A couple of days ago I got an email from Louis C.K with the subject heading, “Hi, I made a movie.” I’ve been getting emails from Louis C.K’s website for a number of years now, though at one point I had a pretty strong working relationship with C.K, having interviewed him for The A.V Club more often, and longer than I had anyone else.
There was a time when an email from Louis C.K would be an actual email from Louis C.K the person, rather than an email blast from his website, but that was a long time ago. I signed up for the email list for Louis’ website because I wasn’t just a dude who interviewed C.K a lot for his job: I was something of a C.K super-fan. To put things in Marc Maron WTF terms, C.K was one of my guys. He wasn’t just one of my favorite stand-up comedians, if not my very favorite stand-up comedian, and the creator, writer and star of one of my all-time favorite television shows: he was something close to a hero for me.
In a degraded and ugly show-business ecosystem where seemingly everyone was for sale, and there was no longer any stigma to “selling out”, C.K was a figure of unimpeachable integrity. Even before I was drop-kicked out of the world of respectable pop-culture media and went the independent route, partially out of desperation and partially out of inspiration, C.K was a role model on how to do your own thing, on your terms, and follow the dictates of your idiosyncratic muse rather than the soul-crushing demands of the market.
I related to C.K deeply on a personal level as well, so when I started reading online rumors about C.K. masturbating in front of mortified women, I did not want to believe them. This wasn’t like Bill Cosby, whom I respected as a comedian and an artist, but always found hypocritical and sanctimonious and self-righteous as a human being.
I did not want to believe that one of my comedy heroes and role models would do something that wrong. Besides, it wasn’t like Harvey Weinstein, or James Toback or Bill Cosby, where the person accused of sexual transgressions are very clearly guilty, and there are literally dozens upon dozens of people with very similar accounts who are willing to go on record for the sake of bringing down a prolific serial sex criminal.
With C.K, it’s more like Woody Allen. Is Allen a child molester? I have absolutely no idea, and though there’s not an overwhelming preponderance of damning evidence in Allen's case, as there are in the cases of Toback, Cosby and Weinstein, I will never see another film Allen makes unless professionally obligated to do so, because while he may or may not be guilty of child molestation, he's definitely guilty of being a creep and a misogynist.
On a similar note, I cannot say with any certainty that C.K is guilty of what he’s being accused of.
Yet the current cultural climate has made it difficult to continue to give C.K. the benefit of the doubt. You can’t say “believe women” and then make exceptions for comedians and auteurs you personally admire and respect. I don’t know if C.K is guilty of the transgressions he’s accused of, but I also can’t really imagine how you would develop a reputation for masturbating in front of female comedians without, you know, masturbating in front of female comedians.
And the (alleged) nature of Weinstein and Toback’s crimes similarly seem to incriminate C.K. Over the past couple of weeks we’ve learned far too much about the sexual urges of predators like Weinstein and Toback, for whom angry, destructive masturbation in front of women too scared and freaked out to stop them was apparently a huge turn on.
I really want C.K to be innocent but I just don’t know anymore. Reading the email made me feel icky and sick in a way his emails never have before.
C.K includes the following FAQ in his email:
Q: What is this movie about?
A: Go find out. You’ll get a sense of it from the Trailer and you can read about it. But I suggest you just go see it.
Q: Is it funny?
A: Well people in Toronto laughed their asses off. But like a lot of things I make, it’s not for everyone.
Q: Will you be selling this on your website?
A: Yes. I Love You Daddy will be available down the road on my website as well as other platforms. But first we want you to see it in a theater.
Needless to say, the questions people really want answers to are not addressed in the email, and may never be addressed. C.K is in an impossible position right now: “No, there’s nothing to these allegations” could be true, but it’s nevertheless a deeply unsatisfying answer, although for the life of me, I cannot imagine what a satisfying answer to that question would be, and how it’d be received by a public that both worships C.K as a singular comedic genius and holds him in suspicion as potentially yet another powerful man who abuses that power for the sake of his own sexual gratification.
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