An Open Letter to Louis C.K.
It’s a random Tuesday night. Sinking deep into the cushions of a campus diner, I re-watch your 2007 standup special, Shameless. One hand on the microphone and the other waving about in the air, you rant, “Now when I see a beautiful girl walking down the street, I’m like, ‘Hey, fuck you, I don’t give a shit.’ Go fuck somebody else, I’ll jerk off to you later, probably have a better time.” You proceed to bounce up and down, miming your interpretation of a “beautiful woman” during intercourse. At this I slap my finger on the keyboard to pause the video. I think back on the New York Times headline, “Louis C.K. Is Accused by 5 Women of Sexual Misconduct,” and suddenly the smell of quesadillas wafting on the grill beside me becomes naseauting.
Following the Times exposé from last November—in which five rising female comedians accused you of forcefully masturbating in front of them—you issued a statement responding to the allegations. I would call it an apology, but you failed to say, “I’m sorry.” In the statement, you plainly acknowledged the problematic dynamics of each case: “When you have power over another person, asking them to look at your dick isn’t a question. It’s a predicament for them.” You concluded with a vow to dedicate the next portion of your career to a “long period of listening.” This sounded like the beginning of a somewhat promising redemption. Yet unfortunately, less than a year later, you have once again surprised the public with your unannounced pop-up show late this August at a New York City stand-up club, the Comedy Cellar.
There is no one-size-fits all model for understanding sexual misconduct: to make a sweeping generalization on how all perpetrators should be treated is not only lazy but wrong. Instead of moving on, you need to take the time to reflect on your unique case. Here are some thoughts that I, a disconcerted fan, have to get you started with that process.
As of now, there has been no evidence of any effort to listen. Based on a comeback performance that came all too quick, I would venture to guess you weren’t listening at all. Because if you were listening, you would have, at the very least, acknowledged your victims at the start of your Comedy Cellar performance. You would have acknowledged that your return to comedy did not mean you were done with your effort to understand the pain you caused. If you were listening, then you would know that listening should never end.
I urge you to not only listen carefully, but also to speak cautiously going forward. In September of 2018, your “borderline” quips have taken on an entirely new significance. They are no longer playful nor disarming; they are upsetting. If you continue to “joke” about objectifying women, you will make a mockery of the pain you caused and the women you made victims.
I will never again call myself a C.K. fan. You haven’t taken the time to listen to your victims, so I will not take the time to listen to you. But I do believe, generally, in second chances. Should you show that you are actually listening, and offer a real, genuine apology to the women whose lives you have irreversibly affected, I may accept your return to comedy.
Taylor, a former fan