Jerry Seinfeld on Louis C.K.'s Attempted Comeback, #MeToo Comedy Landscape
"We, the court of public opinion, decided [that] if he’s going to come back, he’d better show a lot of pain," explained Seinfeld of C.K.'s controversial return to stand-up.
Jerry Seinfeld weighed in on the current comedy landscape, sharing his take on the attempted comeback of Louis C.K. amid the fall of Roseanne Barr and conviction of Bill Cosby.
C.K. all but disappeared from the spotlight after he admitted to masturbating in front of multiple women without their consent in November. But late this summer, the comedian and actor began gradually making his return to the stand-up stage, to much controversy.
"It’s the way he did it that I think people didn’t like," Seinfeld told the New York Times in a wide-ranging interview published Friday about #MeToo, his Netflix series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee and the return of his residency at New York's Beacon Theater.
When C.K. first made his unannounced return to the stage at Manhattan's famed Comedy Cellar, the comedian did not address his #MeToo scandal — at all. Not until several more stage visits did the Louie star finally address the sexual misconduct allegations that were leveled against him. He said he had been "to hell and back," that he "lost $35 million in an hour" and that he is trying to figure out his life.
To many, the comebacks were all too soon. An opinion that Seinfeld can understand.
"Some people didn’t like that he’s doing it at all. We know the routine: The person does something wrong. The person’s humiliated. They’re exiled," he said. "They suffer, we want them to suffer. We love the tumble, we love the crash and bang of the fall. And then we love the crawl-back. The grovel. Are you going to grovel? How long are you going to grovel? Are you going to cry?"
Continuing, "People, I think, figured they had that coming with Louie — he owes us that. We, the court of public opinion, decided if he’s going to come back, he’d better show a lot of pain. Because he denied them that."
Seinfeld wouldn't offer up any advice to C.K. on how he should handle his career, but he said plainly, "If he does it wrong, he’s going to suffer. And that’s his deal."
Comedian Sarah Silverman recently opened up about her relationship with C.K., sharing that he had masturbated in front of her — with her consent — in the past. "I’m not saying everyone should embrace Louis again," Silverman told Howard Stern. "I believe he has remorse. I just want him to talk about it onstage. He’s going to have to find his way or not find his way." She later apologized to one of C.K.'s victims for her comments.
Seinfeld mentioned Silverman's take. "The laws of comedy, we kind of make them up as we go. Part of entertainment, sometimes, is the life of the person. We want that to entertain us, too, as part of the act. We like your show, and then we like your messed-up life," he said, naming Richard Pryor as an example of that in the past. Now, Seinfeld says, "Somebody said it’s the first time that someone has misbehaved where all people ask about is, 'How’s the perpetrator? How’s he doing?' They don’t ask, 'How’s the victim?'"
The conversation then turned to the "suddenness and the precipitous fall" of entertainers like Roseanne Barr and Bill Cosby.
"The thing I think that’s new for people — let’s take Roseanne and Cosby — is the suddenness and the precipitous fall. So much work gone so fast. We’re upset at the speed of it, because it’s new. I would say about Roseanne, I never saw anything that bad happen from a finger-tap on a screen. A whole career: gone," he said.
Making clear that her firing and the subsequent canceling of Roseanne was justified, he focused on how it all played out at ABC: "They just went: You’re done. That is a new kind of moment. Usually, there’s a crumbling, a crack — someone tries to get in there with some Spackle. Maybe we can rebar this, maybe we can scaffold it. That’s what’s more typical."
When Seinfeld was asked how Cosby's conviction and crimes impact the idolatry of his talents, the comedian said, "I will not give up on having heroes. I know you can get hurt, but I am a hopeful person. I like to believe in people. I said to Ellen DeGeneres, humans — we have an abusive relationship with each other. We hate other people. We despise them. And then we see somebody play a beautiful piano concerto and we go, “Oh, people are the best.” They get us right back for more abuse."
Ending on a positive note, he said, "If you say a wrong thing, or do a wrong thing? It’s amazing, that this [social media and the internet] has become a portal for so much pain. But I do think, in the larger perspective, if you zoom out, this is all very positive. I think, mostly, about the victims of these things, they’ve got so much more of a platform now than, say, five years ago. That’s all great."