The shady side of Louis C.K.

Louis C.K. seems untouchable. He's one of the biggest comedians on the planet, selling out arenas on tour, making movies, and even doing voiceovers in cartoons such as The Secret Life of Pets (2016). Unfortunately, comedy's redheaded golden boy may have some skeletons in his closet that aren't necessarily going away. 

It's important to note that a lot of the allegations against C.K. that you're about to read are just that: allegations. No one has come out and proven them to be true, and C.K. has rarely acknowledged the controversies. With that in mind, we present the shady side of Louis C.K.

He played dumb about a huge rape joke controversy

In 2012, comedian Daniel Tosh came under fire for telling a heckler a poorly worded rape joke onstage. While the internet was outraged, C.K. just happened to think it was a good opportunity to tweet Tosh for what appeared to be the first time, writing (via The Hollywood Reporter), "@danieltosh your show makes me laugh every time I watch it. And you have pretty eyes."

Though the timing seemed uncanny, C.K. insisted it was just a coincidence. He told The Daily Show host Jon Stewart (via Us Weekly), "I was on vacation in Vermont, watching TV in a hotel room and Tosh's program came on. I stopped reading the internet [on vacation] and I wrote a tweet [to Tosh]. Two days later, I read these blogs [saying] 'Louis C.K. Defends Daniel Tosh Amid Rape Joke Controversy' and I didn't know about [the jokes]! I've been called a rape apologist, because I said 'hi' to a guy who everyone's mad at."

C.K. called the situation "a fight between comedians and feminists, which are natural enemies. Because, stereotypically speaking, feminists can't take a joke" and "comedians can't take criticism."

Jen Kirkman may or may not have accused him of sexual harassment

On an April 2015 episode of her podcast, I Seem Fun, comedian Jen Kirkman described an incident with a mega-famous male comic that many believed was C.K.

"I had another guy who is a very famous comic. He is probably at Cosby level at this point. He is lauded as a genius. He is basically a French filmmaker at this point," Kirkman said (via Death And Taxes). "You know, new material every year. He's a known perv. And there's a lockdown on talking about him… If I say it, my career is over. My manager and my agent have told me that… And this guy didn't rape me, but he made a certain difficult decision to go on tour with him really hard. Because I knew if I did, I'd be getting more of the same weird treatment I'd been getting from him. And it was really f**ked up, and this person was married."

Kirkman later deleted the aforementioned episode, but comedy fans linked her account with a blind item on Gawker in 2012 and largely believed C.K. was the mysterious culprit for both stories. This was based, in part, because C.K. releases new material every year in his stand-up specials.

Kirkman later told the Nerdist podcast (via Complex), "That person, on their own, was like, 'Yeah, I was kind of a creep.' I was like, 'You are a creep. That's who you are! And God bless you… So we talked, and that was it. I'm fine, because I was never violated." She also noted, "It's kind of obvious who I was talking about." 

In September 2017, Kirkman told The Village Voice, "There are rumors out there that Louis takes his d**k out at women. He has never done that to me. I never said he did, I never implied that he did… Sometimes there's nothing there. I think this might be a case of there's nothing there… If I'm wrong, I'm wrong, and if any women want to come forward and say what he's done, I'll totally back them, because I believe women. But I just don't know any."

The sketchy phone call story

Three years after Gawker ran the aforementioned blind items supposedly about C.K., its sister site, Defamer, published emails allegedly exchanged between C.K. and a fan named "Jason." Jason claimed to have emailed C.K. about the allegations because he has female comedian friends; Jason told the site that C.K. called him about the accusations and seemed to be fishing for information about what Jason supposedly knew. C.K.'s rep did not comment on those claims.

Anonymous sources came forward about the harassment allegations

Anonymous sources told Defamer in 2015 that C.K. allegedly sexually harassed a female comedy duo at the Aspen Comedy Festival as well as the Montreal Just For Laughs festival. C.K. and his rep never commented on the allegations. The actual sources remain unnamed, and no alleged victims came forward, so it's pretty impossible to verify the story.

His 2015 Saturday Night Live monologue was a doozy

Saturday Night Live often pushes the envelope, but C.K.'s May 2015 monologue on the late night weekend staple was one for the books. He covered everything from the Middle East to racism to pedophilia, prompting Twitter to basically set itself on fire. Even rapper Bun B wrote, "I grew up on SNL. Huge Louis C.K. fan. I know they both push the line. I get that. But that opening monologue…"

Roseanne called him out on harassment allegations

In March 2016, Roseanne Barr told the Daily Beast, "I've been speaking up [about sexism, sexual harassment, and sexual assault in comedy]… It's Louis C.K., locking the door and masturbating in front of women comics and writers. I can't tell you—I've heard so many stories. Not just him, but a lot of them," she said. "And it's just par for the course. It's just s**t women have to put up with." 

She told the Daily Beast in a followup email, "These allegations [against Louis C.K.] have been leveled and talked about for years. I do not have firsthand knowledge [of the incidents], though have heard women make these allegations."

C.K. dismissed the sexual harassment allegations in a March 2016 interview with Vulture. "I don't care about that. That's nothing to me. That's not real," he said, adding, "You can't touch stuff like that. There's one more thing I want to say about this, and it's important: If you need your public profile to be all positive, you're sick in the head. I do the work I do, and what happens next I can't look after. So my thing is that I try to speak to the work whenever I can. Just to the work and not to my life."

He was accused of copying a sketch by Tig Notaro...

In April 2017, C.K. hosted Saturday Night Live and appeared in a sketch called "Birthday Clown," in which he plays a depressed man who invites a birthday clown to perform for him alone. In 2015, comedian Tig Notaro released a short film called Clown Service, in which she invites a birthday clown to perform for her. Though the endings to each short are different (C.K. tells his clown that he's going to murder him, while Notaro bonds with hers), Notaro wasn't happy about the eerie similarities.

"It has been impossible for me to ignore the cacophony of voices reaching out personally and publicly about the potential plagiarizing of my film Clown Service," she told Entertainment Weekly in a statement. "While I don't know how all this actually happened, I did find it extremely disappointing… I have recently learned that a writer/director who was fully aware of Clown Service when I was making it actually worked on Louis C.K.'s clown sketch that is in question. Secondly, Louis C.K. and I have not communicated in any way for nearly a year and a half… I never gave anyone permission to use anything from my film. I hesitated to even address any of this, but I think it is only right to defend my work and ideas."

...and he could be taking credit for more of her work

Notaro told the Daily Beast that C.K. is still listed as an executive producer on her show One Mississippi (2015—)despite her constantly refuting his involvement in the project.

"He's never been involved," she said. "It's frustrating, because he has nothing to do with the show. But I don't waste my time on him or what anyone thinks. His name is on it. But we are writing the show, the writers' room. We're sitting in editing. We're acting. We're on set. We're doing press. And everyone that's directly involved in the show works very hard. They are decent, talented human beings. And I feel lucky to be surrounded by them. But yeah, he has nothing to do with the show."

He may have foreshadowed the Notaro incident

In 2010, comedian Dane Cook was accused of stealing a joke from C.K., which C.K. addressed on his show, Louie, in 2011. C.K. was diplomatic about the incident, telling Movieline, "I'm not sure he stole [the material]. I don't know that… I think it's possible he might have seen these bits and absorbed them, and not known that he took them from me. I worry about that myself sometimes. It's hard to know where your thoughts come from, especially when you have a thirst for material because you need it professionally… Nobody's perfect. Hopefully I don't do it."

Notaro called him out for ignoring the sexual harassment allegations

Notaro told the Daily Beast that she's not impressed with C.K.'s general lack of acknowledgement of his sexual harassment allegations. "I think it's important to take care of that, to handle that, because it's serious to be assaulted. It's serious to be harassed. It's serious, it's serious, it's serious," she said. 

She added, "And that's what we want to do with this show [One Mississippi]. We of course want to create comedy, but we also really, really feel like we have the opportunity to do something with One Mississippi, because it does not stop. And, you know, I walk around doing shows at comedy clubs and you just hear from people left and right of what some big-shot comedian or person has done. People just excuse it."

He refuses to discuss the allegations

In September 2017, The New York Times asked C.K. about the sexual harassment allegations and Notaro's commentary on them. He deflected again.

"I'm not going to answer to that stuff, because they're rumors. If you actually participate in a rumor, you make it bigger and you make it real," he said. "They're rumors, that's all that is… I don't know why [Notaro] said the things she's said, I really don't. I don't think talking about that stuff in the press and having conversations over press lanes is a good idea."

He defended racist and ableist language (and maybe Woody Allen)

C.K. wrote, edited, financed, and released a film called I Love You, Daddy (2017) in which a 17-year-old girl is romanced by a much older man, similar to Woody Allen's Manhattan (1979). C.K's film includes scenes in which characters use racial slurs and the word "retard."

"We're depicting oxygen-rich people who live in these beautiful apartments and offices saying whatever they want," he told The Hollywood Reporter. "Folks say s**t to each other. You can't think about the audience when you're making the thing. If you do, you're not giving them something that came out of your gut. You'll be making something that you're like, 'Is this OK for you?' And they say, 'Yes, thank you.' Mark Twain said something like, 'You can't say no one can eat steak just because the baby doesn't have teeth yet.'"

He added of Allen, "Woody is an ingredient [in the main character and story], along with a whole other generation of dudes who used to go up and down the age line a lot more easily. I grew up with that. Manhattan is a movie I saw as a kid, and I was like, 'OK, that's what people do.'… We're at the bleeding edge of 'That's not OK to do now,' but those people are still around. That's a very interesting line to be on. But there's a lot of people like that. [In other ways], this character is nothing like Woody. He's an eccentric. He's a very harsh dude. And he's not self-aware."