Editorial: Hosting Louis C.K. reflects badly on Pittsburgh


Via David Shankbone | Wikimedia

Controversial comedian Louis C.K. performed a three-show tour at Pittsburgh Improv in Homestead this past weekend.

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

Since April 2017, 263 celebrities, CEOs, politicians and other public figures have been accused of sexual misconduct. This is largely thanks to the powerful #MeToo movement, which created an environment in which many survivors felt safe about speaking out. But some of those accused have attempted to redeem their public image — including actor and comedian Louis C.K., who played a set of sold-out shows at Pittsburgh’s Improv Comedy Club this past weekend.

C.K. is known for offensive and inflammatory jokes about survivors of the Parkland school shooting, 9/11 and the Holocaust. The comedian faced accusations of sexual misconduct from five female comedians in November 2017, and the day after a New York Times piece about the women was published, he responded to the accusations saying, “These stories are true.”

A little over a year after that situation unfolded, he’s now on another comedy tour, “Here I Come, Ready or Not,” following a spurt of successes in movies and television. But C.K.’s presence in Pittsburgh — and the entire tour — was a mistake and an insult to women in comedy and in the audience.

The very title of his tour shows that C.K. is well aware of the controversy surrounding his comedy and the accusations of sexual harassment, and he seems to be using it as a marketing technique. He sells himself as someone who tells the truth through comedy rather than someone who hurts others with his jokes, something his audience apparently admires.

“I feel like I have an idea of who he is, from watching this standup, watching his shows, and I’m able to see past the allegations, I guess,” John Traficante, a Point Park University theater student said to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette at C.K.’s first show in the area on Thursday. “Louie’s always been really honest and that’s the comedy I like. I don’t want any upfront falsehood. Louie has always been just pure honesty — him, Woody Allen, that’s why I like those people.”

This is the kind of thinking that will render all the progress we might have made at the height of the #MeToo movement completely useless — a kind of entitlement society is happy to allow celebrities to have. We’ll allow those who have admitted to sexual harassment to continue with their careers, unhindered by the accusations because they were honest about it. Nevermind how unfair it is for men to be applauded for their honesty in committing such deplorable acts.

Pittsburgh Improv doesn’t have the best track record with the comedians it books. Earlier this month it hosted comedian T.J. Miller, who has been accused of sexual assault and harassment. The Improv will also host actor Jeremy Piven, who has been accused of sexual misconduct by at least three women, in March.

Because the five women who have accused C.K. of sexual misconduct are comedians, one might argue that he committed workplace harassment which makes the Improv’s decision to host C.K. even more shameful. The venue put its own employees at risk by inviting him to perform there.

There are plenty of other comedians one could see — and that Pittsburgh Improv could book — who haven’t admitted to multiple cases of sexual harassment and joked about it. Local stand-up comedian Cassi Bruno posted a list of upcoming comedy shows in Pittsburgh that feature female comedians.

Men like Louis C.K. shouldn’t be allowed to have a comeback, and Pittsburgh certainly shouldn’t have been made a part of his.