Louis C.K. Wins Grammy While Canceled

Is the creepy comic's comeback complete?

NPR (“Louis C.K. crawls out of cancellation, wins a Grammy and triggers a backlash“):

Louis C.K. brought home a Grammy Sunday despite having admitted to sexual misconduct and subsequently enduring almost five years in professional comedy purgatory.

C.K.’s album, Sincerely Louis C.K., beat out five other nominees – including Lewis Black, Kevin Hart and Chelsea Handler – for best comedy album at the 64th Grammy Awards. The comeback album was his first release since C.K., 54, was accused of masturbating in front of multiple female colleagues in November 2017.

Twitter users lashed out almost immediately following the Recording Academy’s announcement, many of which pointed out the irony that C.K.’s winning album made light of the very misconduct that derailed his career years ago.

Hollywood Reporter (“Louis C.K. Wins Grammy for Comedy Album in Which He Addresses Sexual Misconduct Revelations“):

Louis C.K.’s 2020 comedy special in which he joked about the sexual misconduct revelations against him has won the award for best comedy album at the 2022 Grammys.

Sincerely Louis CK, the disgraced comedian’s first special since 2017 — the same year he acknowledged several accusations of sexual misconduct that were made against him — was nominated alongside Lavell Crawford’s The Comedy Vaccine, Chelsea Handler’s Evolution, Lewis Black’s Thanks for Risking Your Life, Nate Bargatze’s The Greatest Average American and Kevin Hart’s Zero Fucks Given.

In the special, C.K. addresses the allegations, including the experience of going out in public after they came to light. Back in 2017, during the early days of the #MeToo movement, at least five women made allegations against the comedian, including charges that C.K. masturbated in front of them and fellow comedians.

The controversy resulted in him losing multiple TV and film deals after studios and networks, including FX Networks, Netflix and Universal Pictures, cut ties with him. C.K. admitted to the allegations, which were first published in The New York Times, in a statement, writing, “These stories are true.”

C.K. made multiple comeback attempts in 2018 with a handful of performances at the Comedy Cellar, though they were met by in-person protests and social media backlash. In August 2021, C.K. announced a 30-city comedy tour.

Following news of C.K.’s win, comedians, writers and other industry members responded to the news on social media.

The most amusing take I’ve seen on this comes from Matt Burnell:

I have no opinion as to whether C.K. deserved the award since I haven’t listened to his album or most of the others. I’ve seen the Hart and Bartgatze routines on Netflix and really enjoyed the latter. So far as I’m aware, the only way to get Sincerely Louis CK is to buy it directly from him and, even though he was among my favorite comics before the revelations of his sexual misconduct, I just don’t think I’ll ever be able to enjoy his comedy again.

But, of course, the controversy isn’t over whether he’s still funny but whether someone who did something so creepy should be honored by his profession. And that’s a hard sell at this point. I’m not sure that his transgressions were so severe that they’re unrecoverable but he’ll almost certainly have to do more to make amends.

Then again, it’s noteworthy that Hart and Handler have suffered “cancelation” for controversies of their own, although, in my judgment, neither rose to the level of C.K.’s. And, alas, while I think Bargatze is tremendous and manages to be funny without going blue or resorting to leveraging the culture wars, that lack of “edginess” pretty much guaranteed he wouldn’t win.

FILED UNDER: Entertainment, Humor, Popular Culture, , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Sleeping Dog says:

    I barely knew who Louis CK was at the time of cancellation and didn’t take the time to discern who he was or if he were indeed funny. This has me wondering though, in giving an award to him are those responsible for the decision also giving a finger to the Woke?

    2
  2. MarkedMan says:

    @Sleeping Dog: If you are a comedian you must live in constant fear of having the mob turn on you. There are thousands of comedians out there wondering if an old video of them in some club going too far out on the ledge could suddenly surface and knock the legs out of whatever career they have. Al Franken comes to mind. Or, for just one example, Sarah Silverman. Her initial character was that of an over privileged and clueless Jewish American Princess who made “unwittingly” offensive observations about minorities of all sorts. That wouldn’t fly today and, to date, she has successfully navigated the path to a different kind of humor, but she must be aware that stuff is out there and could blow up any moment and she would end up with all her dates cancelled.

    So, yes, I could easily see Louis’s peers, knowing that the voting was anonymous, using that vote to rage against the machine.

    5
  3. Mister Bluster says:

    From the Hollywood Reporter:
    C.K. made multiple comeback attempts in 2018 with a handful of performances at the Comedy Cellar,..

    3
  4. mister bluster says:

    test

  5. EddieInCA says:

    Like most comedians, Louis C.K. is, at his core, a miserable, self-hating, narcissistic asshole.

    That’s also the definition of 99% of standup comedians and Joe Rogan.

    They’re a miserable lot. I know way too many of them, and they’re pretty much all the same, male and female.

    6
  6. Mister Bluster says:

    @EddieInCA:..They’re a miserable lot.

    Don’t hold back Eddie. I, for one, appreciate your window into tinseltown.

    5
  7. Mikey says:

    I think the only guy who’s actually been “canceled” is Colin Kaepernick. Blackballed by the NFL, he will never play pro football again, let alone win any awards for it.

    And he didn’t even do anything illegal or harmful to others. Respectful protest while Black was enough.

    24
  8. senyordave says:

    @MarkedMan: Apples and oranges, Louis CK used to his power to abuse and degrade individual women. Then he turned the aftermath into part of his act. I can’t imagine anyone voting for him because of the fact that he acts like this was some sort of big joke. He didn’t get cancelled because of an off color joke he made ten years ago, he got cancelled because he masturbated in front of women who knew he could hurt their careers if they confronted him. He’s a pig, and I’m guessing that he doesn’t regret doing it, just getting caught.

    8
  9. MarkedMan says:

    @EddieInCA: Gotta ask, but I may regret it: Colbert?

    1
  10. MarkedMan says:

    @senyordave: I’m not trying to justify the vote. I was speculating on why they voted the way they did.

    1
  11. EddieInCA says:

    @MarkedMan:

    No idea. But Colbert is not a stand up, he’s always been more of an actor and sketch comedian. I’m talking mostly about the true stand-up comedians. I’ve met Louis CK a few times. The man is a pig.

    I’ve never heard anything about Colbert, positive or negative. That’s usually a good sign.

    6
  12. senyordave says:

    @MarkedMan: Sorry if I implied you were. I think your points make a lot of sense, and I’m also guessing there are some people out there who don’t even think what he did was any big deal.

  13. inhumans99 says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    Yeah, this is Hollywood’s, and the Grammy’s way of saying to those “true” Americans in the MAGA states see, we get it, we are not fan’s of “wokeness” either and look Louis CK is not an absolute monster so he deserved his award. The problem is that the MAGA crowd will not reward Hollywood or the Grammy’s for this action, and will just pivot to another person the MAGA crowd feels is being unfairly maligned by the Hollywood/Liberal/Progressive “woke” crowd, and forget about the bone that the Grammy folks tossed their way.

    Also, I can’t believe I am saying this, but Louis CK seems to have proven himself a pig (jerking off in front of a woman in his office), but he is not on the same scumbaggery level as Weinstein who not only deserved to be “cancelled,” but earned his ticket to prison by being a rapist amongst other transgressions against women in Hollywood. I am almost as disturbed by the actual actions of Weinstein over the course of several decades, as I am by Hollywood’s turning a blind eye to this man’s actions when several prominent folks in Hollywood admitted it was somewhat of an open secret that Weinstein was a uber-pig, possible rapist, and could blacklist someone from getting regular work in movies and tv if they did not put up with his crap. Geez Hollywood, as the saying goes, see something, say something.

    Louis CK had some brilliant comedy bits pre revelations that he masturbates in front of woman in his business office, but like James, Grammy acceptance aside, I am not really comfortable revisiting those bits and have no plans to become a fan again of Louis CK’s.

    1
  14. EddieInCA says:

    @inhumans99:

    I am almost as disturbed by the actual actions of Weinstein over the course of several decades, as I am by Hollywood’s turning a blind eye to this man’s actions when several prominent folks in Hollywood admitted it was somewhat of an open secret that Weinstein was a uber-pig, possible rapist, and could blacklist someone from getting regular work in movies and tv if they did not put up with his crap. Geez Hollywood, as the saying goes, see something, say something.

    One of the things that continues to amaze me is the amount of deeply dark secrets that Hollywood is able to keep from the general public:

    1. The A list feature actress – at the top of her game – who was a raging, mean, nasty alcoholic – while being feted as one of “America’s Sweethearts”.

    2. The blonde A list feature actress who has been in and out of rehab so often she has her own suite at the rehab facility, yet not one of her visits to rehab has ever made the news.

    3. The A list actor who had to pay 7 figures to make an indecent exposure incident go away before he got to the cops.

    4. The B list actor, fired mid-movie, for smoking crack cocaine in his trailer between scenes. (I’m the guy that had to fire him).

    5. The A list director who was bringing in young men from Thailand for wild sex parties in Sydney during the filming of a huge superhero movie.

    Too many other stories like this.

    7
  15. Neil Hudelson says:

    @EddieInCA:

    I briefly knew his sister, and met people who grew up with him. To a person they had nothing but good things to say. I’m sure hometown pride may tint their lenses a bit rose, but usually if a person is a true asshole someone’s going to pipe up and mention it. I’m from Larry Bird’s hometown, and 75% of old-timers who grew up with him have no qualms telling you how happy they were to see him go.

    1
  16. Neil Hudelson says:

    When CK was first nominated, I became one of (I hope) few people who bought his album, in the hopes that I could understand what constitutes a Grammy nomination for comedy. Parts of it were funny, but not legendarily so. He did address his controversies, and I guess that takes some bravery (depending on how you define brave), but most of his addressing was not in a repentant way, a lot more winking-see-i-addressed it.

    I haven’t heard all of the other nominees albums–just Black’s and Bargatze’s. Bargatze’s was funnier than CK’s, which strikes me as probably the best rule to judge a Grammy contender by. CK’s was personal, but not particularly “brave.” Gary Gulman’s The Great Depresh–now that’s a brave piece of standup. (Link buttons have disappeared temporarily, so here: https://www.hbomax.com/feature/urn:hbo:feature:GXXEZHgYPQKnCVgEAAAJH)

  17. wr says:

    @EddieInCA: “Like most comedians, Louis C.K. is, at his core, a miserable, self-hating, narcissistic asshole.”

    I don’t think Cosby bothers to hate himself. He outsources that to everyone who’s ever met him.

    1
  18. Michael Reynolds says:

    Louis C.K. is a brilliant comedian. Full stop. Also a pig. Full stop. This is how humans are, kids, a mix of good and bad. Shades of gray. Picasso was also a pig. Salvador Dali was an actual fascist. John Wayne was a racist.

    Richard Nixon was a criminal. He also opened China and created the EPA. Is the EPA still a good thing to have? William Shockley co-created the transistor. He was also a serious racist. Do we still like transistors?

    There’s a lot of sloppy, even magical thinking around this issue of the value of a creation when the creator proves to be an asshole. Picasso’s feelings are not hurt if I don’t enjoy his art. The only person harmed by me refusing to look at Picasso’s work is me. Zero percent of dead people care about my approval.

    So we end up looking at the issue through the classically American perspective of money. Can we do financial harm to some artist who we don’t approve of? Sure. But we only do it if it doesn’t hurt us, if the product we’re rejecting isn’t very important. For example, Elon Musk is an asshole, but will we take advantage of products made possible by his technology or his orbital lift? Of course we will. Just as we’ll go right on using Amazon even if Jeff Bezos is a prick. And we use our slave labor iPhones and wear our sweat shop child labor t-shirts.

    We only impose financial penalties on people we don’t value much to begin with. Kevin Spacey? WGAF? Harvey Weinstein? Most people had no idea who we was, so canceled! Because it was easy. It’s not like canceling Amazon Prime or rejecting the next iPhone. The hardest for people was probably Cosby, an actual felon piece of shit, but still canceling the Cos’ didn’t cost anyone here a dollar.

    IOW, we cancel people who are of no great use to us to begin with, and look away when taking a stand might inconvenience us. Easy virtue. Pat ourselves on the back for our moral high ground over Dave Chapelle, but shut right the fuck up if virtue signaling means putting any skin in the game.

    Then, when the damage done to someone like C.K. turns out to be less severe than we hoped, we’re sad and disappointed because darn it, we thought we had that power, we thought we had destroyed him.

    This denouement was completely predictable (I know cuz I predicted it) because we never established anything close to rational, fair standards for “cancellation.” The randomness and inconsistency of the punishment, with severe effects for minor causes, and insignificant effects for major causes, eroded and finally destroyed the effectiveness of our public displeasure. So, Louis CK gets a Grammy.

    Is it comics raising a middle finger? Probably. Was it bound to come to this in the end – though as with most things it’s taken longer than I expected? Yes, of course it was. Unjust means do not achieve just ends. Unjust means achieve confusion, distrust and in the end, dismissal.

    9
  19. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    C.K.’s album, Sincerely Louis C.K., beat out five other nominees – including Lewis Black, Kevin Hart and Chelsea Handler

    Where is None of the Above when we need him? [bleep]

    1
  20. James Joyner says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Different art forms vary in this regard. I can still enjoy the Lethal Weapons movies and Bravehesrt even now that I know Gibson is a nutcase. Ditto The Who’s music regardless of whether Pete Townsend is a pedo. With standups, their acts are deeply personal and inextricably (for me) intertwined with their personality.

    3
  21. Assad K says:

    @inhumans99:

    I don’t think there’s any value in bringing people like Weinstein or Cosby into this sort of discussion. They were just outright criminals, it’s a totally different situation than ‘cancelling’.

    3
  22. MarkedMan says:

    @senyordave:

    I’m also guessing there are some people out there who don’t even think what he did was any big deal.

    God I hope not

  23. CSK says:

    @EddieInCA:
    As far as the A-listers are concerned, that would be Hollywood bigwigs protecting their investments, no? I assume this sort of thing has been going on ever since movies were silent.

  24. Gustopher says:

    Louis C.K. is a brilliant comedian. Full stop. Also a pig. Full stop. This is how humans are, kids, a mix of good and bad. Shades of gray. Picasso was also a pig. Salvador Dali was an actual fascist. John Wayne was a racist.

    The pig, fascist and racist are not a core part of Picasso’s, Dali’s and Wayne’s art, art and “art.”

    It’s relatively easy to separate the person from the art in art forms where the art isn’t about the person. And time helps. And being dead.

    Is John Wayne’s character in The Shootist a racist? Well, probably, but it’s never mentioned. Big Jim McClain, where his character works for the House Unamerican Activities Committee is just schlock at this point.

    Standup comedians… less distancable. It’s Louis CK, the dude who makes really raw jokes that show parts of himself that people normally try to hide. Hard not to consider other parts of himself that he has shown.

    I don’t think I can see or hear his stuff anymore without his history affecting it. Maybe with time. And maybe other people are there.

    Picasso, though? Genius. Dali? Overexposure to his work makes it feel samey and cliched, but definitely genius and historically important.

    (John Wayne? Toxic masculinity on screen in a brilliant send up of what the right wing thinks a man should be although he apparently really meant it.)

    3
  25. DaveD says:

    @Gustopher: Except when it came to Wanye joining the army during WWII like other tough guy actors and getting shit for it the rest of his career. Also the Conqueror was most definitely racist.

  26. DaveD says:

    Damn no edit button should say not joining the army.

  27. wr says:

    @inhumans99: “Yeah, this is Hollywood’s, and the Grammy’s way of saying to those “true” Americans in the MAGA states see, we get it, we are not fan’s of “wokeness” either and look Louis CK is not an absolute monster so he deserved his award.”

    Or it’s a lot of people eligible to vote for best comedy album that thought this was the best comedy album of the year.

    People love to talk about “the academy” sending a message, as if there is some politburo dictating results. Really it’s just a bunch of different people within a profession making an individual decision, and the one with the most votes wins.

    2
  28. wr says:

    @EddieInCA: “5. The A list director who was bringing in young men from Thailand for wild sex parties in Sydney during the filming of a huge superhero movie.”

    Hey, at least I can figure out one!

    2
  29. wr says:

    @CSK: “I assume this sort of thing has been going on ever since movies were silent.”

    Google Eddie Mannix.

  30. CSK says:

    @wr:
    Mannix was known as “The Fixer,” wasn’t he?

  31. Flat Earth Luddite says:

    @wr:
    Wait, you mean it wasn’t Muriel’s Wedding?

    1
  32. mattbernius says:

    @wr:

    Hey, at least I can figure out one!

    I actually thought that story came out during some of that directors legal troubles.

    Or wait… was there more than one A-List director on a Superhero movie who did that?

  33. DK says:

    @wr:

    People love to talk about “the academy” sending a message, as if there is some politburo dictating results. Really it’s just a bunch of different people within a profession making an individual decision, and the one with the most votes wins.

    This. The “comedians were sending a message” narrative is sexy, but it doesn’t comport with reality. The entire Recording Academy — artists, musicians, producers, technicians, music execs etc — can vote for Best Comedy Album. So it’s highly unlikely the comparatively tiny number of comedians in the Academy could sway the vote even if they all voted for CK, an assumption for which there’s no evidence.

    More likely this is the usual case of “Nobody is voting for this guy so I will [to be cute/ to be contrarion / to have a chuckle/ because he deserves it on merit]. He has no chance of winning anyway so whatever.”

    Happens fairly often to create upsets, deserved and undeserved. Recall Anthony Hopkins’s unexpected but justifiable Best Actor Oscar over Chadwick Boseman. Or Trump over Hillary.

    2
  34. Gustopher says:

    @DaveD: John Wayne is kind of a weird example that MR pulled out, as Wayne just isn’t relevant anymore. He’s less “cancelled” than “pointless old boomer shit” though.

    Also, the Coen Brothers’ True Grit is the good one.

    3
  35. Gustopher says:

    @mattbernius: I thought it was someone else, but a little googling showed that the filming of his superhero movie wasn’t in Australia.

    A lot of the Marvel films going forward are going to be filmed in part in Australia, so it might not be a released movie.

    Or the number of young Thai men being brought into Sydney for sex parties might be very, very large.

  36. inhumans99 says:

    @Gustopher:

    I just googled Thor Love and Thunder, wonder if that is the film being hinted at in this thread. Otherwise, I will note that Eddie said Superhero movie, which could also mean a yet to be released film from D.C’s film division.

    Also, I had no clue my comment would spark a bit of discussion in this thread as I was mostly being flip but I do not retract most of what was in my comment. Assad K, I totally stand by bringing Weinstein into my comment, as my point stands that no matter what you think of Louis CK, he is far removed from being on the same platform as Weinstein and others who are straight up felons due to their unlawful behavior.

    Cancelled or not, Louis CK’s bits about being White in America are hilarious. Also, like James I can still enjoy Gibson in the Lethal Weapon films (the first two Lethal Weapon films are two of the greatest action films of all time, imho), but if you ask me about Cosby, well…I had not paid much attention to Cosby many years prior to finding out he was a nasty little mentally effedd up in the head creature, but my memories of watching Fat Albert, and The Cosby show have certainly been soured (I turn 51 in 6 months, so it really had been a long time since I paid Cosby any thought, because I never followed his career outside of some of what he did in TV).

    Honestly, same with the bits of Louis CK I have listened too, the man is hella funny but oh gosh why did he have to be such unpalatable and loathsome person. Memories soured.

    1
  37. grumpy realist says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Actually I was told, many many years ago, a hilarious story by an old Cornellian (female) who applied for a secretarial job under Shockley back in the 60s. Shockley kept insisting on the importance of I.Q. and how he absolutely needed only terribly smart people around him, bragging about his high I.Q. score. Then the Cornellian piped up and said “oh, that’s ok. My IQ score is 3 points higher!”

    ….you never saw such a frozen face, she said. And no, she did not get the job.

    2
  38. grumpy realist says:

    P.S. For those who have heard of them, there are in fact clips of a TV broadcast of Flanders & Swann floating around YouTube. Enjoy!

  39. EddieInCA says:

    @inhumans99:
    @Gustopher:
    @mattbernius:

    This director has done at least 7 superhero movies, but his best film has no superheroes at all, and is considered a classic.

  40. Han says:

    @EddieInCA: If it’s who I’m thinking of, Thai sex parties doesn’t even begin to cover it.

  41. Gromitt Gunn says:

    I’m assuming there’s at least one bad hat on that apt pupil.

  42. DK says:

    @EddieInCA: Having attended more than one of his shady pool parties since arriving in L.A. as a USC student, and knowing more than one person in his orbit, the idea Bryan Singer would be caught dead hooking up with Asians or any person of color is downright shocking. Thai boys, really? West Hollywood’s “it’s just a preference” gays are known as the most shallow and racist gays in the US for a reason, they would *never.*

  43. Gustopher says:

    @EddieInCA: I’m just going to assume you are expecting the upcoming The Fountainhead to be a classic.

    Anyway, I think we need a movie with Woody Allen, Kevin Spacey, Jared Leto, Louis CK, Bill Cosby and Jim Caviezel directed by Bryan Springer or Roman Polanski. Jim Caviezel would kind of be the odd one out, but he’s way into QAnon, so I think it could work.

  44. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    I just remembered a Louis CK Easter egg in one of my books. In FRONT LINES (WW2 era setting) I created two army camps in Georgia, one for Black soldiers, one for White, and named them Camp Maron and Camp Szekely (CK’s real name.) All before Louis was revealed. Like all my Easter eggs, no one ever got it.

    1
  45. DrDaveT says:

    @grumpy realist: How did Flanders and Swann get into this thread? Are you about to ruin some more of my heroes?

    (“Twas on a Monday morning that the gas man came to call…”)