Should I Care if Louis C.K. is a Pervert?

Louis C.K’s dick jokes are legendary. It’s what he might have done with his dick offstage that’s problematic.

Rumors of C.K.’s sexual misconduct aren’t new but resurfaced last week when fellow comedian Tig Notaro discussed the second season of her show One Mississippi with The Daily Beast.

Notaro emphasized that while C.K. is credited as an executive producer on the show, he isn’t involved with its production. The new season also features a scene where a female comedian is sexually harassed by a male comic who forces her to watch him masturbate—an instance similar to the allegations against C.K. The piece goes into greater detail about how Notaro and C.K.’s working relationship has deteriorated, including an allegation of plagiarism.

We’ve heard this story before: super famous comedian is hilarious but is rumored to do some disgusting/reprehensible/criminal thing offstage. It remains unconfirmed, but eventually, enough people corroborate the story that we’re forced to pay attention.

To his most ardent fans (myself included), C.K. isn’t just an outstanding stand-up. He’s a modern day, down-to-earth philosopher with amazing takes on everything. His late night appearances are must-sees, and his persona is immensely relatable to single, chubby, cynical white dudes (who make up like 87 percent of comedy fans). One YouTuber wondered whether C.K. had “the best brain in human history.” I used to scour podcast feeds digging for as many Louie interviews as I could find. I wanted to hear his opinions on everything.  And I still do.

C.K. hasn’t been formally accused or charged with anything. But with more than one person telling the same tale (including Roseanne Barr), it’s a lot harder to shake off those rumors. It’s making me think, again, about who Louis C.K. is without a camera trained on him or a mic in his hand.

Somehow this feels different than when other public figures are accused of detestable things. Lewd behavior is almost expected of musicians, politicians and even athletes. When Michael Vick was busted for dogfighting back in 2007, I buried my Number 7 Falcons jersey in disgust. But while I was shocked, I still watched his highlights and played as him in video games. Even killing dogs couldn’t stop me from loving him as a football player.

The difference with C.K. is that his professional persona is a truth teller and occasional moralist. He mines uncomfortable subjects for humor. Like many of the best comedians, he is seen as a voice of reason in a chaotic world.

And when comedians are as good as Louie, it’s easy to get caught up in their work. If their celebrity shines bright enough, it can obscure fucked up stuff that might be going on behind the scenes. Women accused Bill Cosby of rape for more than three decades before he became the social pariah he is today.

I’m not here to argue how forcing women to watch you jerk off stacks up morally against dozens of rape allegations. Louis C.K. is far from the first transcendent artist with rumors of gross behavior, and he won’t be the last. As much as I don’t want to believe the stories are true, they have changed my perception of C.K.

The rumors can’t take back how hard I’ve laughed at his jokes or how much I’ve appreciated his shows. I still consider him a comedic genius. But Notaro’s words are a fresh reminder that the celebrity you idolize, no matter how smart or funny or talented, is still a person. And people are capable of messed up things.

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