Louis C.K. Performs at Club for First Time Since #MeToo Accusations

Posted August 27, 2018 11:47 p.m. EDT

NEW YORK — Louis C.K. made an unannounced appearance at the Comedy Cellar on Sunday night, according to the club’s owner, performing for apparently the first time since he admitted last year to sexual misconduct with women in the comedy world.

He appeared around 11 p.m., said Noam Dworman, the owner of the Cellar, the Greenwich Village club with a long tradition of surprise appearances by famous comedians. Dressed in a black V-neck T-shirt and gray pants, he did a 15-minute set that touched on what Dworman called “typical Louis C.K. stuff” — racism, waitresses tips, parades. “It sounded just like he was trying to work out some new material, almost like any time of the last 10 years he would come in at the beginning of a new act.”

Mo Amer, another comic who was on the bill Sunday, said that for the crowd, “it was like a wow moment.” He, too, said he had no idea that Louis C.K. would return that night but that his material was “like, classic Louis, really really good.”

Dworman said Louis C.K. “was very relaxed,” and the audience, a sold-out crowd of about 115, greeted him warmly, with an ovation even before he began. (Dworman was at home asleep, but club staff texted him about the appearance, and he later watched a tape of it, he said.)

One audience member called the club Monday to object to the surprise set, the owner said. “He wished he had known in advance, so he could’ve decided whether to have been there or not,” Dworman said. But several other patrons responded to a standard email follow-up from the club to say they were happy they caught the show.

Last November, five women came forward to describe inappropriate conduct by Louis C.K., including instances in which he masturbated in front of them. In a statement soon after, he admitted to the misconduct. It led to the end of his production deal with the FX Networks and the canceled release of a film he wrote, directed and starred in, “I Love You, Daddy,” which included scenes reminiscent of his behavior. He has kept a low profile since, one of dozens of men who have been toppled in the aftermath of the allegations against Harvey Weinstein and the rise of the #MeToo movement.

Some of the women who came forward said that speaking out about Louis C.K. cost them personally and professionally, too. “I’ve experienced vicious and swift backlash from women and men, in and out of the comedy community,” one of the women, Rebecca Corry, wrote on Vulture.com. “I’ve received death threats, been berated, judged, ridiculed, dismissed, shamed, and attacked.”

Dworman said that as a business owner, he was in a difficult position. “I understand that some people will be upset with me. I care about my customers very much. Every complaint goes through me like a knife. And I care about doing the right thing.”

But, he added, “there can’t be a permanent life sentence on someone who does something wrong.” The social standards about how to respond to errant behavior are inconsistent, he said, and now shifting ever faster, and audiences should have the leeway to decide what to watch themselves. “I think we’ll be better off as a society if we stop looking to the bottlenecks of distribution — Twitter, Netflix, Facebook or comedy clubs — to filter the world for us.”

Yet he too said he was surprised that Louis C.K. re-emerged so quickly. “I didn’t think it was going to happen as soon as it did,” he said. “I had thought that the first time he’d go on would be in a more controlled environment. But he decided to just rip the Band-Aid off.”