Louis C.K. repeatedly turned his sexual misconduct scandal into a punchline at his first West Coast performance since his return to comedy.
“I like to jerk off, and I don’t like being alone,” he told the 500-or-so people who bought tickets to his sold-out Wednesday night show at the San Jose Improv.
He repeated a quip about the Parkland massacre survivors: “If you ever need people to forget that you jerked off, what you do is you make a joke about kids that got shot.”
He opined on the critical press that’s dogged him this past year: “You’ve read the worst possible things you could read about me a person, about me, and you’re here.”
As well as the oft-incendiary nature of his craft: “The whole point of comedy is to say things that you shouldn’t say.”
Notably, he also weighed in on the matter of consent.
“Look, laughter is a non-consensual act. When you think about it, laughter is … you don’t have a choice, you don’t have a choice. If it’s funny, you’ll fucking laugh. So you come here with a sort of consent that says: we consent to see what happens. You’re not going to consent to every joke. You can’t—you have no fuckin’—you’re going to laugh at things tonight that you’ll really wish you didn’t laugh at. Sometimes sex is like that. Sometimes sex is an agreement to see what happens.”
Just obtained some leaked audio of Louis C.K.'s Jan. 16 set at the San Jose Improv, in which he jokes about consent, sex and comedy. Take a listen. pic.twitter.com/PsoSuvkg5W
— Jennifer Wadsworth (@jennwadsworth) January 18, 2019
The embattled 51-year-old standup—whose career came crashing down after several female colleagues said he pressured them to watch him masturbate—elicited uproarious laughter and standing ovations. His 45-minute set was preceded by three opening acts, all white and all male, reflecting a broader lack of diversity in the venue’s booking (exactly zero female headliners are advertised on the San Jose Improv website).
Louis CK did real damage to real women, including @TheRebeccaCorry, who got rape and death threats due to speaking out. And that is why we are protesting his appearance @ImprovSanJose which is normalizing sexual harassment by booking him. It's disgraceful. https://t.co/41aasnzjr7
— Michele Dauber (@mldauber) January 17, 2019
Outside, a few-dozen people braved the rain to protest the club’s hiring of a serial sexual harasser whose behavior stunted and, in some cases, derailed careers. One of the picketers was reportedly clocked in the face after a heated exchange with a C.K. fan.
The man who was standing across the street with the megaphone protesting Louis C.K. was punched by another man. Police saw the punch, and said it may have become a mutual fight. The man identified himself only as George and said he's not sure if he's pressing charges. pic.twitter.com/L7ZtIzcsL3
— Supriya Yelimeli (@SupriyaYelimeli) January 17, 2019
The Improv defended its booking decision by saying that it doesn’t “censor artists.”
“We want them to perform without scrutiny,” the club stated in a canned quote sent to reporters. “We trust that our audiences can decide for themselves what their limits are. We understand that not everyone will agree with our decision and we respect their right to protest. We also respect Louis C.K.’s right to perform.”
The venue’s response echoed C.K’s. And like the comedian’s, it elided the point by conflating critique of his material with backlash over his offstage misconduct—which, lest we forget, entailed more than just pressuring coworkers to watch him jack off.
C.K. also inadvertently apologized to the wrong woman for shoving her into a bathroom, according to the New York Times in the piece that broke the long-repressed story wide open in November 2017. In some of the earliest coverage of the comedian’s troubling behavior, Gawker in 2015 reported that C.K. came up to a woman at a comedy club, grabbed her by the neck, leaned into her ear and said, “I’m going to fuck you.”
Wendy Molyneux, a writer and producer for the for the Emmy Award-winning animated sitcom Bob’s Burgers, took to Twitter to express frustration about the tendency to downplay and misconstrue the criticism of C.K. as pearl-clutching and sex shaming.
“He was sexually assaulting people,” she tweeted Thursday. “There’s a difference.”
I’m particularly bothered by Louis CK pretending that he was just masturbating & is being persecuted by prudes and sex-shamers. He was sexually assaulting people. There’s a difference. He’s just a fancy subway flasher.
— Wendy Molyneux (@WendyMolyneux) January 17, 2019