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Louis CK Sold Out Addison Shows; Some Comedians Aren’t Laughing 18

Louis CK was one of the country’s most popular comedians in 2017. Then at least five women accused him of sexual misconduct, and he admitted those accusations were true.

Now, he’s back on stage — and this week, he quietly sold out several shows at the Addison Improv.

Danny Gallagher has been following all this for the Dallas Observer, though he didn’t get into one of the shows this week. Gallagher sat down with me for this week’s  State of the Arts conversation. You can click above to listen to the interview that aired on KERA FM. Or check it out below.

Louis CK took a break from performing until late 2018. And he’s done a handful of shows since then, mostly on the East Coast. They’ve attracted some controversy. How’d he wind up at the Addison Improv?

DGAccording to the manager, what little he told me, his team reached out and said he wants to do a couple shows. And they said yes.

And they didn’t talk further to you and I should say, we reached out to the Addison Improv and they declined to comment to KERA as well. You’ve spoken with several comedians here in North Texas who are really upset. And many of them, especially female comics, look at this as a personal safety issue.

Here’s Ruth Banks:

Well, if nothing else it’s a workplace safety issue. As a comedian, a big part of doing comedy is interacting with other comedians. The fact that there’s a known predator out there that’s still getting stage time tells me that within my community if something like that would happen, I don’t necessarily know that they would receive the condemnation that they deserve, because on the biggest stage we’re being told,  if you can get the laughs if you can fill the seats, we’ll tolerate it. And that’s a very scary thing.

DGYeah that was the main concern echoed by people who were upset that he was there. What he did was wrong and very inappropriate and disgusting. And it kind of left a stain on his comedy. It’s always just in the back of your mind. For women, I can’t imagine how that feels. I’d say a punch in the gut but it’s probably much deeper than I could ever understand. And some male comics said that too.

Some people you spoke with feel like Louis CK deserves a second chance. What were they saying?

DGThey don’t excuse what he did. But they say he’s still a genius comedian and he has a right to perform if he wants to. And it’s up to the venue to say OK, you can do it, or no, we’re not comfortable having you.

Another part of it is, they want to hear what he has to say. Because he had this massive fall from being on comedy’s Mt. Rushmore to just disappearing for two years. They want to hear him. It’s going to come up in his act.

From what I’m told, he addressed it right at the beginning of the show. I don’t know how, because I wasn’t in the show. And even if I did get in, the security was really tight. They were confiscating cell phones and smart watches. I remember the Addison website saying if you’re seen with a notebook, you’ll be asked to leave.

He’s received a lot of backlash about some of the the jokes that have leaked that he’s been telling, about 9-11, about transgender people.  Do you notice a shift in his tone?

DGNo. To me he’s the same Louis CK he’s always been. He’s always been a shock comedian.

Shock and comedy go together. Because comedy works like horror. The timing’s the same. You do the build up, and then you release the jump-scare or the punchline. If people were offended by that, that just falls in that category of the never-ending debate between what’s offensive and what’s comedy. To me, that’s more subjective.

Why do you think he chose to come to Addison?

DGA lot of comedians come to Dallas to test out material in a smaller venue before they go do a big show.

I feel like part of the reason he’s doing these shows is mainly to get back into comedy and what he does best or what he presumably loves to do.

But I think he also wanted to see how should I talk about this, in the context of a comedy show. You know, he’s not going to read a public statement. There’s going to be a joke in there. Given the kind of comedy he does, I think he’s testing to see, how shocking can I be or  what’s the most clever way to address it.

I’m just conjecturing, but it feels like he’s doing these shows to see what the reaction is to him being on stage.