By Alex Downing
Louis Székely, better known as Louis C.K., is a man of many hats. He has found success as a writer, actor, director and producer throughout his three-decade-long career. It was his stand-up comedy that really skyrocketed him to meteoric success, though. From 2005 to 2017, the world watched as an unassuming and perpetually nervous man become one of the highest-grossing and most prominent comedians in the industry.
However, last year Louis C.K. was forced to put on a new hat: that of an abuser. In November, 2017, five women came out with allegations of sexual misconduct against the comedian. The alleged incidents all occurred between 1999 and 2005 and even though nobody was physically assaulted, the emotional scars that these traumatic ordeals caused were painful nonetheless.
Immediately, fans jumped to Louis’s defense. Some were skeptical of these claims altogether, while many others failed to see the severity of the offenses. Louis quickly confirmed them, though, and condemned those attempting to justify his actions.
When I first heard the news of these allegations, I was saddened greatly. Louis C.K. was my favorite comedian. His unabashed approach to storytelling and his quiet wisdom appealed to me in a profound way. I can recall one instance in particular that largely amplified my fondness of him.
I was having an exceptionally difficult go at life, so I decided to sit down and watch an episode of Conan O’Brien’s late-night show to occupy myself. Louis just so happened to be the the guest. Their interview interview started off jovial but soon took a serious turn. They landed on the topic of mental health. Louis explained that there is beauty in allowing yourself to truly feel the full wrath of negative emotions. That distractions are temporary and subtract from the full impact that sadness and anger and hurt are supposed to have on you. That you miss out on some of life’s greatest lessons if you choose to ignore the uncomfortability of negativity. This sentiment has stuck with me to this day.
The task of having to decide if I was able to separate Louis’s work from the bad things he had done was not easy. It was an ethical dilemma. That is, until Louis C.K. made it easy for me. Shortly after the allegations began circulating, Louis took it upon himself to write a lengthy letter to The New York Times. In this letter, Louis took full responsibility for everything, validated the victim’s claims, expressed sincere remorse, and announced his willing departure from the public eye.
What Louis C.K. did was not okay. He deserved scrutiny and a temporary hiatus from his career. However, Louis C.K. deserves a second chance now. Because owning up to an offense is unfortunately rare in this current social climate. If the public welcomes the return of someone like Louis C.K., a nonviolent offender, it could open the door for other abusers to admit their wrongdoings. It could show them that being guilty is not the end of the road for them. That there is a chance for redemption.
Receiving validation and an apology from the person who abused you, in cases that don’t warrant legal recourse, is perhaps the closest you can get to being at peace with a traumatic event. Let Louis C.K. be an example of what to do in this situation.