Louis C.K.’s controversial return to the stage on Sunday ignited an intense social media debate regarding whether or not the disgraced comedian should be granted a comeback.
The stand-up set marked the star’s first public appearance since he admitted to engaging in sexual misconduct against several women in the comedy world.
Amidst the flood of responses to his resurgence, which took place at New York’s Comedy Cellar, fellow comic Michael Ian Black voiced support for C.K.’s return in a series of messages posted on Twitter.
“Will take heat for this, but people have to be allowed to serve their time and move on with their lives,” Black tweeted. “I don’t know if it’s been long enough, or his career will recover, or if people will have him back, but I’m happy to see him try.”
Black’s words were met with criticism from other users who opposed his position — leading him to expand on his stance in a series of replies. In the posts, the 47-year-old clarified his position on #MeToo movement, insisting he endorses the wave of social activism aimed at combating sexual assault.
“The #metoo movement is incredibly powerful and important and vital,” he noted. “One next step, among many steps, has to be figuring out a way for the men who are caught up in it to find redemption.”
“My empathy isn’t for Louis,” he also explained. “It’s for the recognition that we’re in a cultural moment in which some men who do terrible things have no pathway for redemption. That lack of a pathway creates a situation in which we are casting people out but not giving them a way back in.”
His words did little to allay frustrated commenters. “How long would you say a doctor who sexually assaulted his patients should be out of the game before he could practice medicine again?,” a social media user retorted.
Another added, “NOT posting about how you’re happy to see him try to get his career back is literally the least you can do to support his victims. It’s so easy to not post about that. But apparently your empathy for him and his career is stronger than your empathy for them and their careers.”
C.K.’s offenses were first brought to light in a November New York Times piece, in which four female comedians revealed he had masturbated in front of them, with a fifth woman describing he engaged in the act while the two conversed by phone. The report prompted the 50-year-old to issue a statement admitting, “these stories are true.”
He added, “The hardest regret to live with is what you’ve done to hurt someone else. And I can hardly wrap my head around the scope of hurt I brought on them … I have spent my long and lucky career talking and saying anything I want. I will now step back and take a long time to listen.”
Despite his mea culpa, C.K. was dropped by several media companies, including Netflix and FX Networks — which had previously been distributing four of his shows.