The pattern follows exactly what we saw with Harvey Weinstein. Shortly before The New York Times published its bombshell story about the movie producer’s horrific history of alleged sexual assault, articles began to appear in The Hollywood Reporter, Variety and other outlets that said Weinstein was bracing for impact.
In his case, that meant hiring a powerful team of lawyers that he hoped would help him escape prosecution in a court of law, if not public opinion. For comedian Louis C.K., it was canceling the New York premiere of his new film—which itself deals with issues of sexual misconduct—along with a planned appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
As The Hollywood Reporter put it, “a New York Times story on the comedian is about to break, and the premiere was canceled in case it is damaging.”
In the deeply reported piece from Melena Ryzik, Cara Buckley and Jodi Cantor, five separate women accuse C.K. of taking out his penis and masturbating in front of them. Comedians Dana Min Goodman, Julia Wolov, Abby Schachner, Rebecca Corey and a fifth woman who spoke on the condition of anonymity all described very similar stories about the unwanted behavior.
C.K. was a powerful and influential figure to these women, who say in some cases they did not feel they could say no to him given his position in the field they were trying to enter. “He abused his power,” one woman said, summing up the main problem with C.K.’s inappropriate actions.
Like with Weinstein, rumors about sexual misconduct have followed Louis C.K. around in the comedy community for years. In 2015, comedian Jen Kirkman described a fellow comic that sounded an awful lot like C.K. as a “known perv” who she would no longer tour with. More recently she clarified to the Village Voice that C.K. never sexually harassed or assaulted her personally
The following year, Roseanne Barr told The Daily Beast that she too had heard the rumors about C.K. “It’s not just Bill Cosby. Some of the biggest comics, males, are doing some terrible things. And they’re about to get busted,” she said. “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.”
And then there was Tig Notaro, who this summer told me that C.K. needs to “handle” the rumors about him “because it’s serious to be assaulted.” She added, “It’s serious to be harassed. It’s serious, it’s serious, it’s serious.” The latest season of her Amazon show One Mississippi, which still lists C.K. as an executive producer despite the fact that they haven’t even spoken in years, includes a scene in which a male boss masturbates behind his desk in front of a female employee. That behavior is strikingly similar to the types of stories that have floated around about C.K.
Notaro went even further in the Times piece, saying, “Sadly, I’ve come to learn that Louis C.K.’s victims are not only real, but many are actual friends of mine within the comedy community.” She also believes he helped produce her 2013 live concert recording in which she revealed her breast cancer diagnosis because it would “make him look like a good guy, supporting a woman.”
“I think this might be a case of there’s nothing there,” Kirkman, who helped push this story forward in the first place with her initial comments, added of the C.K. rumors in her recent interview. “If I’m wrong, I’m wrong, and if any women want to come forward and say what he’s done, I’ll totally back them, because I believe women. But I just don’t know any.”
With all of these cases, from Bill Cosby to Harvey Weinstein to Kevin Spacey, it takes multiple women telling their stories on the record to make people believe them. That is exactly what just happened in the pages of the same paper that first exposed Weinstein.
For his part, while the new story reveals that C.K. made some private and problematic apologies to some of the women he admitted he abused, he has always refused to discuss the rumors in any way publicly. That continues today as he has canceled his public appearances and would not give any comment to the Times for their story. “Louis is not going to answer any questions,” his representative told them.
Pretty soon, he’s going to have to start.