Maria Bamford Is ‘Ashamed’ She Worked With Louis C.K.: ‘I Thought They Were Rumors’
In a new podcast interview with The Daily Beast, comedian Maria Bamford opens up about working with Louis C.K. despite the “rumors.”
Back in 2012, comedian Maria Bamford played a lightly fictionalized version of herself on two episodes of Louis C.K.’s critically acclaimed FX show Louie. Her character, a fellow stand-up comic named Maria, consents to sleeping with the Louie character before telling him he’s “bad at sex” and later informing him that either he gave her “the crabs” or vice-versa.
This was long before Louis C.K. was publicly exposed for repeatedly masturbating in front of female comedians without their consent. But in the years that followed, Bamford says she began to hear the rumors.
“I want to say a couple of months before all the news came out with real factual evidence, people coming forward, I worked with him,” Bamford tells me on this week’s episode of The Last Laugh podcast, explaining that she served as his opener at a big venue on Hollywood Boulevard in the summer of 2017. “And it was great fun. I love to make money,” she continues. “And he is a great performer. And I had heard of those allegations, but I couldn’t find anyone who said this is what happened, so I thought they were rumors.”
“Now, of course, I go, even if there’s rumors, just don’t do it,” Bamford adds. “Or inquire, get in there. I feel ashamed that I didn’t look into it out of, I think, greed.”
The rumors were well-known by then in the comedy community. Gawker had alluded to them years earlier, as had other comedians. The same summer that Bamford was opening for Louis C.K., comedian Tig Notaro told me in an interview that her one-time collaborator needed to “take care of that, to handle that, because it’s serious to be assaulted, it’s serious to be harassed.”
But many of his comedian friends just didn’t want to believe that the rumors were true. “Yeah, you hope for that,” Bamford says, echoing what comedian Sarah Silverman has said about her close relationship with Louis C.K.
“Things are very black and white if it isn’t someone you love, on either side. Louis is my brother, we grew up together, I’ve known him since I was 19. But he did do these things,” Silverman told me in 2018. “I think I’m too close to this to be objective. When you know someone, you don’t always know more. Sometimes you know less.”
“But it’s just so sad. You just feel sad,” Bamford adds. While she loves that comedy can be “unapologetic” she also thinks the so-called “apology” that Louis C.K. offered was insufficient. “I just wish it was more,” she says.
“I felt so sad just because you know that not only is it difficult to get a job in the entertainment industry, but for a woman who looks up to you,” Bamford continues, “and then to treat somebody that way who’s a colleague, that’s so depressing. That’s so heartbreaking.”
Much of the criticism of Louis C.K. as he has attempted to make his stand-up comedy comeback surrounds the fact that he has not addressed his transgressions head-on, instead using them to deflect from the controversy around his Parkland jokes by telling the crowd, “If you ever need people to forget that you jerked off, what you do is you make a joke about kids that got shot.”
Last May, when the Minnesota Star Tribune reported that his comeback tour would include a string of shows at Acme Comedy Co. in Minneapolis, Bamford tweeted, “Really sad and angry about this. I have considered @AcmeComedyCo a home.”
When I ask Bamford if she thinks it would make any “difference” if he took a more direct approach to discussing his behavior on stage, like Aziz Ansari did in his most recent Netflix special, she says, “I think it would definitely make a difference.” But more than that, she believes he should make “very public financial amends to those women.”
She’s reminded of a joke she heard recently from one of the “New Faces” comedians at the Just for Laughs festival in Montreal. Bamford can’t remember the comic’s name, but shares a joke he told on stage: “I’m a registered sex offender. The only thing worse than a registered sex offender is an unregistered sex offender. At least you guys know where I’m at.”
“I can appreciate that,” she says. “Name it.”
“It is very easy to judge another human being,” Bamford adds. “But I always believe in safety in the workplace. If somebody is an ‘unregistered’ sex offender, let’s make sure the workplace is safe, because nobody said they’re never going to do it again. In fact, I would say to assume somebody’s going to do it again, especially if they’re not getting help or there isn’t any acknowledgement of getting help.”
As someone who has struggled with mental illness and addiction herself, Bamford knows, “Unless you’re getting some kind of help I would be worried that it is going to happen again. Not like you’re a bad person or you didn’t mean it when you said you’re never going to do it again. But let’s set up a workplace environment where everybody’s taken care of and safe.”
Next week on The Last Laugh podcast: Stand-up comedian Tom Papa, whose new Netflix special You’re Doing Great premieres Tuesday, Feb. 4.