Women Describe The Feeling Of Being In Louis C.K.'s Surprise Set, And It's Terrible

by Cassandra Stone
Originally Published: 
Image via Debra L Rothenberg/FilmMagic

The women in the audience were ‘so not here’ for Louis C.K.’s standup comeback the other night

On Sunday night, Louis C.K. emerged from his far-too-brief ‘timeout’ from the spotlight to perform a ‘surprise’ standup set at New York’s popular Comedy Cellar. While there is an endless list of reasons why this is problematic and infuriating, the effect his unexpected presence (and subsequent standing ovation) had on the women in attendance is the exact reason he needs to stay far away from the stage for a long time.

Perhaps permanently.

In an interview with Vulture, two women who were in attendance at the Comedy Cellar that night describe the overall atmosphere of C.K.’s unannounced set as “loud” and “clearly supportive.” But that’s because the audience was filled primarily with men.

The first woman (both requested anonymity) says there were several women sitting in the front row when C.K. came onstage. “There were at least four to five females that I could see, and three or four of them were not having it,” she says. “They were just looking at him, deadpan, straight, not having it.”

Both women describe his set as “awkward,” with one particularly upsetting bit about a rape whistle. “When he said ‘rape whistle’ people were laughing, and I was just sitting there like oh my fuck,'” the second woman says. “This is so uncomfortable and so disgusting. Everyone around me was laughing. That was just depressing.”

It’s incredibly ironic that a man who built his comedy shtick on a hyper sense of self-awareness proves in real life, he completely lacks it by joking about a rape whistle in his first public performance since admitting he’s sexually assaulted several women. And this, just nine months after removing himself from the public eye for being a heinous, abusive asshole. What a time to be alive.

She says it felt like there were a lot of aggressive men in attendance who would have heckled anyone who voiced their displeasure at C.K.’s presence or walked out. Speaking about the atmosphere of the comedy club that night, she says, “It’s the kind of vibe that doesn’t allow for a dissenting voice. You’re just expected to be a good audience member. You’re considered a bad sport if you speak out.”

Because even if speaking up is the right thing to do, for women, it’s not always a safe thing to do.

Louis C.K. is an admitted sexual abuser. He assaulted multiple women over the span of many years by masturbating in front of them (and while on the phone with them) without their consent. He and his team spent years trying to gaslight his victims and quieting journalists through intimidation. He undoubtedly hindered the careers of each and every female comedian he victimized through his sexual abuse. His unannounced, not-at-all-asked-for presence on stage that night is a slap in the face to every woman and victim of sexual assault in attendance. He foisted himself on everyone there whether they wanted it or not — the exact opposite of anything he should ever do, ever again, for the rest of his life.

But that’s the thing with abusive men; they operate on their terms, and their terms only. Their victims don’t get a choice. And make no mistake, Louis C.K. made victims out of every single unsuspecting woman in that audience who didn’t choose to see him perform.

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