Brow Beat

Louis C.K. Performed Stand-up Sunday for the First Time Since Admitting Sexual Misconduct

Louis C.K., smiling on a red carpet.
Louis C.K. attends the FX and Vanity Fair Emmy party in 2017.
Rich Fury/Getty Images

Louis C.K. returned to the stage for what seems to be the first time since he admitted to masturbating in front of unwilling women last November, performing an unannounced set at New York’s Comedy Cellar, the New York Times reports.

According to Noam Dworman, the owner of the Comedy Cellar, the comedian performed a 15-minute set in front of a receptive audience of about 115 people, who gave him an ovation before taking the stage. The set covered “typical Louis C.K. stuff,” which presumably didn’t include his retroactively creepy jokes about masturbation. Comedian Mo Amer, who also performed that night, described the set as “like, classic Louis, really really good.” One customer later called to complain that Louis C.K.’s appearance was unannounced, but Dworman said he otherwise received positive feedback.

Although rumors of sexual misconduct had dogged Louis C.K. for years, his career hit the rocks last November, when five women accused him of making them watch or listen to him masturbating. Specifically, as Slate’s Marissa Martinelli wrote at the time:

Two of C.K.’s accusers are the comedy duo Dana Min Goodman and Julia Wolov, who say that at the 2002 Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, C.K. invited them to his hotel room, took off his clothes, and masturbated in front of them. Goodman and Wolov also alleged that C.K.’s manager, Dave Becky, seemed unhappy when they spoke openly about the alleged incident afterward and that the pair have avoided working on projects that Becky is involved in as a result.

Abby Schachner told the Times that in 2003, she called Louis C.K. to invite him to a show and that he began describing his sexual fantasies instead. Schachner alleges that she could hear him masturbating while they spoke over the phone.

Rebecca Corry accused C.K. of inviting her back to his dressing room so that he could masturbate in front of her while working on a television pilot in 2005. Courteney Cox and David Arquette, the show’s executive producers, confirmed to the Times that they were aware of the incident. “What happened to Rebecca on that set was awful,” Cox reportedly wrote in an email.

Another woman, speaking on the condition of anonymity, alleged that C.K. also “repeatedly” asked her to watch him masturbate while working at The Chris Rock Show in the late 1990s.

Lous C.K., who had denied the accusations in the past, released a statement the next day confirming the women’s stories while, as Christina Cauterucci argued, “set[ting] the stage for his rehabilitation tour.” In his statement, C.K. said he would “step back and take a long time to listen” without being clear about how long, exactly, he had in mind. Now we know the answer: 289 days.

“There can’t be a permanent life sentence on someone who does something wrong,” Dworman told the Times, later adding, “I didn’t think it was going to happen as soon as it did.”