Louis CK took the stage for a surprise set at New York’s famed Comedy Cellar Sunday night, 10 months after long-standing rumors about his abusive, seemingly compulsive habit of exposing himself to female employees and colleagues were confirmed in the pages of The New York Times, and then by CK himself. For as comedian Megan Beth Koester—who was effectively kicked out of Montreal’s equally famed Just For Laughs festival last year for asking attendees questions about CK on the red carpet—puts it, “if there’s anything the man excels at, it’s ‘surprise’ performances.”
That’s also according to The New York Times, which reports that CK appeared unannounced on stage around 11 p.m., for a “very relaxed” set consisting of what Comedy Cellar owner Noam Dworman calls “typical Louis CK stuff.” He was greeted with a standing ovation. The NYT adds that joke topics included “racism, waitresses’ tips, [and] parades,” with no mention of material related to the public reckoning/forced sabbatical during which CK was presumably cooking up all these new jokes.
Ironically, Dworman says one audience member called the club yesterday to say that “he wished he had known in advance, so he could’ve decided whether to have been there or not.” (We can think of at least five more people who could say that about Louis CK.) Dworman himself expressed surprise that CK was returning to the stage so soon, saying, “I didn’t think it was going to happen as soon as it did,” but that it’s ultimately up to audiences to decide when they’re willing to welcome CK back into the comedy fold.
A similar sentiment was expressed by CK’s contemporary Michael Ian Black on Twitter, who subsequently clarified that he was simply wondering out loud what the path to redemption for men exposed by the #MeToo movement (no pun intended) should look like:
Just a thought, but perhaps the women whose careers were stymied after they complained about CK’s sexual misconduct have some ideas about what the correct sentence should be in this case? And Black’s statement is hardly representative of the comedy community as a whole; many of CK’s fellow comedians are rejecting his comeback on Twitter. LA-based comedian Ian Karmel points out that being a stand-up comic involves much more than time on stage, and it’s all those other aspects of the job that make this a workplace safety issue: