As many might remember, Louis C.K. stepped out of the public eye last year after multiple women spoke out about the comedian’s history of sexual misconduct as part of the #MeToo movement, which gained popularity last October. C.K. admitted to the accusations and apologized in a public statement released shortly after the news broke.
Louis C.K. used to be my favorite comedian. I loved his standup, binge watched his TV show and was delighted to see him appear for a few episodes on Parks and Recreation. Naturally, I was extremely disappointed when I heard he was next up in the series of celebrities whose true colors had been revealed to the mainstream by the #MeToo movement. I immediately began searching for the full story and was disgusted to read what he’d done. As many others have said since, it was just so bizarre. As I have done with several other discoveries in the same vein, I immediately cut him out of my life. I unfollowed him on social media, avoided content involving him and deleted any of his comedy from my brain to the best of my ability. He was dead to me, and his name and face are permanently associated with a feeling of revulsion.
Now, less than a year later, Louis has popped back up in the spotlight by performing a 15 minute surprise set at the Comedy Cellar in New York on August 26. No one expected him to be there, including the audience. The question buzzing around this comeback is, naturally, whether it’s too soon, and how long one should wait after such a scandal before attempting to go back to normal.
My answer? You can’t go back to normal. Louis C.K., of course, wasn’t charged or tried for his crimes, and any future trial is unlikely barring a new victim coming forward with a more recent allegation. However, that does not prevent him from seeing the consequences of his actions.
In the United States, perpetrators of sex crimes go on the sex offender registry, forcing them to carry the weight of their crimes either for life or until they can have their name removed from the registry. Many people undoubtedly disagree with this sentence, perhaps believing that jail time or other punishments should be enough rather than “ruining people’s lives”—the implications being that A) the crime was not serious and/or B) the survivor didn’t also have their life ruined by what the perpetrator did, the backlash afterward, or both.
Louis C.K. should not be treated as innocent because he has been proven guilty by his own admission. He acted like a creep and a predator, and the consequence of that, as chosen by our society and justice system, is a permanent or extended black mark upon him. He can, of course, attempt to return to the way things were, but he should not be granted success in that endeavor. I would hope that venues would bar him from performing and that other comics would speak out against his return to the stage.