Following the formal release of accusations (which have been long-held and widespread rumors for the past decade) against Louis CK regarding sexual misconduct against multiple women within the comedy circuit, CK responded today with a formal statement, stating, “The stories are true.”
Considering the recent responses regarding claims of sexual abuse, harassment, and misconduct within both Hollywood and American politics (consider the responses of Weinstein, Moore, Piven, Spacey and many more, in which they refused to accept blame, called such accusations entirely false, and in which some defenders evoked the bible), Louis CK’s response seems like a “breath of fresh air.” Yet the only reason that it seems so genuine is that the bar has been set so low by many others.
Louis CK’s response is seemingly self aware, but it’s equal parts horse shit. Any time these now-proven allegations were brought up in the past decade, he was sure to shoot them down: referring to them as lies and stating they were simply “rumors.” However, if he was genuinely sorry for what he had done, he would have taken responsibility for his sexual misconduct when he was pressed on it in the past. In other words, this response — in which he seemingly takes reponsibility for his actions and feels a genuine amount of remorse for the damage he has done to these women, his production company, his family, and his fans — comes a little to late (better yet, far too late).
People are giving his response merit in how genuine it sounds, which, again, it isn’t. While it is good that CK has finally come out and taken responsibility for his previous actions, we should acknowledge that his response only came following the release of a well-documented story released by a major publication. If the Weinstein story had never broke and this sexual assault silence/repression/oppression had continued, would CK have ever acknowledged what he had done? Would he have publicly accepted his role in harming these women and state that “the stories are true?” I don’t think so.
Now, while many companies that have worked with Louis CK are dropping him from their productions, as well as dropping his projects (I Love You, Daddy, HBO, and FX), I don’t believe his career is over. I do believe that he will be able to make a rebound, but it will take many years for him to even attempt to return to the industry.
Comedy, a self-effacing and introspective genre for the performer, has shown itself as a platform for performers to open up about themselves, their communities, and their secrets. Consider Richard Pryor’s 1982 album “Richard Pryor: Live from the Sunset Strip.” Following a freebasing incident that nearly killed him, in which he doused himself in liquor, set himself afire, and ran through the streets screaming, Pryor returned to comedy and openly acknowledged the incident and his subsequent stay in the hospital. Consider the opening line of the album, “Anybody got a light?” He was able to talk openly about the incident while injecting humor into the situation, talking about how freebasing negatively affected his life, and just how difficult his time in remission was.
Louis CK might be able to do the same here, but it will be genuinely difficult to turn his guilt into a humorous sketch. Whereas Pryor’s actions primarily hurt himself, Louis CK damaged others in the process of his sexual misconduct and ensuing silence regarding all accusations/rumors. The fact is, if he ever returns to comedy and attempts to discuss his actions and the women he affected, it’s going to have to be done in an incredibly calculated way, one that is entirely self-effacing.
For now, evaluating Louis CK and his departure from the spotlight, his comedy specials and television show will be viewed within a much different light than they previously were. Further, his impact on comedy writing has certainly been notable, but it comes with a history of sexual misconduct that will stain his attributions to the industry.
The fact is that he attributed to the problem that is a part of the entertainment industry, American politics, America, and the world, in general. By masturbating in front of these women, whether asking them for “consent” (which he might not have even accepted anyhow) or simply doing it over the phone, CK’s behavior continued the cyclical force that is toxic masculinity. By putting the sexual needs of men above the consent of women, yielding authoritative power to procure personal, sexual pleasure, and abusing the abused by silencing their stories and continuing the sexual abuse of others, CK and other men have continued to foster a society that allows for the casual oppression of women, as if it were okay. This is something that he shouldn’t be forgiven of.
If his acceptance of guilt had come a decade ago (when these rumors had first surfaced), then perhaps we could be more lenient, taking his response as genuine. But for his actions between then and now, we need to realize that he only cares because he was finally caught. Whenever he does return to comedy, which I’m sure he will, we need to keep his history in mind, applying context to whatever material is released, while determining whether he truly accepted the sexual and mental abuse/harassment he put others through, wherein he used his influence for his own pleasurable gains.