Swim at your own risk. We never know who is going to pop in. If an unannounced appearance is not your cup of tea,
you are free to leave (unobtrusively please) no questions asked, your check on the house.

That’s a sign on the wall of The Comedy Cellar, the nightclub in New York that features regular lineups of standups, occasionally interrupted by a big name star who drops in to do a set, unannounced. The same verbiage appears on the back of tickets to the venue, which added it after Louis CK infamously stopped in and did a 15-20 minute chunk of material onstage at the end of August to the dismay of some audience members who weren’t happy that the comic was being allowed to return so soon (nine months) after admitting he’d committed sexually inappropriate behavior — but without making restitution or personal apologies to the women he’d wronged.

Well, according to the NY Times, CK did it again Sunday night. Not the masturbating, but the performing. He showed up at the Cellar and was granted 20 minutes of stage time, getting far too much approval from the audience, except for two women who walked out and a few others who weren’t happy but stayed.

Noam Dworman, owner of the Comedy Cellar, has defended allowing CK back on stage, asking those who object how long a man should be punished for such actions. This is the same sort of nonsense rhetoric you get from Brett Kavanaugh defenders who wonder why something their guy did long ago is still an issue. In both matters, it’s not a matter of when, but of how — how those men handled their respective incidents. In Kavanaugh’s case, his response has been to invoke the Full Court Trump strategy that involves angrily denying, denying, denying everything he’s accused of and blaming those raising questions with doing so for purely political purposes. For CK, there’s been no denial, but also no real mea culpa moment other than a single statement he issued late last year when the stories about his misbehavior became too overwhelming. He didn’t admit anything willingly. He did it because there was a preponderance of claims against him. But since then, he’s done nothing to try to right his wrongs.

Dworman has been particularly defensive on the CK issue, spending an entire episode of one podcast verbally lambasting the women who challenged him about granting CK access to the Comedy Cellar microphones again. I wonder if Dworman would have let Bill Cosby do a drop-in set before he was sent to prison (not that CK and Cosby committed the same crimes, but by Dworman’s logic, the passage of time would allow Cosby that opportunity).

None of this is to say that Dworman shouldn’t book comedians who might say something offensive. No one who goes to his or any comedy club should ever feel guaranteed that their feelings won’t be hurt or that they won’t hear anything that bothers them in some way. In fact, from my years doing radio shows, I know that that there is always someone who takes offense every single day. Anyone that sensitive shouldn’t be in the room in the first place.

But that’s not the same as letting an admitted sexual offender pop in as a surprise. If Dworman wanted to book CK and make it publicly known ahead of time, that’s fine. Then customers could decide to go or not. But in this case, Dworman had to know CK’s intentions ahead of time and told whoever was hosting that night that he would be showing up. He also had to know the appearance would get attention afterwards, creating more publicity for his club. In his mind, that’s all that matters.

However, speaking as a comedy consumer, if I had taken my daughter back to the Comedy Cellar on Sunday to enjoy a night of standup from various comics, and it was ruined by CK appearing with no notice, comping me on the two-drink-minimum would not make up for it.

Previously on Harris Online…