Manitoba

Winnipeg comedy club defends decision to book Louis C.K. despite sexual misconduct

An American comedian and actor who admitted to sexual misconduct will take the stage at a Winnipeg comedy club next week but not everyone is lining up for tickets.

Comedian will perform at Rumor's next week in 6 sold-out shows

Louis C.K. performs onstage at Comedy Central Night Of Too Many Stars at Beacon Theatre on Feb. 28, 2015 in New York City. The comedian is set to perform in Winnipeg next week. (Mike Coppola/Getty)

An American comedian and actor who admitted to sexual misconduct will take the stage at a Winnipeg comedy club next week but not everyone is lining up for tickets.

"No one seemed to know he was coming here, it was very hush-hush," said Winnipeg comedian Carole Cunningham on CBC Radio's Up to Speed with Nadia Kidwai.

"Obviously the reason for that is so there wouldn't be protest, so there wouldn't be a lot of discussion about it."

In 2017, five women accused Louis C.K. of sexual misconduct. He released a statement soon after acknowledging the allegations were true. 

His TV and streaming deals were cancelled and his film, I Love You, Daddy, was shelved.

C.K. has six shows scheduled over three days next week at Rumor's Restaurant and Comedy Club.

Winnipeg comedian Carole Cunningham says Louis C.K. hasn't done enough to make amends for his behaviour. (Courtesy Carole Cunningham)

Cunningham said news of the shows raised some eyebrows within the city's comedy scene. 

"From the women, and some of the men, there is concern, this isn't something that we really wanted Winnipeg to be put on the map for in terms of comedy," she said.

C.K.appeared at Toronto's Yuk Yuk's Comedy Club on Wednesday for the first of five sold-out nights, and opened his show by addressing the scandal, but not in a way that was apologetic, said Cunningham.

"He basically normalized and minimized what he did, and he told men in the audience, 'You know we're the same, just your dirty sexual secrets are still secrets,'" she said.

Some posts on social media also expressed concerns over the Winnipeg shows and some condemned the Winnipeg club for the booking.

Tickets sold out

Despite the negative online reaction, the club is defending the booking and says all six shows sold out in a matter of hours.

"To tell you the truth it seemed like the public voted with their wallets on this one. We sold out in two hours and we have a waiting list of 100 people looking for tickets," said the club's general manager and booker Tyler Schultz.

"We felt that there was definitely a huge market of people who were interested in what he had to say and to see him say it live."

Schultz said he wasn't overly concerned about the backlash because the people expressing those views aren't their typical customers.

"We're not trying to force anybody to be at a show that they don't want to be at," he said.

The Rumor's Restaurant and Comedy Club website shows all tickets to the Louis C.K. shows in Winnipeg are sold out. (Rumor's Restaurant and Comedy Club website)

Schultz said the show wasn't promoted on their social media page because all 1,500 tickets sold before that could happen. He said members of the restaurant's birthday club got first pass at the $39 tickets.

"It went much quicker than even we anticipated," said Schultz.

 "We sent the email out at 8:30 [Wednesday] night and by 10:30 all the tickets were gone."

Schultz said he's received some complaints about the booking but the majority of the response from customers has been positive.

"We've seen a couple people who have sent us emails. For every one that we get where some people are concerned about him performing here, we have about 20 more from people who are looking for tickets," he said.

'We don't really believe in censoring our comics'

Schultz said the booking is not a reflection of the club's stance on C.K.'s behaviour, nor does it mean that those who attend the show have excused it.

"I don't think anybody really condones that behaviour, I think that it happened a very long time ago and he's apologized and he's lost a lot in his career from it," he said.

"In the whole Me Too movement he was the only one who took ownership of it and instead of trying to lie about what happened he was truthful."

Cunningham disagrees and says C.K. hasn't done enough to make amends and says at the Toronto show C.K. tried to come across as a victim of his circumstance.

'"One of his lines was '52 years old and starting over' sort of thing, like, none of it was really apologetic," she said.

While Cunningham said she didn't have a timeline of when it would be appropriate to return to the stage, she said it was more about what he plans to do going forward.

"When he does come back what is he making of it? Is he apologetic? No. Had he used this time out to really reflect on what he's done? No. Has he come and talked about and apologized to each and every one of his victims? No."

Schultz said it's up to people to decide if they want to attend and anyone opposed is free to feel that way.

"I understand that there is some people out there who are concerned about him performing in Winnipeg but I think the majority are very interested in what he has to say," he said.

"We believe in letting artists do their art. His art is stand-up and he wants to come and perform here and we don't really believe in censoring our comics."

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