NOT FUNNY

Tig Notaro: Louis C.K. Needs to ‘Handle’ His Sexual-Misconduct Rumors

Louis C.K.’s name is still on her Amazon show, and Tig Notaro is not happy about it.

His name appears onscreen during the opening credits in every episode of Tig Notaro’s One Mississippi: “Executive Producer Louis C.K.” it reads.

But as Notaro—creator and star of the Amazon series, which begins its second season next month—tells The Daily Beast, he has “nothing to do with the show.”

“He’s never been involved,” she clarifies. When I tell her that most people who watch the show probably assume he plays some role since he’s listed as an executive producer, she says, “I know they do.”

“It’s frustrating, because he has nothing to do with the show,” Notaro adds. And that frustration is apparent in her voice. “But I don’t waste my time on him or what anyone thinks. His name is on it. But we are writing the show, the writers’ room. We’re sitting in editing. We’re acting. We’re on set. We’re doing press. And everyone that’s directly involved in the show works very hard. They are decent, talented human beings. And I feel lucky to be surrounded by them.”

“But yeah, he has nothing to do with the show,” Notaro repeats for the third time, without using C.K.’s name.

Louis C.K.’s presence in the opening credits carries an extra level of dissonance this season because a large part of the show’s plot revolves around sexual assault. Specifically, we see a character forced to sit and watch as a man in power surreptitiously masturbates in front of her in the workplace.

Two years ago, Gawker published an article that laid out details of sexual-misconduct allegations made by female comedians against C.K. Three years before that, a piece titled “Which Beloved Comedian Likes to Force Female Comics to Watch Him Jerk Off?” seemed to point to C.K. as the alleged culprit.

Comedian Jen Kirkman first discussed a “known perv” comedian who had mistreated her on her podcast in 2015 and expressed fear that her career would be over if she outed him. On a subsequent podcast, Kirkman admitted it was “kind of obvious” who she was talking about, but when we asked her about it last year she immediately shut down the conversation.

Roseanne Barr was far more forthcoming in an interview with The Daily Beast last summer. “It’s Louis C.K., locking the door and masturbating in front of women comics and writers. I can’t tell you—I’ve heard so many stories,” Barr said. She later clarified that the rumors “have been leveled and talked about for years” and that while she does not have “firsthand knowledge” of any specific incidents, she has “heard women make these allegations.”

Notaro says that she and C.K. had “an incident” before One Mississippi even started, but she declines to offer any specifics. “We don’t talk since then,” she says. “So as far as what he’s doing or what he’s done…” At that point she trails off and asks me if C.K. has ever “acknowledged” the sexual-misconduct allegations against him.

I tell her that the only time he has ever publicly acknowledged their existence was in an interview with Vulture’s David Marchese last June. But he was dismissive of them, essentially calling the whole thing fake news.

“I don’t care about that. That’s nothing to me. That’s not real,” C.K. said at the time. Pressed further, he then added, “You can’t touch stuff like that. There’s one more thing I want to say about this, and it’s important: If you need your public profile to be all positive, you’re sick in the head. I do the work I do, and what happens next I can’t look after. So my thing is that I try to speak to the work whenever I can. Just to the work and not to my life.” And that was it.

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“I think it’s important to take care of that, to handle that, because it’s serious to be assaulted,” Notaro says in response. “It’s serious to be harassed. It’s serious, it’s serious, it’s serious.”

“And that’s what we want to do with this show,” she continues. “We of course want to create comedy, but we also really, really feel like we have the opportunity to do something with One Mississippi, because it does not stop. And, you know, I walk around doing shows at comedy clubs and you just hear from people left and right of what some big-shot comedian or person has done. People just excuse it.”

The Daily Beast reached out to C.K.’s representative for comment but did not get a response.

The apparent falling out between C.K. and Notaro is also notable considering the outsize role he played in what became her breakthrough moment in the public eye. As the well-told story goes, C.K. was backstage at the Largo theater in Los Angeles when Notaro decided to walk out and start her set with the words, “Good evening, hello. I have cancer.”

It was August 2012 and Notaro had just been diagnosed with breast cancer mere months after suffering a dangerous C. diff infection and the sudden death of her mother. Those events and their aftermath became a large part of One Mississippi’s first season.

Blown away by what he was watching transpire on stage, C.K. tweeted the following morning, “In 27 years doing this, I’ve seen a handful of truly great masterful standup sets. One was Tig Notaro last night.” He had audiotaped the show and convinced Notaro to let him sell the recording—she titled it Tig Notaro Live, pronounced as the verb—on his website for $5.

But even though C.K. signed on to executive produce the Amazon series based on her life, somewhere along the line their working relationship soured. It came to a head in April of this year when Notaro accused C.K. of plagiarizing the idea behind a 2015 short film she made called “Clown Service” for a similar sketch on Saturday Night Live. She confirmed then that they had not spoken in a year and a half.

In One Mississippi’s second season, it is comedian Stephanie Allynne, Notaro’s real-life wife and love interest on the show, whose character faces sexual misconduct and initially does not want to confront it. “I’ve had things happen to me and I didn’t even think I was being assaulted,” Allynne tells me. “I would just go, ugh, this guy, what a weirdo and move on. When you start to see those people rise in power and go to such extremes, you go, well if I allow this, what am I saying OK to?”

“It’s an ongoing issue and in the writers’ room we were very open about the different levels of harassment or assault that we’ve witnessed or experienced,” Notaro adds. “I think it’s despicable what people in power, or any people, when they do this.”

“People don’t believe that their idol or their friend can be…” she adds, seemingly unwilling to finish the sentence. “Yeah, they don’t believe it.”

When I ask Notaro if she has had the now-familiar experience of finding out something horrible about someone she admired, she thinks for a moment and then says, “I mean, I liked Bill Cosby. You know? I was a human being, alive. It’s like, who didn’t like Bill Cosby?”

“I saw him live in concert and I loved him as a comedian. And it was confusing,” she continues. “You hear things and you go, oh, is that a rumor? What’s happening? And then everything is swirling around the comedy world, where people go, oh no, that’s really happened. And then you learn and you talk to more people and it’s like, oh, he’s not the only one. And there’s this person. And it’s just, it’s horrifying.”

Those conflicted sentiments about Cosby reflect how many comedians and comedy fans—especially male ones, this writer included—feel about Louis C.K. We don’t want to believe that he is capable of doing something reprehensible because we have received so much joy from his work. But that doesn’t mean we can ignore those who have a different story to tell.

Stay tuned for our larger piece about One Mississippi’s second season early next month.