As It Happens

After Louis C.K.'s surprise show, comedy club owner 'torn' over disgraced star's comeback

Noam Dworman says he's grappling with whether it was right for the comedian to be back on stage.

Louis C.K. performed at New York's Comedy Cellar on Sunday night

Louis C.K. admitted to sexual misconduct allegations in Nov. 2017. (Rich Fury/Getty Images)
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The owner of the Comedy Cellar, where Louis C.K. performed on Sunday for the first time since admitting to sexual misconduct, says he's grappling with whether it was right for the comedian to be back on stage. 

"There is so much muck and difficulty in this issue," Noam Dworman told As It Happens guest host Helen Mann. 

Comedians Dana Min Goodman, Abby Schachner, Julia Wolov and Rebecca Corry allege the comedian either masturbated in front of them, asked to do it or did so over the phone. A fifth woman was not identified.

C.K. released a statement in which he said the stories were true.

Dworman was not at the club on Sunday night, but he spoke to Mann about what he thinks about C.K.'s return to comedy. 

Here is part of that conversation. 

What did Louis C.K. talk about during the set?

I think it's more interesting what he didn't talk about than what he did talk about.

What he didn't say was anything about what had happened. He made no statement, he didn't really make any references to it.

Just to be clear, back in November when the allegations were made against him, Louis C.K. did acknowledge that the sexual misconduct allegations were more than that. That they were true. But this time he didn't refer to it?

No he did not refer to it.

An exterior view of The Paris Theatre with a marquee advertising the Louis C.K. movie "I Love You, Daddy" in New York City. The premiere for the movie was cancelled after Louis C.K. was accused of sexual misconduct by five women. (Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)

So how did the audience react to his appearance?

Well, the initial reaction was very, very positive and there was kind of like a sustained applause.

One gentleman was quite upset about the fact that Louis went on and he felt ambushed.

OK, well, what did you say to him?

I told him how it happened. I told him that I was struggling with how to handle this. And I was surprised as he was that Louis didn't make any kind of apology or do anything to ... ease into it.

Now that news of his appearance has come out, what are you hearing?

I don't think it's up to 10 yet, but it's more than five people who have written me … disapproving e-mails.

I think the worst part about the times we live in is that you're expected to always come to any conversation already having the correct answer and you can't kick it around, you can't be wrong, you can't discuss.

Listen, I'm torn by this.

Comedian Louis C.K. quietly returned to the stage for the first time after admitting to sexual misconduct, making an unannounced appearance Sunday night at the Comedy Cellar in New York. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

But now that you've had this time, do you think it was the right call for the club to allow C.K. to go on stage?

Yeah, I don't know.

But what bothers me about it all is … for instance Mike Tyson is cheered on Broadway and warmly reviewed. Bill Clinton, just a couple months ago, was invited to this charity event and they dis-invited Monica Lewinsky.

The women who complained about him, some even got online death threats and now he's getting an ovation when he shows up on your stage. What message does that send to not just the women who complained about him but to all women?

I mean, I hope that people don't think this sounds like I don't take them seriously.

I don't think that the death threats against these women to the extent that they had them, I'd never heard that before, can be blamed on Louis.

I'm grappling with it, which is ... what's going to happen, if he doesn't acknowledge, in a more heartfelt way, some contrition.

If he doesn't want to do it in a heartfelt way, will you allow him back on stage at your club?

You know, you're going to have to talk to me again when all this dust settles and I really think it through. It's one of the toughest things I've ever faced.

I'm trying to be as honest as I can be and I'm trying to give you a window into the things that are going through my head.

Comedian Tig Notaro is one of Louis C.K.'s former collaborators who has denounced C.K. following the allegations of sexual abuse. (Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for WCRF)

If someone has admitted to this kind of behaviour he admitted to, less than a year ago, and isn't willing to come back on stage and address that, should he be allowed to perform at your club?

If I'd been here, I would have spoken to him. I would have said, "Look. What are you going to do? How are you going to do it? I think you need to do this."

There is so much muck and difficulty in this issue.

If you want to blink your eyes and say, "I want everybody to disappear — like in the last act of Infinity Wars —  anybody who's done Louis C.K.-grade moral lapses or worse in their lives and I want them all to disappear from my life."

People will be disappearing right and left. Right and left.

What about talking to the five women, most of them comedians, who made these allegations and seeing what they say?

I have in the past and I will again.

I'm a totally huge believer in conversation and keeping an open mind and I will listen to reason and arguments.

Written by Sarah Jackson with files from Associated Press. Produced by Donya Ziaee. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity. 

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