acts
jb (brooklyn)
As this piece seems to be calling into question the larger issue of crime and punishment in society, I would post that we still must ask if the punishment fits the crime. Do we ask that the famous, and not so men, that are getting their due pay for this forever? Are we looking for them to pay the price for all those who came before and got away with it? Forever? Would we apply that same standard to other crimes? We must or the basis for a just society falls apart. When the laws and codes no longer apply. When those accused do not get a chance to face their accusers, and have a fair trial (and the court of public opinion is no such thing) the slide to lawlessness will ultimately defeat us all. Even the righteousness of the metoo moment.
Edward Lindon (Taipei)
@jb The obvious reply to your rhetorical questions is that "forever" is a completely unreasonable and inaccurate description of a period lasting no more than ten months. It's hard to have a conversation with someone who persistently distorts reality.
jezziebezzie (Ontario, CA)
@jb Of Course nobody expects anyone to "pay the price forever". And...How are those who got away with it in the past relevant to appropriate 'punishment' in this situation? What I think the main point you're missing in all of this is his level of INSIGHT, COMPREHENSION & EMPATHY. He's not demonstrating that he has any by just taking a vacay for a few months & then jumping back onstage and telling the jokes he did. The other thing you forget is HE ADMITTED HE DID THIS. And yes, he offered something akin to an apology before slinking away, but it's not appropriate to just decide to return on your own terms in your own way as though none of this existed. If he is as talented as he seemed & wasn't always relying on a stable of writers doing his heavy lifting, he should be able to begin his current set with a few minutes addressing the Elephant in the Room & offering Mea Culpas before segueing into the yuks.
Matt (Richmond, VA)
I'd say that a five-year ostracism is appropriate, given what he apparently did - nine months is way too short, so we should boycott his new projects. I do think, however, that he's on the list of people who could be fully rehabilitated and brought back into his career after/if he serves out a lengthy period of penance and truly changes his behavior.
Nikolaus Schuetz (Singapore)
In addition to many good comments here, would also throw in the question of proportionality and justice across different types of offenders, public and non-public. An office worker, for this kind of behavior with a co-worker, would get fired, would get some well deserved penalty, he would hopefully apologize to the victim, she may or may not accept, and then he can move on to a new employer and go on with this life. For an actor or comedian, the same behavior should lead to an extended period or even life-long removal from the ability to generate a living from himself? The need to entirely change his job, and even then always being faced with his past misconduct? Sounds inherently unjust.
Jackie (Missouri)
Maybe we should have a rule that states that those actors and comedians who get caught with their pants down are banned from the stage for a period of two years. During that time, they must do verifiable penance or they won't be allowed back on stage again. Said penance could include taking a vow of silence, working in battered women's shelters and women's prisons, taking consciousness-raising classes, keeping a journal and doing traditional "women's work." If their misdeeds have been done to men, then adjustments will be made. For instance, taking a vow of silence, establishing and working in battered men's shelters, gay consciousness-raising, journal-keeping, and working with the LGBTQA community. The point to this penance is rehabilitation, and that they need to learn to listen to and to really empathize with their victims. And yes, there will be tests.
jcizzle (NJ)
@Jackie While I think he definitely needs to do work to undo what he's done, I don't think it's a good idea for him to work in women's shelters. That's just a safety risk for those already vulnerable women.
D (West Coast)
@Jackie Sounds like a plot line for a Monty Python skit.
Ricky (Los Angeles)
@Jackie ummm... How 'bout, no! I want to hear him. I want to enjoy his talent. I'll pay to see him. I know what he did, and that's very much his private business that should be dealt with between him and the people affected by him. Neither you nor I have any official judicial power over him and cannot and should not punish him, and that's how it should stay. People should pay for their crimes, not for putting people and difficult positions to CHOOSE what they should do. Yes, I get the whole position of power but that doesn't eliminate the choice to leave or to hang up the phone ( I can't believe people want to punish him because someone couldn't hang up their phone)! Toughen up weaklings!
tea (elsewhere)
Fair enough, but as many have also asked, what is fair? How long should he stay away? What should become of this guy? It's not enough to tear down the statue down. We need to keep working on something to replace it, to move us forward.
Ralph Petrillo (Nyc)
He seems bored with his situation. Some may cheer for him when he returns but in reality he is now a past tense of what he used to be. He needs to find a new reality of what he can still accomplish in life and it doesn’t have to be in comedy.
Ricky (Los Angeles)
@Ralph Petrillo why? He's hilarious and I, like many other will enjoy him. There are some of us who can remove themselves from the problems he and these women had. Just because the media had made them public knowledge doesn't change the fact that it's been a personal issue. You nor I have to fix him, we can only choose to enjoy him or avoid him. Not really that complicated...
Rebecca (Desert, USA)
@Ralph Petrillo Agreed. If he’d done this in “your cubicle” while you’re trying to make a deal, if it happened in her break room and she couldn’t leave, if it happened in my classroom while I was giving a lesson, if we were stuck in an elevator with him...NO. I think he still does not see how big a line he crossed. Sadly, many men will have to think about him doing this to their mom or girlfriend to see the gross, gross, gross boundary issue.
Ben (Colorado)
I agree with all of your points here. I thought it was strange he would show up at the cellar this soon. I like to think that he is workshopping some small material, and when he plans on making real, regularly scheduled sets that he will address all the things we're all waiting on. After all if the only time he addressed it was during a unannounced set at one of his regular clubs, wouldn't it be worse? I don't know. Or perhaps this is the extent of his return, sporadic surprise 10 minute sets.
Chris (England)
@Ben "Address all the things we're all waiting on"? I don't understand. What things? He admitted the allegations against him were true, and apologised for his misconduct. What else is there to say? Millennials need to take their bubble-wrap off, already, it's not healthy.
GAonMyMind (Georgia)
I agree that by showing up unnanounced to do a comedy set and not addressing the allegations against him, Louis CK showed poor judgement at best, but this article underscores the muddy water we are in. Lots of valid questions are raised by Ms. Nacherla, but no clear answers are provided. How long does he leave comedy? What should he do in regards to the women involved to make amends? Who gets to decide?
Female Citizen (New Jersey)
@GAonMyMind The water is not muddy at all. The guy is admitted (but did not apologize) to abusing his power and being a sexual assaulter. Given *that* history of poor judgement (and male privilege), this shouldn't be all that surprising. What should he do to make amends? Why not ask the women he assaulted. But I have a question. Why does he deserve to come back? Why does this man merit a pulpit and an audience? I'm voting with my feet on this one: this is the last article I'm going to read about him, and I certainly don't plan to enrich him in any way.
Penny White (San Francisco)
@GAonMyMind I used to be a huge fan of Louis CK. I completely misunderstood what he was really about, and the meaning behind his jokes. I will never watch or support any project by CK again. I suspect there are many women like me. We, the audience, get to decide.
DW (Philly)
@GAonMyMind He probably showed GOOD judgment in terms of rehabilitating his career, because people have short attention spans. But he showed he is an insincere opportunist and was never genuinely sorry. He's a pig.
Opinionated Pedant (Stratford, CT)
I am a progressive who believes in the goals of this movement. That said, things are starting to feel like The Scarlet Letter in this country. Let's have some sense of scale. What he did amounted to inappropriate behavior in the workplace, but he is not Weinstein or Cosby. He didn't attack anyone, and he didn't threaten the work of those who rejected his advances. People can still choose not to work with him or to hire him. That's their right. It's also his right--absent any offenses that would have garnered him jail time--to pursue his livelihood like anyone else. To turn the question back on the writer: how much does she want him to suffer?
cminmd (Maryland)
@Opinionated Pedant "He didn't attack anyone, and he didn't threaten the work of those who rejected his advances." This is not true- he and his agents definitely worked to silence the women he harmed and diminish their careers. You should absolutely research issues before making such sweeping absolutions based on inaccurate information.
Susan Bein (Portland, Oregon)
@Opinionated Pedant I'm so glad to read this opinion. I'm a 66-year-old woman and a long-time Louis CK fan. I cringed when I heard the accusations against him, and thought his actions showed poor judgement, but having spent many hours watching his various stand-up shows, tv series and Horace and Pete, I have huge respect for him as a writer and performer. He works with brains and heart and tackles difficult human foibles very bravely. I felt a great loss when he disappeared and hope he does continue giving us the benefit of his creative genius and perspective. I don't defend what he did, but I also remember that he worked hard to help promote other actors and comedians, many of whom were women, and some of whom have turned on him in ways I find really ugly. I especially like your call for a sense of scale and perspective. Women deserve respect, certainly, but these are toxic times and I feel like a basically good man who did something stupid got caught up in an angry mob.
Jessica (Chicago)
@Opinionated Pedant Quietly retreating to a mansion for 9 months before your publicist gives you the go-ahead is hardly "suffering". This is the epitome of entitlement.
ubique (NY)
If Louis had done basically the same thing, except expressed himself from a point of retrospection and contemplation, then somehow I doubt that his ‘surprise’ return would have been nearly so controversial. Instead, he made the choice to go on pretending that nothing had occurred at all, and his audience seems to have eaten it up. I’m not sure what this says about the progress that our society may or may not be making, but in Louis’ case, accountability appears to directly correlate with fame and money.
DW (Philly)
@ubique I think both you and he are right, he gauged the situation correctly and he'll probably be sitting pretty again quite soon. I thought his apologies were very obviously insincere, but lots of people fall for that sort of thing.
Salix (Sunset Park, Brooklyn)
@ubique Yes, that is exactly it - he acted as if nothing happened. And that is as insulting as his previous actions.
Drew K (San Diego)
@ubique Exactly! It’s not necessarily his quick return that I find troubling - it’s his apparent disregard for what he did. His humor has always had an aire of misogyny — I doubt he’ll ever change/learn/evole.
Anthony Flack (New Zealand)
I'm really not sure if he has been given a second chance yet. From what I can tell he did a short, unannounced, unpaid standup set and then got a kicking in the media for doing it. I don't think he'll be signing any new Netflix deals any time soon.
Jane (Ross)
My fellow liberals talk a lot of criminal justice reform which at its very core is about second chances. We as a progressive movement are going to need to decide if we apply that to everyone, even if it runs counter to a popular hashtag movement. Many, way to may men, even some of our husbands have prob been abusers at one point, we don't know the severity but most grew up, made changes, had a daughter and moved on. I believe in second chances for everyone, not third or 4th chances? Then we need another talk
CH Shannon (Portland, OR)
@Jane This is a strange point to make. This issue is not related to "criminal justice reform" because this discussion is not about sending him to jail – it is about whether he has actually expressed remorse for what he did and actually done the work to correct his transgressions. He has done nothing to fix what he did wrong. That's the issue here.
Jane (Ross)
@CH Shannon is it? I wonder why then many of those sitting in eternal judgement of this man would like to help people who have been convicted of violent felonies re enter society but not C.K. Soemkmes people don’t need to go to jail to have their lives in shambles
Richard (Bellingham wa)
@Jane. Thanks to you progressive women for giving us guys—“way too many guys”—including “your husbands” a second chance. (Such a broad brush!). Magnanimous of you, but aren’t you getting ahead of yourselves to liken your movement to “criminal justice.” We men are to await if you progressive women “decide to apply” that “criminal justice reform” in your movement? I don’t see who this “we” is made up of, how it can come to decisions, and who will be part of “another” talk. Unless you are talking about vigilante, hashtag justice, You are arrogantly inventing powers and institutions that don’t exist.
Eric J. (Urbana, IL)
A big problem in this entire discussion is that it is in the context of a retributive rather than a restorative system of legal and social justice. The question about an offender should not be how much should he be punished or suffer, but what should he be required to do to repair as much as possible the damage his actions caused, and to reduce the chance that others will be damaged in the same way in the future.
Amy (Philly)
@Eric J. Spot on! What if we as a society could make change at a grass roots level to prevent the wanton and rampant harassment that touches all women's lives? Vilifying and condemning to perpetual ostracization essentially just a handful of famous men will not accomplish that. Also the idea that people who harass cannot ever be redeemed is an extremely unsettling proposition because hundreds of thousands of these people who harass are not realistically going to vanish or retire from society.
Penny White (San Francisco)
@Amy "Vilifying and condemning to perpetual ostracization essentially just a handful of famous men" will not end all harassment - but it does stigmatize harassment. And sexual harassment needs to be stigmatized in our culture. We stigmatized smoking, we stigmatized drunk driving, and we must stigmatize the sexual harassment & sexual exploitation of women & kids. We on the Left are failing at this, because we don't yet see women (or kids) as full human beings. We are no better than the Right on this issue, and we MUST do better.
Jennifer Vigil (Tucson)
I agree about restitution and restorative justice. The key point many miss is how do the offenders make restitution to the victims? Yes you can have a second chance AFTER you have made amends to your victims. What do they want? Before you can have your second chance, your career back, you have to do what you can to make amends for the careers you stalled, derailed or killed. You have to admit to what you did and face the consequences—criminally if appropriate, socially, financially and professionally. You may have to experience what your victims had to—loss of a career you love not because of the actions of another bit because of you actions which you knew were wrong. What can you do with your life because your career has abruptly hit a wall and ended. You may need to find a new line of work like they did. You don’t automatically get to step back into the limelight just because you feel you’ve done the “right amount of penance.” You don’t get to decide that. Your victims should have a say. Your victims need to be heard and be part of the process for both of your sakes.
JMeck (Greenfield, MA)
I think for the most part people do not "get" second chances...they are given second chances, usually by those closest to them. It is the same with tens of thousands of addicted men and women who shatter their own and many other people's lives. Those who find their way back (recovery) are usually "given" the opportunity to reenter the circle of family, friends, employment, community. For the recovering abuser (sex-power-gender as opposed to, say drugs-alcohol) it is difficult and complicated for the same reasons it is for recovering addicts - there is damage strewn along their path, some of which they quietly work on repairing, some of which they openly seek to mend, and some of which is irreparable. The timing for "return" is variable based on who is giving them their "chance". For some addicts it is fairly soon...a 28 day stint in rehab and return to work. For others it can be years of treatment and extensive monitoring over those years as they work their way back into the confidence of those they've injured and alienated. Some return to their previous "place". For some their "new place" is obviously a diminished one. And for still others there is no visible return...they are not "given" the second chance, whether professionally or socially. Those are the facts that surround the recovering addict/abuser. It is pain and suffering all around...and there is no taking it back. There is only stumbling forward and making the best choices available today.
NickC (Paris)
@JMeck I'll tell you who's giving him a second chance. NY Times with this piece. We should move on. He blew it. What he did was ongoing, not just once. Stopped only when accusers came forward.
Mark Thomason (Clawson, MI)
Either take him to court, or let him go. It is wrong to arrogate to pundits the right to demand penalties be inflicted.
Sarah A (Stamford, CT)
@Mark Thomason - couldn't agree more. Want recourse? Seek recourse.
Amelia (NYC)
@Mark Thomason there is a wide swath of justice, retribution, and restoration in between prison and redemption.
Penny White (San Francisco)
@Mark Thomason Nope. When a celebrity commits racist, homophobic, or sexist abuse, the public has EVERY right to speak out against them. If you don't like pundits demanding penalties, take it up with the First Amendment.
Richard Luettgen (New Jersey)
It’s a pretty safe bet that Harvey Weinstein won’t get a second chance, any more than Richard Nixon did for different reasons. But, then, who knows, after twenty years of highly valuable advice to multiple presidents who followed him, and many books that illuminated our politics during critical periods of our history, even Nixon died semi-honorably, with Bill Clinton delivering a eulogy. Somehow, though, despite his money, I don’t believe that Weinstein possesses the substance to earn then cash-in a second chance. The sins of Louis C.K. weren’t as damaging to others as Weinstein’s by a ton, and certainly not to America as Nixon’s. He paid (at least) a nine-month penalty for perversions that the law didn’t see fit to imprison him for, while Weinstein eventually may be tossed in the pokey for the rest of his life while Nixon spent twenty years in purgatory. The answer to the author’s rhetorical question is that those who get second chances are those who have something to offer and whose sins are not regarded as being so great as to merit eternal damnation. And it’s only a second-chance: to come back, Louis C.K. needs to continue delivering performances that audiences are willing to pay to see. As to “second-chances” for his accusers, despite not needing them, they face the same challenge: what do they have to offer?
@Richard Luettgen Accusers do not need to offer anything other than their truthful testimony and cooperation. It ends there. In terms of second chances — who is going to give them? Will they get job opportunities to make up for those that were withheld from them in retribution for them voming forward in the first place? What about the death threats against the women who did speak up? Are the online trolls making them going to come forward and take those back? Who is going to give the accusers back their peace of mind?
Richard Luettgen (New Jersey)
@AmesNYC Present credible evidence that Louis C.K. made death threats against his accusers and he'll definitely be locked up, not only on an obstruction charge but on the original acts that caused the issue to erupt. Present credible evidence that these women were denied employment or had their careers up-ended because the came forward, and it sounds like a movie deal and paid network appearances. There are lots of people who should be destroyed for their acts, and lots of people who came forward to brings light to those acts who need to be protected by society. Louis C.K.'s bent excesses are small beer indeed compared to these people, and at some point as a society we need to acknowledge differences in severity and impact -- putting every other man in prison or destroying his life otherwise for what Louis C.K. did is simply unreasonable.
Lin Witte (Chicago)
@Richard Luettgen i really really enjoyed CK´s standup. Bought content off his site and went to see him live. Slightly repulsed by him now. Others may not feel the same. The market will decide. Think he's got quite the road to get anywhere close to where he was before, especially given the current zeitgeist.
What Aparna Nancherla wanted to see when Louis C.K. returned to stand-up was public expiation. He decided he'd try to make people laugh instead. . .because he's a comedian. If he decides to do another public performance anytime soon, the size of the audience that shows up will determine whether or not he was right, or whether Ms. Nancherla is. Think about what Louis C.K. admitted to doing. And consider how the women involved said they reacted. Some of them laughed out loud with disbelief. They laughed in his face. He's been humiliated, and now he's trying to make a living again. Time will tell whether or not his comeback was too soon. If Ms. Nancheria wants to chalk this comment up to just another contribution from the Horsedudes of the Bropocalypse, so be it.
barbara (boston)
He could have tried a comeback that included, you know, community service, or some support of women comedians or something. This "sneak back in and hope all my bros cheer me on" is disgusting. I really liked Louis CK's comedy, and I think I would have been open to seeing him again, if he'd made any moves toward owning what he did. But as it is, nah, life is too short to waste watching him.
Sue (Vancouver, BC)
@NA "They laughed in his face. He's been humiliated," The horror! Outrageous! Can't a man be treated with the respect he deserves when he suddenly starts jerking off in front of unsuspecting women?
Penn Towers (Wausau)
So what are you asking for, exactly? I missed that. He stays out for how long? Who decides when he can back? For him, it's the court of public opinion. What are you going to about that? If the public, or more specifically his fans, decide it's time then you're stuck with that.
Karen Carr (Portland OR)
@Penn TowersI think the point of this post, and these comments, is to try to convince the public, including his former fans, that they would be doing wrong to encourage him to perform in public. So we're not stuck with anything: we have either convinced you already, or we haven't convinced you yet.
@Penn Towers: So he gets to be his own judge AND jury and he can decide his own punishment? I don't think so! He stays out until he makes a credible effort to treat all women with respect, at a minimum. He is far, far from that goal right now.
Koho (Santa Barbara, CA)
I believe LCK does, in fact, treat women with respect, his past obsessive behavior aside. It's hard to argue against that if you're at all familiar with his commentary. I'm not sure myself whether it's "too soon." But he was not was not convicted of a crime, so it's not for you or any individual to decide what he "gets" to be now. You can judge all you like, but the jury will be those who decide to attend - or not attend - his shows.
gemli (Boston)
The comedy business is no laughing matter, just like all endeavors that depend on guts and talent. I don’t think I could endure the personal and financial risk of standing on a stage, or face the humiliation, the snark and the undermining that goes on all throughout the entertainment industry. It’s a meat grinder of abuse, with only the rare and occasional success. It’s no wonder Harvey Weinstein got away with inflicting so much abuse for so long. Most victims of such a man would run screaming in the other direction, but they either succumbed to his, er, charms, or they remained silent. Harvey was not merely a lone disgusting ogre. He was surrounded by apologists, industry executives, bankers, lawyers and fixers. He was an industry. Although Louis C.K. is no Harvey Weinstein he certainly went too far, and was disgusting in his own right. Women were shamed, humiliated and possibly felt threatened and intimidated. It’s good that these women said something. It had the desired effect of shining a light on behavior that is too often concealed for too long. If Louis C.K. committed a crime, it should be handled by the police and the courts. If he caused financial harm, he should be made to compensate his victims. But I’m not sure there are agreed-upon banishment guidelines that he can follow. He’s returning to the stage. Like all comedians, he’ll expose himself, and he'll live or die in the glare of a spotlight.
DW (Philly)
@gemli "possibly felt threatened and intimidated" Wow - gemli, your "possibly" there says a lot. Shows how far we have to go. If a pretty enlightened guy like you actually isn't entirely sure women are threatened and intimidated by this behavior !! Can I explain it to you? We are threatened and intimidated by this type of behavior! Yes, even if we laugh! If we laugh we are trying to hit back! Distance - repel - scare off - say no - buy a minute or two for ourselves while the opponent is confused or embarrassed - hope to get to the door - if possible, even strike a return blow, if we don't think it will increase our chances of further harm. Get it? The laugh is like the advice to jab your assailant in the eyes with your keys.
Jus' Me, NYT (Round Rock, TX)
@gemli Perhaps "He'll expose himself" was a poor choice of words? Freudian slip?
Doug (New Mexico)
And “a long time” is now less than one calendar year? For someone whose livelihood was affected, yes, less than one calendar year might be "a long time". Who is to decide? Indeed, every one of us. If you don't think it's been long enough; tune him out, turn him off, express your opinion. Unfortunately for the victims of his behavior, he can't atone except for the apologies he has already given. He can't turn back time. He can't begin every set by addressing the allegations against him; he's already admitted to them. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.
DW (Philly)
@Doug In this regard, plenty of us are without sin. I'm female, but I refer to men as well, of course. Plenty of men do NOT sexually abuse or humiliate women. "Let him who is without sin" does not work here.
An American in Paris (Paris, France)
@Doug Actually, if Louis CK was REALLY sorry for what he did, he could turn himself into a police station and admit to the multiple felonious sexual assaults he committed, and then face the legal consequences. Of course, he won't actually do that because he isn't really sorry.
Zillah Bahar (Oakland, Ca)
@Doug He’s done nothing to repair the damage he’s done to the women whom he has abused. Masterbating before a captive female audience is a hardcore violation. He could start there.
Mickeyd (NYC)
How about this: Everybody gets a second chance. And a third, fourth, fifth, as they need it and as we grant the forgiveness that all of us desperately need.
Salix (Sunset Park, Brooklyn)
@Mickeyd I think you may be confusing second chance with forgiveness, They are not the same thing. Some "mistakes" are too dire to allow the opportunity for a second chance. A woman may forgive the partner who beats her, but if she gives him a second chance, we know how that usually goes. It is possible to forgive, but not allow a second chance at the same behavior.
marie bernadette (san francisco)
@Mickeyd maybe. but i can decide to withdrawl support.
jcizzle (NJ)
@Mickeyd So, even Weinstein? I mean, I guess you have the right to forgive him, but he's proven that he is absolutely not a safe man for women to be around, so I think it's unfair for women to potentially be in that position. Also, how are we as a society allowing for the second chances of the victims of abuse and harassment, exactly?
John Singletary (Milwaukee)
Aparna Nancherla is one of the realest and best comedians out there, and this piece just adds to my excitement about hearing her voice in more and more places. Thanks!
Nick (Portland, OR)
I looked up some of her stuff, expecting it to focus on social movement / #metoo stuff, but it covered a large range and was generally really funny. I'll keep an eye out for her going forward.
See also