The huge bursts of laughter and rounds of applause that could be heard in Louis C.K.’s most recent leaked set proved the controversial comedian remains incredibly popular despite admitting to sexual misconduct in November 2017. Even when C.K. was making jokes about gender pronouns and the Parkland school shooting survivors, both of which earned a lot of backlash online, the audience could still be heard laughing.
C.K.’s return to the stand-up comedy circuit has forced bookers to reconcile with the potential fallout of hiring C.K. for a gig. Is the backlash worth it? Does C.K. deserve a second chance? Is it easy to reject a comedian who so clearly still has a powerful brand and a marquee name? These were the questions posed by Jezebel to Wende Curtis, CEO of Comedy Works. The Denver-based comedy venue is one of the biggest in the country, with high profile stars such as Jenny Slate, Ali Wong, Bob Saget, Natasha Leggero, and Marc Maron all headlining in the first half of the new year.
“It’s a legendary room and when [comedians] get in there it’s magical,” Curtis said.
Curtis confirmed she recently got an email from Louis C.K.’s assistant asking to book a date for the comedian to perform at the club in April, to which she didn’t hesitate to send a list of available times. “It wasn’t until after I had sent that back that I really realized, this is Louis C.K. and he wants to come in,” Curtis said. That’s when the Comedy Works CEO realized bringing C.K. to her venue was a murky grey area as a business owner.
“I was conflicted,” Curtis told Jezebel. “I’d love to have Louis C.K. and those numbers and that marquee name in my club. But for obvious reasons, I was conflicted. I wanted to dig back in to what had happened.”
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Curtis read the original New York Times profile that first broke the story about C.K.’s history of sexual misconduct and masturbating in front of other female comics. She decided to reach out to one of C.K.’s victims via email, writing, “I want to know from you how that would make you feel” in regards to Comedy Works booking C.K. for a gig.
“She sent me a link to what she’d said in an article and added, ‘I’ll say no more on the subject,’” Curtis said.
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Curtis thought it would be best to talk to C.K. directly, and her request to have a conversation with him was approved by his assistant. In the lead up to her meeting with C.K., Curtis said she got cold feet and backed out. “I thought, ‘I’m not going to make a difference with him,” she said. Curtis’ ultimate decision not to book C.K. was because of his lack of showing growth over his sexual misconduct in recent stand-up sets.
“On a personal level, I respect his comedy,” Curtis continued. “I’ve come up with his comedy…And I believe in second chances. Everybody makes mistakes. I’ve made so many myself. From what I’ve heard from comedians in New York who have regularly seen him come into the Cellar and the other things I’ve read, I don’t think he’s in a place. It seems like he thinks, ‘I did a fuckin’ year, fuck you, I’m coming back.’ That’s my speculation, though I don’t know. So I did say this, from my club, from me right now, it’s just not the right thing.”