Five women ac­cuse Louis C.K. of sex­ual mis­con­duct

The Globe and Mail (Alberta Edition) - - NEWS - MELENA RYZIK CARA BUCK­LEY JODI KANTOR

Co­me­dian can­cels I Love You, Daddy movie pre­miere and ap­pear­ance on The Late Show With Stephen Col­bert amid al­le­ga­tions

In 2002, a Chicago com­edy duo, Dana Min Good­man and Ju­lia Wolov, landed their big break: a chance to per­form at the U.S. Com­edy Arts Fes­ti­val in Aspen, Colo. When Louis C.K. in­vited them to hang out in his ho­tel room for a night­cap after their late-night show, they did not think twice. The bars were closed and they wanted to cel­e­brate. He was a co­me­dian they ad­mired. The women would be to­gether. His in­ten­tions seemed col­le­gial.

As soon as they sat down in his room, still wrapped in their win­ter jack­ets and hats, Louis C.K. asked if he could take out his pe­nis, the women said.

They thought it was a joke and laughed it off. “And then he re­ally did it,” Ms. Good­man said in an in­ter­view with The New York Times. “He pro­ceeded to take all of his clothes off, and get com­pletely naked, and started mas­tur­bat­ing.”

In 2003, Abby Schachner called Louis C.K. to in­vite him to one of her shows, and dur­ing the phone con­ver­sa­tion, she said, she could hear him mas­tur­bat­ing as they spoke. An­other co­me­dian, Re­becca Corry, said that while she was ap­pear­ing with Louis C.K. on a tele­vi­sion pi­lot in 2005, he asked if he could mas­tur­bate in front of her. She de­clined.

Now, after years of ru­mours about Louis C.K. mas­tur­bat­ing in front of as­so­ci­ates, women are com­ing for­ward to de­scribe what they ex­pe­ri­enced. Even amid the cur­rent burst of sex­ual mis­con­duct ac­cu­sa­tions against pow­er­ful men, the sto­ries about Louis C.K. stand out be­cause he has so few equals in com­edy. In the years since the in­ci­dents the women de­scribe, he has sold out Madi­son Square Gar­den eight times, cre­ated an Em­my­win­ning TV se­ries, and ac­cu­mu­lated the clout of a tastemaker and au­teur, with the help of a man­ager who rep­re­sents some of the big­gest names in com­edy. And Louis C.K. built a rep­u­ta­tion as the un­likely con­science of the com­edy scene, by mak­ing au­di­ences laugh about hypocrisy – es­pe­cially male hypocrisy. After be­ing con­tacted for an in­ter­view this week about the on-the-record ac­cu­sa­tions of sex­ual mis­con­duct – en­coun­ters that took place more than a decade ago – Louis C.K.’s pub­li­cist, Lewis Kay, said the co­me­dian would not re­spond.

“Louis is not go­ing to an­swer any ques­tions,” Mr. Kay wrote in an e-mail Tues­day night.

Nei­ther Louis C.K. nor Mr. Kay replied to fol­low-up e-mails in which the ac­cu­sa­tions were laid out in de­tail, or to voice mes­sages or texts. On Thurs­day, the pre­miere of Louis C.K.’s new movie I Love You, Daddy, was abruptly can­celled, and he also can­celled an ap­pear­ance on The Late Show With Stephen Col­bert.

The sto­ries told by the women raise sharp ques­tions about the anec­dotes that Louis C.K. tells in his own com­edy.

He rose to fame in part by ap­pear­ing to be can­did about his flaws and sex­ual hang-ups, dis­cussing and mim­ing mas­tur­ba­tion ex­ten­sively in his act – an ex­ag­ger­ated riff that some of the women feel may have served as a cover for real mis­con­duct.

Louis C.K. has also boosted the ca­reers of women, and is some­times viewed as a fem­i­nist by fans and crit­ics. But Ms. Good­man and Ms. Wolov said that when they told oth­ers about the in­ci­dent in the Colorado ho­tel room, they heard that Louis C.K.’s man­ager was up­set that they were talk­ing about it openly. The women feared ca­reer reper­cus­sions. Louis C.K.’s man­ager, Dave Becky, was adamant in an e-mail that he “never threat­ened any­one.”

For co­me­di­ans, the pro­fes­sional en­vi­ron­ment is in­for­mal: pro­fan­ity and raunch that would be far out of line in most work­places are com­mon, and per­sonal foibles – the weirder the bet­ter – are rou­tinely mined for ma­te­rial. But Louis C.K.’s be­hav­iour was abu­sive, the women said.

“I think the line gets crossed when you take all your clothes off and start mas­tur­bat­ing,” Ms. Wolov said.

A fifth woman, who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity to pro­tect her fam­ily’s pri­vacy be­cause she has not been pub­licly linked to the in­ci­dent with Louis C.K., also has dis­turb­ing mem­o­ries about an in­ci­dent with the co­me­dian. In the late nineties, she was work­ing in pro­duc­tion at The Chris Rock Show when Louis C.K., a writer and pro­ducer there, re­peat­edly asked her to watch him mas­tur­bate, she said. She was in her early 20s and went along with his re­quest, but later ques­tioned his be­hav­iour.

“It was some­thing that I knew was wrong,” said the woman, who de­scribed sit­ting in Louis C.K.’s of­fice while he mas­tur­bated in his desk chair dur­ing a work­day, other col­leagues just out­side the door. “I think the big piece of why I said yes was be­cause of the cul­ture,” she con­tin­ued. “He abused his power.” A co-worker at The Chris Rock Show, who also wished to re­main anony­mous, con­firmed that the woman told him about the ex­pe­ri­ence soon after it hap­pened.

In Louis C.K.’s forth­com­ing film, about a tele­vi­sion writer whose teenage daugh­ter is wooed by a Woody Allen type, one char­ac­ter ag­gres­sively mim­ics mas­tur­bat­ing in front of oth­ers. The con­tent has raised eye­brows. Given the ru­mours sur­round­ing Louis C.K., the movie “plays like an am­bigu­ous moral in­ven­tory of and ex­cuse for ev­ery­thing that al­lows sex­ual preda­tors to thrive: open se­crets, toxic mas­culin­ity, and pow­er­ful peo­ple get­ting the ben­e­fit of the doubt,” Joe Berkowitz wrote in Fast Com­pany.

Yet in an in­ter­view with the Times in Septem­ber at the Toronto In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val, where I Love You, Daddy, was shown, Louis C.K. dis­missed sto­ries of his al­leged sex­ual mis­con­duct as “ru­mours,” and said the no­tion that the mas­tur­ba­tion scenes re­ferred to them never oc­curred to him.

“It’s funny, I didn’t think of that,” he said.

In pri­vate, though, he ap­pears to have ac­knowl­edged his be­hav­iour.

In 2009, six years after their phone call, Ms. Schachner re­ceived a Face­book mes­sage from Louis C.K., apol­o­giz­ing. “Last time I talked to you ended in a sor­did fash­ion,” he wrote in the mes­sage, which was re­viewed by The Times. “That was a bad time in my life and I’m sorry.” He added that he had seen some of Ms. Schachner’s com­edy and thought she was funny.

Ms. Schachner ac­cepted his apol­ogy and told him she for­gave him. But the orig­i­nal in­ter­ac­tion left her deeply dispir­ited, she said, and dis­cour­aged her from pur­su­ing com­edy.

He pro­ceeded to take all of his clothes off, and get com­pletely naked.

Dana Min Good­man Co­me­dian

AN­GELA LEWIS/NYT

Louis C.K. is seen in Toronto for the pre­miere of his movie at the Toronto In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val in Septem­ber. After years of ru­mours al­leg­ing the co­me­dian per­formed lewd acts in front of as­so­ci­ates, women are com­ing for­ward to de­scribe what they ex­pe­ri­enced.

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