Louis C.K. made a return to stand-up at the infamous Comedy Cellar late Sunday night. Again. This new hiatus lasted just 5 weeks. Two women walked out during his set, but reports claim his material was well-received. According to The New York Times, the set lasted about 20 minutes as he read mostly from notes. Once again he did not address his admitted sexual misconduct, something he has not spoken about publicly since his apology in November.
C.K. made headlines after a surprise August 26 appearance at the New York City comedy club following 9 months away from the public eye. He’d actually performed before the Cellar drop-in at Governor’s on Long Island the same day. That club’s owner, James Dolce, said the audience gave him a warm reception and that the comedian “has paid his price, and deserves a second chance.”
After the second appearance, Comedy Cellar owner Noam Dworman decided not to ban the once-adored and -revered Louis C.K. “I’ve thought about this from every angle, and have sought a lot of outside advice to try to guide me,” he told Rolling Stone, though he does not mention from whom he sought advice. “I don’t feel that there’s a clear standard out there in the world of when someone is supposed to be fired or denied an audience,” he told The Hollywood Reporter in a separate interview. “And I don’t think anyone’s come after the theaters and stages that allow Mike Tyson to tour the country with his show, and Bill Clinton is still invited to charity events.”
To deal with the initial backlash, Dworman chose to warn customers that you ‘swim at your own risk’ by entering his doors. “The one complaint that I felt I didn’t have a good answer for, was customers who came who felt ambushed [seeing a surprise drop-in from an admitted sexual abuser.] One option was to put [C.K.] on the line-up, but for practical reasons that won’t work, so I decided the next thing to do was to have this policy and give customers notice.” Any patron upset by an unannounced performer is “free to leave (unobtrusively please) no questions asked, your check on the house.”
The Comedy Cellar is essentially offering a trigger warning that comes with a free drink bill—something apparently used once during the second Louis C.K. appearance. Some say he’s ‘served his time’ and should be allowed back in. Others want the prolific creator to just go away for a longer while—self-imposed or through bans by venue owners. And yet others still maintain that what he did—masturbating in front of younger female comedians without their consent—isn’t ‘that bad.’ Without a doubt, many in the industry are watching what Dworman does as the debate amongst comedy circles continues. The Cellar may be a basement-level comedy club, but it is held in the highest of esteems to comedy fans who will probably continue to swim in these murky waters.