Comedian Louis C.K. is being confronted with rumors about his alleged sexual misconduct. After Tig Notaro said that C.K. should respond to these allegations, he declined to get into detail about them in an interview with The New York Times, saying, “I’m not going to answer to that stuff, because they’re rumors. If you actually participate in a rumor, you make it bigger and you make it real.”
So what exactly are the rumors about Louis C.K.? Where did they come from, and what is he accused of doing?
Rumors about Louis C.K.’s sexual misconduct go back to a Gawker blind item published in 2012 titled “Which Beloved Comedian Likes to Force Female Comics to Watch Him Jerk Off?” This article claimed that one of the most beloved standup comedians in America traps women in his hotel room and forces them to watch him masturbate.
“We’ve heard from several sources that this shameless funnyman whips it out at the most inopportune moments, often at times when his female companions have expressed no interest in watching him go at it,” Gawker reported.
The Gawker article goes on to detail one incident in which the unnamed comedian brought two women back to his hotel room. After he began masturbating, they tried to leave, but he “stood in front of the door, blocking their way with his body, until he was done.”
This Gawker piece never mentions C.K.’s name, only saying that the person was a very popular standup comedian. Two years later, though, Gawker published another piece which named C.K. and quoted a source who said that he knew two women who had been mistreated by him. Gawker also said in 2015 that the previous blind item was a “well-circulated rumor about C.K.” The 2015 article went on to detail a few more reports of C.K. masturbating in front of women, and it included screenshots of the article’s source allegedly corresponding with C.K. over email and asking him to stop assaulting people.
Then, comedian Jen Kirkman on a podcast episode talked about a “very famous comic” who is a “known perv.”
“And this guy didn’t rape me, but he made a certain difficult decision to go on tour with him really hard,” she said. “Because I knew if I did, I’d be getting more of the same weird treatment I’d been getting from him.”
She did not name C.K., as she said that if she specified what comedian it was, her career would be over. But the description she provided sure sounded a lot like him, especially when she said that the comedian is “basically a French filmmaker at this point.” She also said that “this person was married,” which fits with it being C.K. because Kirkman said on The Nerdist that the incident took place around 2005, when C.K. was married. Kirkman later clarified that C.K. did not force her to watch him masturbate; he just acted like a creep around her.
Earlier in 2015, it just so happened that there was an episode of Louis C.K.’s show Louie in which he corners a woman in an apartment and tries to have sex with her as she repeatedly and clearly rejects him. C.K. later said in interview that when they were filming the scene, they “thought it was funny,” and it seemed that he did not intend for it to be a disturbing depiction of attempted rape as it clearly was.
In 2016, Roseanne Barr directly called out Louis C.K., saying that she’s heard so many stories about him.
“It’s Louis C.K., locking the door and masturbating in front of women comics and writers. I can’t tell you — I’ve heard so many stories,” she told The Daily Beast. “Not just him, but a lot of them. And it’s just par for the course. It’s just sh*t women have to put up with.”
Barr later clarified that she does not have firsthand knowledge of this but that she’s heard the accusations from a number of women. This interview was not the first time that Barr had called on C.K. to address the rumors. In a 2015 tweet that has since been deleted, she said, “I have 0 idea if Louie #CK is a sexual offender or not-but there R MULTIPLE accusations in Hollywood’s working woman circles. He shld answer.”
Louis C.K. addressed these rumors for the first time in 2016, though what he said was more an explanation of why he doesn’t want to talk about it.
“No. I don’t care about that,” he told Vulture. “That’s nothing to me. That’s not real…Well, you can’t touch stuff like that. There’s one more thing I want to say about this, and it’s important: If you need your public profile to be all positive, you’re sick in the head. I do the work I do, and what happens next I can’t look after. So my thing is that I try to speak to the work whenever I can. Just to the work and not to my life.”
But earlier this summer, comedian Tig Notaro said that Louis C.K. should “handle” these allegations. This was the first time anyone directly associated with C.K. has said something like this, as C.K. is a producer on Notaro’s show One Mississippi.
“I think it’s important to take care of that, to handle that, because it’s serious to be assaulted,” Notaro told The Daily Beast. “It’s serious to be harassed. It’s serious, it’s serious, it’s serious.”
Notaro also said that she and C.K. don’t speak anymore after an “incident.” She recently told The Hollywood Reporter, “I have not spoken to Louis in probably going on two years now. I will never hear from Louis C.K. again.”
Most recently, Louis C.K. spoke to The New York Times earlier this week and when asked to clarify whether the accusations are true, he said, “No. They’re rumors, that’s all that is.” He went on to say that he doesn’t know why Tig Notaro was saying these things about him in the press.
So far, then, the Louis C.K. allegations are just rumors, and so far, nobody has publicly accused the comedian of sexual misconduct. But the rumors have become widespread enough that fellow comedians like Roseanne Barr and Tig Notaro are weighing in and saying that they deserve to be taken seriously.