The air in New York City’s Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden was giddy.
The space, which can fit up to 5,600 people, was packed.
Louis C.K.’s cult following was alive and well, and they were excited to see their boy.
His Friday the 13th show boasted three openers: Lynne Koplitz, Jaye McBride, and Greer Barnes, all of whom were warmly received. That the roster was predominantly women felt like a calculated decision.
When it came time for Louis C.K. to go on, the entire arena went dark. For 30 seconds, no one could see anything, and all you could hear was Bob Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone” blaring over the loudspeakers.
All of a sudden, Louis C.K. appeared. Behind him stood an enormous word illuminated in tiny light bulbs: “SORRY.”
The crowd immediately gave him a standing ovation.
And that is the absolute furthest Louis C.K. would go in addressing his sexual-harassment allegations all night. What followed was an insultingly unapologetic hour of material from a man who thinks that if he fits enough passive self-deprecation into his comedy, he can get away with pretty much anything.
The comedian’s new material is not for the faint of heart. It has everything. “Child fucker” jokes that include a very involved journey about being in possession of a little girl’s underwear, more pedophilia jokes with an emphasis on the Boy Scouts of America, COVID-19 jokes, jokes about staring into the human asshole, 9/11 jokes, gay jokes, Jew jokes, cancer jokes, a heavy helping of transgender jokes, and a sprinkling of additional race jokes. And tons of sex.
For someone who is somewhat fresh off of a sexual-harassment scandal, some might say a set laced with sex jokes was a bold move. Others would offer that it’s de rigueur in the male-dominated comedy industry, where sexual misconduct runs rampant.
In a set that spanned about an hour, C.K. described his “favorite sex position,” pantomimed gay sex, and suggested society implement child sex dolls so as to curb the actions of pedophiles.
I cringed when he talked about how, now that he’s in his fifties, women in their thirties want to fuck him. His repeated use of the word “faggot” made me exceptionally uncomfortable. And I hated his very long and involved jokes about how the number one thing all men are afraid of being accused of is raping children.
More than anything, his set at the Hulu Theater informed me that Louis C.K. has no genuine remorse for what he’s done. His redemption tour is one long shrug of the shoulders and curt giggle.
The disturbing allegations against C.K. first came to light in a 2017 story from The New York Times, where five women came forward to accuse Louis C.K. of sexual misconduct. Aspiring comedians Dana Min Goodman and Julia Wolov alleged that C.K. masturbated in front of them in a hotel room during a comedy festival in 2002, and that C.K.’s powerful then-manager, Dave Becky, attempted to silence them. (Becky denies this.) Abby Schachner, another rising comic, said that the following year, she called C.K. to invite him to one of her stand-up shows and could hear him masturbating as they spoke over the phone. In 2005, comedian Rebecca Corry maintained that C.K. asked to masturbate in front of her while the two were working together on a TV pilot (another woman said that C.K. repeatedly pestered her about masturbating in front of her while she was his underling on The Chris Rock Show back in the ’90s).
I initially knew Louis C.K. as Officer Dave on my favorite show, Parks and Recreation. On the same day of The New York Times article, the showrunner of my favorite series tweeted about the comedian:
C.K. eventually released a statement apologizing, stating that the stories were all true and that they were things he would never forgive himself for. Since the scandal, he’s complained about losing millions of dollars because of the backlash, and also released a special last year where he cracked, “I like jerking off.”
The allegations, the cries of “cancel culture” that immediately followed, and Louis C.K.’s latest behavior beget a question as old as time: Just how many women have to come forward and say the same guy has pulled out his penis and masturbated in front of them in order to be believed? In order for it to be a problem? In order for there to be consequences?
Do women need men in power to corroborate their claims in order to ever be taken seriously?
One thing is certain: Louis C.K. is still absolutely adored. I was surrounded by thousands of examples of it on Friday night.
Before the show even started, a man who sat behind me started a “Louis!” chant; his opening illuminated message was met with universal applause and screaming. The immediate and jubilant response to that word, which Louis had displayed in jest, propelled people to literally jump out of their seats.
Every person around me was in hysterics over every single one of his bits. There were a ton of men, a good amount of women, and quite a few couples in my area.
While he performed in front of that 15-foot-tall “SORRY” sign the entire night, nobody in the audience was buying it. It was just another one of his jokes.