In January of 2015, Louis CK was before critics at a TCA press tour promoting the fifth season of his Emmy award-winning FX series, Louie. At the time he was the undisputed King of the comedy world, in stand-up and on television.
Louie — dark, fearless, funny and at times heartbreakingly sad — was my favourite TV show. The episode with Robin Williams was beyond brilliant. The series was a game changer in so many ways, including production costs; writing it, directing it and cutting it on his kitchen table, CK demonstrated you could deliver ground-breaking comedy content on a cable dime.
In the scrum after the TCA session that day, somebody asked CK to name some of his comedy influences.
“I love a lot of the guys you all know, like Richard Pryor and George Carlin. Then there was a lot of people who I saw when I started doing clubs like Brian Reagan, a great comedian. Guys I started with in Boston like Frank Santorelli, Steve Sweeney, Kevin Meaney — these were all guys I really watched all the time.”
CK went on to single out Joan Rivers, Lily Tomlin and Carol Burnett as influences in his younger days.
“Bill Cosby?” I asked. The Cosby allegations of sexual misconduct were exploding that very week.
CK barely hesitated.
“Yeah, Bill was a great comic, loved Bill,” said CK, looking me in the eye before blinking and quickly moving on. “Maria Bamford is somebody I love a lot right now, she’s really twisted and interesting… Jerry Seinfeld; Stephen Wright is a big hero of mine…”
CK isn’t the first comedian to suffer demons or screw up big time and he won’t be the last. The difference today is that your bad behaviour can be exposed to millions around the world in a viral minute. That doesn’t leave much room or time for due process. It can be a tremendous shortcut to justice — and to oblivion.
FX released a statement yesterday:
“We are obviously very troubled by the allegations about Louis C.K.,” it read. “The network has received no allegations of misconduct by Louis C.K. related to any of our 5 shows produced together over the past 8 years. FX Networks and FXP take all necessary actions to protect our employees and thoroughly investigate any allegations of misconduct within our workplace. That said, the matter is currently under review.”
As mentioned above, Louie went into some pretty dark corners during its run. Sex and violence and relationships were often at crossroads, especially during the Season Four episode that now plays like a 21-minute confessional, according to Vulture.
An even darker episode co-starring CK’s Better Things partner Pamela Adlon ran the following season. That was around the time when even big fans such as myself started to migrate from “Isn’t he brave” to “WTF?”
The New York Times published CK’s admission Friday that the accounts of real life sexual misconduct with five actresses detailed in Thursday’s original New York Times story were true. You can read CK’s mia culpa here. It’s a day late and a dollar short, but at least he owned up — although too late for HBO and Netflix, which both scrapped projects and have cut all ties with the comedian.