Louis C.K.'s Return to Comedy Sparks Redemption Debate Among Club Bookers

The comedian drew condemnation for a surprise appearance at the Comedy Cellar only nine months after admitting to sexual misconduct. But among NYC club bookers, opinion is mixed.
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Louis C.K.’s surprise return to the stand-up comedy stage Aug. 26 at the Comedy Cellar in New York received loads of negative reaction from people who felt the comedian had not sufficiently apologized nor had he taken enough steps toward redemption after admitting to sexual misconduct last November. (“These stories are true, he said in a statement issued Nov. 10, 2017, to The New York Times which first reported the stories of five women with whom he had acted inappropriately.) 

But while social media was filled with opprobrium — "You've done nothing that merits forgiveness," tweeted Elayne Boosler — The Hollywood Reporter found that not everybody is slamming doors on a comeback, at least in New York.

Both Jamie Bendall, owner of The Punchline in Atlanta, and Al Martin, owner of the Broadway Comedy Club, in New York, say it’s hard to answer the question of whether they’d book C.K. right now because the opportunity is purely hypothetical. Bendall would not make a declaration about whether he’d have the responsibility to female comedians, audience members and society to turn C.K. away or request that he address the issue first. “That’s the challenging question at this point, and I don’t know that I have an answer,” he says.

But Martin would hand the microphone over. “My general feeling is he admitted to what he did, it cost him substantially and it has been a year. If America is about anything, it’s about a second chance,” he says.

Louis Faranda, who does the bookings for Caroline’s where C.K. has performed regularly in the past, said he feels terrible for the women C.K. mistreated but he too is ready to welcome back the comedian. “He has already apologized in the past,” Faranda says, adding that he is “sure it will never be enough.”

While he understands people’s anger, he considers C.K. a friend and says “I have to let him work through his mistakes. The only way he can is by getting onstage. I know Louie will be apologizing for a long time coming.”

On the left coast, it’s much quieter. The Comedy Store on Sunset Boulevard issued a terse “no comment” on whether they’d book him while The Laugh Factory did not respond to requests for comment.

A version of this story first appeared in the Sept. 5 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.