Over the weekend, Louis C.K. returned to the email inboxes of countless former fans who no doubt forgot that they still subscribed to the disgraced comic’s mailing list. An email announcing C.K.’s plans to go on tour, as well as to revive his long-defunct website, made the rounds on Sunday, nearly two years after he was accused of serial sexual misconduct in a damning New York Times story. He admitted to the allegations—that he masturbated in front of five women—shortly thereafter.
“These stories are true,” C.K. said in a statement in November of 2017. “At the time, I said to myself that what I did was okay because I never showed a woman my dick without asking first, which is also true. But what I learned later in life, too late, is that when you have power over another person, asking them to look at your dick isn’t a question. It’s a predicament for them. The power I had over these women is that they admired me. And I wielded that power irresponsibly.”
What he did not say in his lengthy statement were the words, “I’m sorry.”
Now, apparently, the Louie actor has decided his #MeToo moment has passed, completely disregarding the fact that he should not be the one who gets to decide. The mailing-list email, sent with the subject line, “an update from Louis CK,” begins, “You may have noticed that louisck.com (that’s my website) has been down for a while. This is because I’m redesigning the site (I mean someone talented who I hired is).” He explains that the full website will be back up “in a month or so.”
Seemingly as an afterthought, he writes, “Also I am on tour doing stand up (sic) comedy around the country and planet.” Indeed, a visit to C.K.’s website as it currently exists yields a similar message about his stand-up tour with links to purchase tickets. The 14-city international tour stretches through January 2020 and includes stops in Virginia, North Carolina, Israel, and Italy, among other locations.
C.K.’s attempt at a comeback comes as no surprise—the 52-year-old has been planting the seeds of a return for just over a year now. In August of 2018, he made a surprise appearance at the famed Greenwich Village institution the Comedy Cellar, where he did a 15-minute set. The New York Times reported that C.K. was met with an “ovation” from the audience before he even began performing. “I had thought that the first time he’d go on would be in a more controlled environment,” the club’s owner, Noam Dworman, told the Times, “But he decided to just rip the Band-Aid off.” According to the article, Dworman received only one complaint via phone call following the impromptu appearance.
Though the misconduct scandal resulted in HBO and Netflix cutting ties with the comic and his retrospectively disastrous, Woody Allen-inspired film I Love You Daddy being dropped, the male stand-up community that made C.K. a star in the first place appeared willing to embrace his return. He made a series of appearances at the Comedy Cellar, as well as other clubs around the country. In spite of Dworman’s claims that no one at the club on that fateful night in August seemed bothered by Louis C.K.’s return to the stage, the headline-making moment launched an impassioned debate about whether or not the admitted predator’s comeback was occurring “too soon.”
The timing of his reluctant tiptoe back into the spotlight feels less relevant now—although he did set himself up for such critique by ending his November 2017 statement with “I will now step back and take a long time to listen.” (Does 10 months constitute a long time? Two years? Who gets to decide?) Questions of timing aside, the more pressing reason that C.K. does not deserve to be let off the hook so easy is that in the now two years since the explosive news broke, the comedian has done little, if anything at all, to express remorse. He has not publicly uttered those two crucial words, “I’m sorry.” He has not made an effort to reach out to his victims directly, or the formidable female comedy community in general, to seek their forgiveness, or their counsel.
He has, however, made jokes about the controversy on stage. Back in January during a set in San Jose, California, C.K. remarked, “I like to jerk off, and I don’t like being alone.” As Stacey Solie wrote for The Daily Beast, his delivery was “simple and without a trace of apology; it got a good laugh.” Prior to that, a leaked set of his saw the comic mocking the Parkland shooting survivors and gender identity. If he is able to successfully mount a comeback by perpetuating this kind of brash dismissiveness on tour, it will send the grim message that joking about doing something terrible is the same thing as apologizing and taking responsibility for it.