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Comedy does not justify someone’s condemning acts

Louis C.K. accused of sexual misconduct, returns to the stage year later

Written By John Karavis, For The Globe

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Louis C.K. is a funny guy. But he’s also a flawed guy. I first discovered his comedy in high school and was immediately hooked.

His wide vocabulary and enlightening observations about the irreverent intricacies of social interaction worked magic on my young ears, and I immediately adopted him – along with George Carlin, Dave Chappelle and Stephen Colbert – into my Mount Rushmore of comedic figures.

So, last year, when C.K. faced allegations of sexual misconduct and widespread public backlash, I began to question my fandom for a variety of reasons.

The first, and most obvious, was whether it’s possible to distinguish a person’s behavior from their art.

When looking at public figures, mainly comedians, many see fictitious portrayals of characters or alter egos as true representations of the entertainer’s morals.

This, however, can be dangerous. Pigeonholing an actor – and that’s what a comedian is, an actor, no different than a film or theatre star – based off the roles he or she plays, holds the performer to a completely unrealistic set of ethical standards, especially in the reactionary, social media-driven world we now
live in.

Seth Rogen isn’t a dimwitted, pot-reeking moron. He just plays one on
television.

To most, the truly shocking part of the entire Bill Cosby saga was the stark difference between Cosby the sexual predator and Cliff Huxtable, his pudgy, lovable on-screen personality.

The decision on whether real-life actions impact a consumer’s enjoyment of a product must be left to the individual viewer.

Personally, as someone who grew up a fan of “The Cosby Show,” I find it nearly impossible to watch the reruns which still often air on cable networks without mental images of irredeemable violence by the man behind the titular character.

With C.K., though, it’s more complicated. I am in no way attempting to defend C.K.’s actions or vindicate the harm he caused, but I do think it’s important to make distinctions between C.K.’s behavior and that of others like Cosby, Kevin Spacey or Harvey Weinstein.

Once again, C.K. deserved all the backlash he received when these allegations surfaced, and the women who came forward should be commended for their courage and bravery.  Even with this in mind, it’s irresponsible to ignore the differences between misconduct and
assault.

This is why it disappointed me when so many condemned his recent return to the stand-up stage.

Louis did some disgusting things to several women, but unlike many public figures, he didn’t bombard the media with ham-fisted denials and hapless excuses.

He owned up to his mistakes and apologized. Does that justify his actions? Of course not. There isn’t, nor will there ever be, an acceptable excuse for such
conduct.

But in a country where a man who repeatedly dismisses issues like the wage gap and has bragged about his sexually offensive antics in public is then elected president, it seems hypocritical to bemoan a comedian for returning to work nearly a year after these reports emerged.

There are many ways to handle C.K.’s return to comedy, but shipping him into exile seems to be the least helpful.

As a fan, I’d much rather see C.K. use his wide platform to educate and urge others towards a safer, more tolerant environment.

Despite the onslaught of varying opinions there is no clear, correct way to handle situations like this. Some will curse C.K. the rest of his career while others will accept him back, oblivious to his past transgressions.

For me, much like Cosby, it’s difficult to see C.K. in the same light, although to a different degree.

“The Cosby Show” is forever stained in my eyes, and I doubt I’ll ever intentionally watch another episode.

Regarding C.K.’s work, my willingness to invest in him is dependent on his future actions, rather than past. So, yes, Louis C.K. is a funny guy.  But he’s also a
flawed guy.

And it’s up to his audience to decide whether the flaws outweigh the funny.

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