L.A. Comedy Pros Grapple with Booking Louis C.K.

Should the disgraced stand-up be given a stage to launch a comeback?

Louis C.K. was one of the most popular comedians of his generation, until late 2017, when long-simmering rumors of his sexual misconduct came out in New York Times report. Numerous women went on the record with incidents of inappropriate behavior, coercion, and feelings of being bullied by a powerful man and his influential management team. Quickly, he went from beloved, self-deprecating oaf to the scumbag who forces women to watch him masturbate.

 

After the Times story was published, C.K. confirmed that the reports about him were true, and largely stepped out of the public spotlight for a few months. In August 2018, he returned to performing stand-up for the first time, and in December gave what was described as his “stand-up comeback” at Long Island comedy venue Governor’s. The content of that set, audio of which was recorded and released online, seemed to do more to court controversy than squelch it; the material included jokes aimed at victims of the Parkland school shooting, men of races other than his own, and individuals who identify as non-binary. It certainly wasn’t the introspective display of contrition some people may have wanted.

So far, his performances have mostly stayed in the New York area, but speculation is mounting that he may be building up to launch a full comeback tour in 2019. Vulture reached out to notable comedy bookers around the U.S. and Canada to ask the big question: Would you book Louis C.K.? Two Los Angeles-area professionals responded, with two drastically different answers.

Bob Fisher, owner of the Ice House in Pasadena said he would allow C.K. to play his club, ostensibly on grounds of free speech. Fisher’s only caveat being that he wouldn’t put C.K. on a bill as a surprise guest, as was the case at the Comedy Cellar in New York when C.K. first returned to performance last year.

“Some people have called comedy clubs the last bastion of free speech in America. I believe that and feel a duty to protect that concept. With that in mind, I’m very reluctant to disallow an individual stage time because of their views or personal life. If Louie C.K. were to ask for time onstage, I would allow it as long as I could advertise his appearance in advance. I’d want those in the audience that night to know he was going to appear. They would be at the club specifically to see Louie. I wouldn’t spring his appearance on an unsuspecting audience.”

By contrast, Mike Mulloy, promoter of events including Faded Comedy and On Deck Comedy at the Blue Rooster in Los Feliz, expressed no interest in providing a stage for the disgraced comedian.

“Louis C.K. can toss my salad and peel my potatoes. He’s not sorry. He’s sorry he got caught. He’s sorry for himself. He didn’t learn anything from this shit, and letting him back without taking ownership of anything he’s done just reminds him his actions don’t have any real consequences. He doesn’t need to do stand-up to make a living. He’s a fucking millionaire. He should have to sit out twice as many years as he lied about it. He should have to sit out twice as long as the women whose careers he’s directly impacted. Any comic who disagrees can kiss my ass.”

If a tour does come to pass and C.K. finds a venue willing to host him, it remains to be seen how Los Angeles audiences will react and which other comedians are willing to share a bill with him. As USA Today reported, protests have followed him to clubs, as has online backlash, and any club that books him will likely have to be willing to weigh that against the potential financial upside.

 


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