It’s been nine months. Not even a full year. That’s how long Louis CK sat in time-out after ADMITTING he engaged in what The New York Times calls “inappropriate conduct” but which everyone else calls “repeatedly jacking off in front of women”. In his statement admitting to repeatedly jacking off in front of women—which includes three references to how those women admired him—CK said he would “step back and take a long time to listen”. Is nine months a long time? It’s long enough to have a baby, it’s a school year, but is it a long time? Is it a long time when stacked up against years of denials and the character and career assassination that followed anyone who even hinted in the vaguest terms about CK repeatedly jacking off in front of women? CK claims he didn’t know about the career threats delivered to those who spoke about his behavior, but even if that is true IT STILL HAPPENED—is nine months long enough to make up for the careers cut short or ended because of him?
Sometimes when we talk about what the repercussions should be for men named in #MeToo allegations, I think people see us throwing these people out into some kind of plague-pile, to be carted out of town and buried at the edge of crone’s forest. But really, with the exception of Harvey Weinstein, who is probably going to jail for numerous criminal acts, most of the men named in #MeToo are, at some point, going to come back. The thing that has been missing, though, is a clear consensus on what those comebacks should look like. No one has ever stepped forward to offer guidance and counsel on how to handle the inevitable return of people accused of toxic behavior that falls below the notice of criminal investigation.
Last night Louis CK dropped in at the Comedy Cellar—meaning he performed unannounced—and he got an apparently warm reception. Noam Dworman, who owns the Comedy Cellar, got a call from one audience member who would have liked a head’s up about CK’s appearance, but also notes other audience members were glad to see CK perform. Dworman goes on to say, “I understand that some people will be upset with me. I care about my customers very much. Every complaint goes through me like a knife. And I care about doing the right thing. […] There can’t be a permanent life sentence on someone who does something wrong.”
No one is saying there should be a life sentence on every person who does something wrong. But the response to Louis CK is different for two reasons: One, HIS ACTIONS ACTIVELY HURT PEOPLE, and two, we have not seen ANY demonstrable remorse from him. Louis CK humiliated women for years totally unchecked, and anyone who dared speak against him suffered negative career repercussions. There was a direct impact on the decisions they made, the choices they made – in other words, their lives. What amends is he making for that? IS he making amends for that?
Louis CK performed at the Comedy Cellar and it sounds like the set was well received. The message, then, is that a time-out is enough. Half ass an apology in which you remind everyone how admired you are, go away for a bit—not even a year!—and then come back and pretend like nothing happened. People aren’t objecting to the idea of a Louis CK comeback, they’re objecting to the idea that he hasn’t done anything to make amends. And no, he is not going to be able to keep that part of the process private. He WILL have to talk about it, he WILL have to address it head on and explain what he is doing to atone for not only humiliating women but also negatively impacting their careers (whether he intended to or not, THAT HAPPENED TOO). Going away for a little bit and then coming back and pretending like nothing happened isn’t going to cut it. At the very least, we need to see what he is doing to make right the world that HE made toxic for women.