Marc Maron and Louis C.K. have a complicated history. Their 2010 conversation on Maron’s WTF has been called the “greatest podcast episode ever.” Two years later, C.K. dramatized their uncomfortable reconciliation on his FX show Louie.
At that point, the two stand-up comics had been friends for more than 25 years. They started out performing together in Boston, but over the years as C.K.’s star began to rise, Maron’s stalled. It wasn’t until Maron launched his podcast in 2009 that the tide finally began to turn.
Now that C.K. has acknowledged that the allegations of sexual misconduct against him by five different women are true, it was Maron’s turn to talk about his role in his longtime friend’s disturbing history.
In a long monologue that began his podcast this Monday morning, Maron said he would not “condone,” “justify,” “defend” or “apologize for” C.K.’s “vile, inappropriate, hurtful, damaging and selfish” behavior. But he did want to talk about the common refrain that “everybody knew” what C.K. was up to and did nothing. Dating back at least several years, there were rumors that C.K. had a habit of masturbating in front of female comedians, but no one had ever spoken out against him on the record.
“Sadly, I knew what most people knew: There was a story out there,” Maron said. “And I would ask him about it. I would say, ‘This story about you forcing these women to watch you jerk off, what is that? Is that true?’ He goes, ‘No, it’s not true. It’s not real. It’s a rumor.’ And I would say, ‘Well, are you going to address it somehow? Handle it? Get out from under it whenever it shows up?’ ‘No I can’t, I can’t do that. I can’t give it life, give it air.’ That was the conversation.”
That private answer sounds very similar to one of the only public answers C.K. gave on the matter prior to this past weekend. Confronted by Vulture’s David Marchese about the rumors in a 2016 interview, C.K. said, “I don’t care about that. That’s nothing to me. That’s not real.” 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.”
Maron said he knew some of the women who spoke to The New York Times last week about C.K, including comedian Rebecca Corry, calling it “fucking sad” that she and others didn’t feel like they could confide in him about it. Those women likely saw him as more likely to believe his friend C.K. than he was to believe them. And they were right.
“So when it comes to believing women, I want to believe women, but in this particular instance, there was no one named,” Maron said, referring to an early blind item about C.K. that appeared in Gawker. “So I believed my friend. It’s just that the environment enabled the dismissiveness of it. How do I put this? The work environment, the social environment makes it difficult for people to come forward and be heard, to be listened to, to be believed, and for action to be taken around that. It is pushed aside, it is dismissed, it is framed as an annoyance or an embarrassment, it is used against people, it is used as a threat, that is the structure that exists in life.”
Maron went on to admit that he has struggled with “empathy” over the years. Anyone who has listened to his podcast evolve since it began knows that he has improved immensely in that regard.
In his own life, he said he is working towards acknowledging the “power dynamic” that exists between men and women, especially in a work environment, as he has learned by working with a cast and crew of mostly women on the Netflix series GLOW. “It’s hard to understand that that power dynamic is real and it exists, because things have been the way they are for a long time,” he added.
In his statement the day after the Times story broke, C.K. admitted that he wielded his power “irresponsibly,” but notably did not apologize to the women he mistreated. Today, Maron took more responsibility for choosing to believe his friend over those women than C.K. has for his own abhorrent behavior.
“I’m disappointed in my friend,” Maron, who said he would not stop using that word to describe C.K., said near the end of his monologue. “He fucked up. And he’s in big fucking trouble.”