The last time Louis C.K. was in the Twin Cities, he made an unannounced appearance at one of his favorite venues, Acme Comedy Co., showing his support for the club, which was then in a war of words with a nearby parking lot developer.
“The place is gonna close, so I figured I’d get one more in at Acme,” he told a bowled-over crowd in 2016, just after wrapping a sold-out show at Target Center. “When this place closes it’ll be a Bennigan’s or a Sunglass Hut.”
Nearly three years later, Acme is healthier than ever; C.K.’s career is another matter.
When the comedian returns to the club Tuesday for eight shows over four nights it will be in the wake of sins that many are not yet ready to forgive.
C.K. admitted in late 2017 that he had previously engaged in sexual misconduct, specifically exposing himself to women who either worked for him or admired him.
“The power I had over these women is that they admired me,” C.K. wrote in a public letter, confirming the squeamish stories five victims told the New York Times. “And I wielded that power irresponsibly. I have been remorseful of my actions.”
His apology wasn’t enough. FX, which aired his critically acclaimed series “Louie,” cut all ties with him. His movie, “I Love You, Daddy,” was shoved to the back of the shelf. Stand-up was out of the question.
But last September, C.K. came out of hiding for unannounced appearances at New York’s Comedy Cellar, the club that’s featured in the opening credits of his self-titled sitcom. Many audience members were thrilled; some walked out.
Since then, C.K. has performed throughout the country, usually with just a few days’ notice. This week’s appearances in Minneapolis were only announced on Saturday. A total of 2,200 tickets for the eight shows sold out in six hours.
But plenty of people responded negatively to the booking on social media, including comedians Nikki Glaser and Laurie Kilmartin, “Welcome to the Dollhouse” actress Heather Matarazzo and “Top Chef” host Padma Lakshmi.
“Buy tickets to someone else,” tweeted comic Emily Galati, who has performed at Acme in the past. “There are plenty of comics who haven’t sexually assaulted someone who could use your support.”
Local comic Kate McCarthy also believes there are better ways that comedy fans could spend their money.
“There’s so much other local talent, support them instead!” she said by e-mail.
Other comics have used stage time to show their support and dissent. Last month, Dave Chappelle used part of one late-night set at the Varsity Theater to scold those who want to banish C.K. from the entertainment world, insisting that they’ve misinterpreted the facts of the case.
In his performance this past Saturday night at the Cedar Cultural Center, Bobcat Goldthwait was scathing in his comments about C.K., specifically ripping him for recent material that ridiculed teenage survivors of the Parkland shooting.
C.K. himself addressed the fallout from that routine during a recent performance in Tampa Bay.
If you want to make people forget that you masturbated in front of someone, “tell a joke about some kids that got shot in school,” he said, according to the Tampa Bay Times. “That’s worse ... they tend to forget the first thing.”
Acme owner Louis Lee was well aware of the debate when C.K.’s people first started discussing a Twin Cities appearance with him seven months ago.
“The comedy community is divided in half,” Lee said Sunday. “No matter what I do, you’re not going to win.”
Lee believes his longtime friend has served his sentence.
“He had three creative outlets: TV, movies and stand-up. Two of the three have been taken away,” Lee said. “I partly believe it’s not right for me to take away the last creative outlet he’s got, even though many other clubs across the country have turned him down. I respect those clubs, but we’ve got history together. He’s paid the price.”
C.K. hasn’t done a press interview since late 2017 and he couldn’t be reached earlier this week for comment. But based on reports from recent performances, he’s likely to address the consequences of his sordid actions during his time on the Acme stage. Both fans and detractors will be eager to hear what he has to say.