The Return of Louis C.K: Was his apology enough?

By Griffin Richter

Just two years have passed since star comedian Louis C.K was accused of sexual misconduct by five women. Now, he makes his return with a global tour, and his second stop is at the Orpheum Theater in downtown New Orleans. Shortly after the allegations were made public in a New York Times report, Louis C.K issued an apology, stating: “These stories are true.”

The accusations posed against the comedian were a notable part of the “MeToo” movement. The MeToo movement was created by Tarana Burke back in 2006. Burke, who is a sexual assault survivor, began using the phrase to show solidarity with victims of sexual violence. The social movement reached viral status on Twitter in 2017 following the sexual assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein. The movement was able to gain traction due to an outpouring of support and the vocality of those affected by sexual violence. Since then, hundreds of powerful men have been accused of sexual misconduct. New accusations arose each day against celebrities, CEOs, and even politicians. Some other notable names involved were actor Kevin Spacey and chef Mario Batalli. According to Vox.com, 263 influential individuals were accused of sexual misconduct to varying degrees.

In the wake of the MeToo movement, Louis C.K’s career has inevitably suffered. The release of his movie “I Love You, Daddy” was canceled less than one month before it was set to hit theaters. FX networks also ended their longtime partnership with the comedian.

As a personal fan of C.K, I was unsure of how I felt about his return. I also wondered how the crowd would react. Would people be protesting? Or would they just forget? This would not be the first time that the public has chosen to turn a blind eye to a celebrity scandal. When discussing John Lennon’s legacy, we often forget about the abuse of his two wives and son. I wondered if the stigma from the MeToo movement would render Louis C.K’s career irreparable. With his career on the line, it was unclear how the comedian would handle his tricky comeback.

Upon arriving at the Orpheum Theater, I found no protestors. Instead, I was greeted with a line of enthusiastic fans that extended into a nearby parking garage. Once I reached the theater, I was told that all cellphones were going to be collected and put into magnetic pouches, ensuring that no recording would take place. The pouches were only opened once the show had concluded. One attendant explained that it was due to the filming of a Netflix special.

C.K was greeted with a standing ovation. Even though the show was populated by some of his more ardent fans, the crowd showed that they were ready to forget about the scandal.

The inevitable question was if Louis would address his sexual misconduct. To my surprise, he did not hesitate to address the scandal, outright referring to himself as the “world’s number two scumbag” and joked that he was in “global trouble.”

As expected, Louis C.K did not shy away from any offensive topics. Fans of standup, and specifically of Louis C.K, are accustomed to the vulgar subject matter. In his typical fashion, he joked about a slew of sensitive topics such as the mentally handicapped, the holocaust, and most notably, the nature of his scandal. I found that Louis C.K’s jokes felt even more profane than usual in the wake of his ousting from stardom. In fact, some of his jokes caused me to cringe more than laugh.

It suddenly occurred to me that everything seemed to be returning to normal for Mr. C.K. Netflix was supposedly filming another comedy special and crowds were roaring once again. It was apparent that Louis C.K would be returning to his former life. C.K’s readiness to address and poke fun at his scandal also showed everyone in attendance that he was more than ready to put the past behind him.

Throughout the show, I couldn’t help but think about the implications of the jokes he was making. The five victims of his sexual misconduct kept entering my mind. Before the scandal, I was able to enjoy his risqué style of comedy sans guilt. But now, I found myself unable to forget what he had done. I can’t imagine how the victims would feel seeing the man who caused them so much damage return back to his former glory. Was all their work in vain? I’m sure that his most dedicated fans would be keen to forget, but I knew that the victims would never be able to. And now neither would I.

This begged a larger question: does Louis C.K’s return undo the work of the MeToo movement? I interviewed Gillian Robins, a Tulane University student who was unaware that Louis C.K would be making a comeback. Before hearing of his return, Robins said she, “assumed that he was “canceled” and wasn’t going to do comedy after.” When I asked about her thoughts on his return and the effect on the MeToo movement, Robins said, “I think it works against the MeToo movement because it shows that when someone apologizes, they can return to making money and there’s little backlash.” Ultimately, Robins felt some skepticism about the effectiveness of MeToo, adding that “The movement, in general, doesn’t seem to be changing the minds of men.” When asked how the MeToo movement could have a lasting effect on comedy, Robins said that she would like to see more female comedians, and comedians that are less problematic. This would, “send a message to viewers.”

Ultimately, I realized that Louis C.K would never be completely absolved of what he had done. Though I knew that some people would want to move past what had happened, I knew that others, like me, couldn’t put it totally past them. I hope that due to the unprecedented amount of support for sexual assault victims during the MeToo movement, people will not be able to simply forget.

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