Louis C.K.'s path to a comeback likely runs through comedy clubs

For years, Louis C.K. performed insightful stand-up that drew laughs from dissecting how repellent men truly are, how they are driven by sexual desires to endless masturbation and mistreatment of women. Then last year America learned that when C.K. said “constant perverted sexual thoughts … make me into a moron,” he wasn’t actually joking.

A New York Times story forced C.K., 50, to confess to longstanding rumors that he had brought female comics back to his hotel room and masturbated in front of them. And while he was spotted at the Olive Tree Cafe (the restaurant above the Comedy Cellar) in February, the king of stand-up has been banished since the scandal broke. “Everybody dropped him,” says Louis Faranda, executive talent producer for Carolines, “which was the right thing to do.”

But no quote has ever been proven false more often than F. Scott Fitzgerald’s declaration that there are no second acts American lives, so the question is not really whether C.K. will eventually come back but when, where and how. The consensus is that while his behavior was clearly wrong it was not at the level of a Harvey Weinstein, James Toback or Bill Cosby. Comics and club owners alike agree with Gilbert Gottfried's opinion that “there are different levels of misbehavior” and the public understands the difference. (“The thing that to me was shocking and hurtful when I heard about Louis C.K.,” Gottfried adds, “was that he never once invited me to his hotel room to watch him masturbate.”)

“I don’t think people want this to be a life sentence,” says Comedy Cellar owner Noam Dworman. Faranda predicts that while “some might keep away,” C.K. will return within a year, “making fun of his mistakes.”

17 PHOTOS
Louis C.K. through the years
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Louis C.K. through the years
LATE NIGHT WITH CONAN O'BRIEN -- Episode 21 -- Pictured: (l-r) Comedian Louis C.K. during an interview with host Conan O'Brien on October 11, 1993 (Photo by: Norman Ng/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
Louis CK during The 10th Annual U.S. Comedy Arts Festival - Day One at St. Regis Hotel in Aspen, Colorado, United States. ***Exclusive*** (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc)
LATE NIGHT WITH CONAN O'BRIEN -- Episode 14 -- Pictured: (far right) Robert Smigel and Louis C.K. perform in the 'Conan the ----arian' sketch on September 30, 1993 (Photo by: Lesly Weiner/Network/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
(EXCLUSIVE, Premium Rates Apply) Louis CK, Joe Rogan, Artie Lange and Richard Schimmel *Exclusive* (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
LATE NIGHT WITH CONAN O'BRIEN -- Episode 21 -- Pictured: (l-r) Comedian Louis C.K. performs on October 11, 1993 -- (Photo by: Norman Ng/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 21: Actors Alan Alda, Sarah Jessica Parker, Matthew Broderick and Louis C.K. attend the premiere of 'Diminished Capacity' at the Eccles Theatre during 2008 Sundance Film Festival on January 21, 2008 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by George Pimentel/WireImage)
Mario Joyner, Louis C.K. and Chris Rock during HBO & AEG Live's 'The Comedy Festival' - The Comedian Award - Backstage at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada, United States. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc)
Stand-up comedian and director Louis C.K. poses for a photograph as he arrives for the premiere of his film "Hilarious" at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah January 26, 2010. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT)
Elvis Mitchell, Lance Crouther, Chris Rock and Louis C.K. *Exclusive* ***Exclusive*** (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc)
LATE NIGHT WITH CONAN O'BRIEN -- Episode 2102 -- Pictured: (l-r) Comedian Louis CK during an interview with host Conan O'Brien -- (Photo by: Norman Ng/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- 'Louis C.K.' Episode 1721 -- Pictured: Host Louis C.K. during the monologue on April 8, 2017 -- (Photo by: Will Heath/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- 'Louis C.K.' Episode 1721 -- Pictured: (l-r) Pete Davidson as Johnny, Cecily Strong as Louise, and host Louis C.K. as Sam during the 'Soda Shop' sketch on April 8, 2017 -- (Photo by: Will Heath/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- 'Louis C.K.' Episode 1721 -- Pictured: (l-r) Host Louis C.K. and Kate McKinnon as Polish Immigrants during the 'Tenement Museum' sketch on April 8, 2017 -- (Photo by: Will Heath/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 20: Louis C.K. and Pamela Adlon pose with an award during The 76th Annual Peabody Awards Ceremony at Cipriani, Wall Street on May 20, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Paul Zimmerman/Getty Images for Peabody)
Louis C.K. holds the Emmy awards for outstanding writing for a variety special for "Louis C.K. Live at the beacon Theatre" and outstanding writing in a comedy series for his show "Louie" at the 64th Primetime Emmy Awards in Los Angeles September 23, 2012. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni (UNITED STATES Tags: ENTERTAINMENT) (EMMYS-BACKSTAGE)
Comedian Louis C.K. arrives at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party in Beverly Hills, California February 28, 2016. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok
Cast member Zach Galifianakis and executive producer Louis C.K. participate in a panel for the FX Networks series "Baskets" during the Television Critics Association (TCA) Cable Winter Press Tour in Pasadena, California January 16, 2016. REUTERS/Kevork Djansezian
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Eileen Koch, founder of the branding and public relations firm Eileen Koch & Company, who represents Floyd Mayweather Jr., Jamie Foxx and Carmen Electra, says C.K. doesn't even need to wait that long if he gives a sincere apology. But she adds that if he is just saying sorry to get his career back, people will see through that, and she believes he should go on a serious program like 60 Minutes as opposed to addressing it in a comedic environment.

C.K.'s fellow comics disagree. Christopher Titus thinks C.K. should avoid the mea culpa interviews. “He needs to work on his best comedy about how he was a douche and how he is trying to make amends to women.”

Comic Sean Patton echoes that notion, saying, “The only way he comes back is if he heals — he should do an hour special that breaks down why it was wrong and how he’s made amends.”

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16 PHOTOS
Most successful SNL cast members, Saturday Night Live
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Most successful SNL cast members, Saturday Night Live
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 2 -- Aired 02/08/2001 -- Pictured: Will Ferrell as Alex Trebek during 'Jeopardy' skit (Photo by Mary Ellen Matthews/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- 'Anne Hathaway' Episode 1535 -- Pictured: Tina Fey as Governor Sarah Palin during the 'Vice Presidential Debate' skit on October 4, 2008 (Photo by Dana Edelson/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 8 -- Aired 12/16/2000 -- Pictured: Jimmy Fallon during 'Weekend Update' on December 16, 2000 (Photo by Dana Edelson/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 8 -- Pictured: Eddie Murphy as Solomon during the 'Pudge & Solomon' skit on December 10, 1983 -- (Photo by: RM Lewis Jr./NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 17 -- Aired 04/14/2007 -- Pictured: Amy Poehler as Dakota Fanning during 'The Dakota Fanning Show' skit on April 14, 2007 (Photo by Dana Edelson/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 9 -- Aired 12/16/2006 -- Pictured: Andy Samberg as guy during 'Dick in a Box' skit on December 16, 2006 (Photo by Dana Edelson/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 9 -- Pictured: Host Steve Martin on January 21, 1978 -- (Photo by: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 14 -- Pictured: Bill Murray during 'Weekend Update' on March 10, 1979 -- (Photo by: Fred Bronson/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 7 -- Air Date 11/20/1993 -- Pictured: Adam Sandler as Brian during 'The Denise Show' skit on November 20, 1993 (Photo by Raymond Bonar/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 6 -- Pictured: Julia Louis-Dreyfus during the 'Saturday Night News' skit on November 19, 1983 -- (Photo by: Alan Singer/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Pictured: Chevy Chase during 'Weekend Update' -- (Photo by: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- 'Josh Brolin' Episode 1536 -- Pictured: Kristen Wiig as Suze Orman during the 'The Suze Orman Show' skit on October 18, 2008 (Photo by Dana Edelson/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 10 -- Air Date 02/15/1986 -- Pictured: Robert Downey Jr. as Julian Lynch during the 'Models Against the Wilderness' skit on February 15, 1986 -- Photo by: Al Levine/NBCU Photo Bank
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 7 -- Air Date 12/03/1994 -- Pictured: Mike Myers as Rajneesh Singh during the 'Civil War Memories' skit on December 3, 1994 (Photo by Alan Singer/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 8 -- Pictured: Chris Rock during the 'Weekend Update' skit on December 7, 1991 (Photo by Alan Singer/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- 'Mick Jagger' Episode 1620 -- Pictured: (l-r) Bill Hader, Seth Meyers -- (Photo by: Dana Edelson/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
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Both Faranda and Dworman say they’d hand C.K. their microphones tomorrow. They expect he’ll address the issue. “He’s not going to come out and talk about climate change,” says comic Judy Gold, who appeared on Louie.

But Titus warns that C.K.’s redemption can’t seem too easy. “If that had been a homeless guy in a raincoat doing it to your wife, you’d want him in jail,” he says. “Just because he had fame and made people laugh, I don’t think he should get a hall pass. He has to earn it."

Aida Rodriguez, whose comedy is fierce on female empowerment, recently ran into C.K. at a restaurant. “I could tell he was shocked I said hello,” she says. “But if we stay on a war footing with this, we’ll never find solutions.”

Rodriguez says C.K.'s audience was not only huge but was filled with young men. “He has the chance to atone and to educate,” she says. “If he uses the opportunity to address his shortcomings, maybe he can change a few minds among his fans and maybe he can save a couple of girls from unnecessary and unwanted incidents.”

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