Comedian-filmmaker Louis C.K., known for his edgy, sex-seeped comedy, now is the latest Hollywood figure accused of sexual misconduct: Five women told The New York Times he masturbated in front of them or tried to, without their consent.
In a story published Thursday, the Times identified four women by name, and a fifth who was anonymous, who recounted similar stories of C.K. crossing the line of sexual misconduct in their encounters with them dating back more than a decade.
Chicago comedy duo Dana Min Goodman and Julia Wolov described how, after their big-break performance at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, Colo., in 2002, C.K. invited them to hang out in his hotel room for a nightcap. They thought he was joking when he asked if he could take out his penis.
“And then he really did it,” Goodman told The Times. “He proceeded to take all of his clothes off, and get completely naked, and started masturbating.”
"In 2003, Abby Schachner called 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," the Times story continued. "Another comedian, Rebecca Corry, said that while she was appearing with C.K. on a television pilot in 2005, he asked if he could masturbate in front of her. She declined."
The women's allegations called into question whether C.K.'s comedic schtick — he's known for his candor about his sexual hang-ups and his frequent talk about masturbation in his act — has served as a longtime cover for real misconduct.
The Times said C.K.’s publicist, Lewis Kay, said the comedian would not respond to the allegations. “Louis is not going to answer any questions,” Kay wrote in an email Tuesday night.
The consequences of impending scandal revelations were obvious even before the Times story broke: The premiere of C.K.'s new black-and-white film, I Love you, Daddy, scheduled for Thursday night in New York, was canceled, abruptly and with no explanation, earlier on Thursday.
His appearance on CBS' The Late Show With Stephen Colbert on Friday also was canceled, with William H. Macy taking his place.
The Hollywood Reporter claimed Thursday that a coming New York Times story on the comedian was about to break and the premiere was canceled in case it was damaging.
"This evening’s premiere has been canceled due to unexpected circumstances," according to a statement issued by Kate Lowell, a spokeswoman for I Love You, Daddy.
After the story was published, the film's distributor, The Orchard, issued a new statement:
“In light of the allegations concerning Louis C.K. referenced in today’s New York Times, we are canceling tonight’s premiere of I Love You, Daddy. There is never a place for the behavior detailed in these allegations. As a result, we are giving careful consideration to the timing and release of the film and continuing to review the situation,” read the statement issued by Anna Dinces Janash, spokeswoman for The Orchard.
The film, which C.K. self-funded and filmed in secret, made USA TODAY's reviewer, Andrea Mandell, feel "nauseous" when she saw it at the Toronto International Film Festival in September.
The film is about a New York TV writer's flummoxed reaction to a budding relationship between his 17-year-old daughter (Chloë Grace Moretz) and a 68-year-old filmmaker who is his idol (John Malkovich). Instead of shutting this duo down tout suite, C.K.'s character instead makes a passionate speech defending a relationship that could amount to statutory rape.
Aside from controversial dialogue, including use of the N-word by C.K.'s character and multiple jokes about child rape, critics have noted the film's similarity to Woody Allen's 1979 film Manhattan (teen girl in relationship with man in 40s played by Allen), not to mention the longstanding sexual abuse allegations (never proven) made against Allen by his own daughter.
The Times story's three listed writers included Jodi Kantor, who also co-wrote the paper's earlier investigative reports on fallen movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, accused by nearly 80 women of sexually harassing, coercing, assaulting or raping them in episodes dating back four decades. That Oct. 5 story, and another on Weinstein in The New Yorker a week later, set off a cascade of allegations of sexual misdeeds against Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and other Hollywood figures that continues.
C.K. has been dogged for years by allegations of sexual harassment against female comics. Roseanne Barr once claimed he is known to force women he works with to watch him masturbate, though she later acknowledged she had no firsthand knowledge.
"Well, you can’t touch stuff like that," C.K. told Vulture last year. "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.”
Tig Notaro told The Daily Beast that C.K. needs to "handle" his sexual-misconduct rumors. "Because it’s serious to be assaulted," Notaro said. "It’s serious to be harassed. It’s serious, it’s serious, it’s serious.” She said it's common talk at comedy clubs "what some big-shot comedian or person has done. People just excuse it.”
Notaro also suggested there was an “incident” that happened between her and C.K., without going into detail. “We don’t talk since then,” she said, even though he's credited as a producer on the comedian’s Amazon series One Mississippi.
Another comedian, Jen Kirkman, mentioned rumors about C.K.'s reputation for misconduct in the comedian community in a podcast in 2015, then walked it back. She said he had never done anything to her and never implied that he did. In fact, she said she talks to him on a regular basis.
Kirkman isn’t sure about the rumors, she told AV Club in September.
“Sometimes there’s nothing there. I think this might be a case of there’s nothing there,” Kirkman said. “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…"
C.K.'s recent projects include Baskets, a black comedy about clowns that premiered on FX in 2016, and Better Things, a comedy-drama in its second season on FX about a divorced actress raising three daughters.
"The series co-creators (C.K. and Pamela Adlon) embrace the unsettling as they explore difficult but real topics," USA TODAY's reviewer Bill Keveney reported.
“What we found out is that when we start going down a road and exploring a storyline, if it’s making either of us uncomfortable, we know we’re onto something,” Adlon told him in September.