Louie CK fell from grace less than a year ago. Once one of the nations best loved comics, both critically and popularly, seemingly overnight was gone. Widely publicized sexual misconduct allegations that were then admitted to saw C.K’s star coming crashing down, movies pulled, tours cancelled and eventual radio silence.
Before the allegations were made rumours had gone round the comedy scene. After his fall, he is still talked about in hushed tones at the back of comedy clubs. Comedians whispering about the fallen King of modern comedy, wondering when he is going to return.
This week the day finally came when Louis CK returned to stage, and boy has it caused a stink. I’m not surprised how many articles have been published within the 24 hours of him being back, most of them probably pre-written months ago, waiting in the draft sections of websites ready to be published the moment his name was called at the comedy cellar.
Instantly articles were published about the “backlash” with desperate journalists trawling twitter to find any Comedian they could quote to give them a mandate to publish the article. In reality the response has been more more nuance and complex.
While some have come out against the move, soon to be host of the Emmy’s and Saturday Night Live host Michael Che took to Instagram to seemingly defend Louie; The most vocal but not the only backer he has on the comedy scene.
“a lot of what I read says that ck shouldn’t get to be a ‘famous’ comedian anymore. because to them, hes still winning. Isn’t that strange?” “Meaning he can be shamed, humiliated, lose millions of dollars, lose all of his projects, lose the respect of a lot of his fans and peers, and whatever else that comes with what he did,” he continued, “but since he can still do a comedy set for free at a 200 seat club a year later, it means he got off easy. THATS how coveted fame is.”
Che touches on an interesting point that as bad as the misconduct was, does a man deserve to get his whole life taken away? It’s been written about before, but in the modern court of public opinion, the punishment is usually as harsh as it can possibly be. We are quick to throw someone on the scrap heap, regardless of the scope of their perceived crime.
Not to say that what CK did wasn’t bad, wasn’t deserving of punishment, but does he deserve to have his entire life destroyed and never be able to do the thing he loves and has been doing for most of his life. Would a footballer never be able to play again in the same circumstance? Would a singer never be able to singer, a pianist never be able to play? Privately of course, publicly maybe not but Standup is an art form that needs to be preformed in front of people and there in lies the problem.
Something needs to be said for the women in comedy, many of whom would see his return as an endorsement of predatory behaviour within the scene, and regardless if they agree or not that he should be able to come back to stand up, 9 months is simply not enough. 9 months laying low just to return is nothing, a slap on the wrist. Yes, he’s not getting a new Netflix special anytime soon but returning to an iconic venue, no matter how small is still “back” as far as the scene is concerned.
Many comics have criticized 9 months as “not being long enough to change and reflect” forgetting that the allegations date from 2002 with the less serious of them going up to 2005. That’s 13-16 year’s ago. Although Louis never went public with events himself, surely he has changed since then, having daughters of his own, growing into a national celebrity, winning awards and growing into middle age.
Regardless of all of this, it’s unlikely that CK will ever reach the heights he did in his prime. He rose to fame delivering a brand of honesty, flawed being and twisted moral authority. Post allegations he has none of this. Where are musicians and film directors accused of much worse can hide behind instruments and camera’s, the candid nature of stand up means that if Louis integrity is damaged, his whole art is.
The problem with the whole case is that there is a sort of judicial anarchy to it. Nobody agreeing on the scale of the crime and even lesser on the scale of the punishment. With no opportunity of a ruling, redemption or rehabilitation CK is stuck in limbo for something he did 16 years ago.