5 Women Accuse Comedian Louis C.K. of Sexual Misconduct

Julia Wolov, left, and Dana Min Goodman said they felt “paralyzed” during an incident with him in Aspen, Colo.
Emily Berl for The New York Times

In 2002, a Chicago comedy duo, Dana Min Goodman and Julia Wolov, landed their big break: a chance to perform at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, Colo. When Louis C.K. invited them to hang out in his hotel room for a nightcap after their late-night show, they did not think twice. The bars were closed and they wanted to celebrate. He was a comedian they admired. The women would be together. His intentions seemed collegial.

As soon as they sat down in his room, still wrapped in their winter jackets and hats, Louis C.K. asked if he could take out his penis, the women said.

They thought it was a joke and laughed it off. “And then he really did it,” Ms. Goodman said in an interview with The New York Times. “He proceeded to take all of his clothes off, and get completely naked, and started masturbating.”

In 2003, Abby Schachner called Louis 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. Another comedian, Rebecca Corry, said that while she was appearing with Louis C.K. on a television pilot in 2005, he asked if he could masturbate in front of her. She declined.

Now, after years of unsubstantiated rumors about Louis C.K. masturbating in front of associates, women are coming forward to describe what they experienced. Even amid the current burst of sexual misconduct accusations against powerful men, the stories about Louis C.K. stand out because he has so few equals in comedy. In the years since the incidents the women describe, he has sold out Madison Square Garden eight times, created an Emmy-winning TV series, and accumulated the clout of a tastemaker and auteur, with the help of a manager who represents some of the biggest names in comedy. And Louis C.K. built a reputation as the unlikely conscience of the comedy scene, by making audiences laugh about hypocrisy — especially male hypocrisy.

After being contacted for an interview this week about the on-the-record accusations of sexual misconduct — encounters that took place over a decade ago — Louis C.K.’s publicist, Lewis Kay, said the comedian would not respond. “Louis is not going to answer any questions,” Mr. Kay wrote in an email Tuesday night.

Neither Louis C.K. nor Mr. Kay replied to follow-up emails in which the accusations were laid out in detail, or to voice messages or texts. On Thursday, the premiere of Louis C.K.’s new movie “I Love You, Daddy,” was abruptly canceled, and he also canceled an appearance on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert.”

The stories told by the women raise sharp questions about the anecdotes that Louis C.K. tells in his own comedy. He rose to fame in part by appearing to be candid about his flaws and sexual hang-ups, discussing and miming masturbation extensively in his act — an exaggerated riff that some of the women feel may have served as a cover for real misconduct. He has all but invited comparison between his private life and his onscreen work, too: In “I Love You, Daddy,” which is scheduled to be released next week, a character pretends to masturbate at length in front of other people, and other characters appear to dismiss rumors of sexual predation.

At the same time, Louis C.K. has also boosted the careers of women, and is sometimes viewed as a feminist by fans and critics. But Ms. Goodman and Ms. Wolov said that when they told others about the incident in the Colorado hotel room, they heard that Louis C.K.’s manager was upset that they were talking about it openly. The women feared career repercussions. Louis C.K.’s manager, Dave Becky, was adamant in an email that he “never threatened anyone.”

For comedians, the professional environment is informal: profanity and raunch that would be far out of line in most workplaces are common, and personal foibles — the weirder the better — are routinely mined for material. But Louis C.K.’s behavior was abusive, the women said.

“I think the line gets crossed when you take all your clothes off and start masturbating,” Ms. Wolov said.

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SOURCE: New York Times, Melena Ryzik, Cara Buckley and Jodi Kantor