May 21, 2019

Sarah Silverman Tweaks #MeToo

“To many, the downfall of Louis C.K. has been one of the #MeToo movement’s most prominent success stories: the decisive defenestration of a known pervert whose comeuppance was long overdue. The comedian had been dogged by rumors of inappropriate behavior for more than a decade when his misconduct finally got a national airing in The New York Times last November, as several women revealed that he’d masturbated in front of them (or asked to do so) between 2002 and 2005. Condemnation came quickly, and with consequences: His new film, I Love You, Daddy, was scrapped by distributors on the eve of its release; a planned Netflix comedy special was canceled; FX and HBO scrubbed his work from their libraries. The man himself confessed and apologized before disappearing from public life, a move that some hoped might prove permanent.

Nearly a year later, making an unannounced appearance at the Comedy Cellar, Louis C.K. was met with a brief standing ovation followed by a mass wave of too-soons—with more than one prominent figure suggesting that total and permanent banishment was the only appropriate punishment for his crimes. The consensus seemed clear: Louis C.K. had committed the kind of egregious wrong from which there was no return, and the only safe world for women was a world without him in it (or at least, not on our stages and screens).

Then Sarah Silverman waded in.

When The New York Times exposé of Louis C.K.’s bad acts first dropped, Silverman, a longtime friend and colleague of the comedian, released a statement that expressed support for the victims without entirely condemning the perpetrator: “I hope it’s OK if I am at once very angry for the women he wronged and the culture that enabled it … and also sad, because he’s my friend,” she said. (A few people groused at her ambivalence, but mostly, her remarks passed unnoticed.) But this week, Silverman found herself back in the spotlight when she admitted on Howard Stern’s SiriusXM show that she hadn’t been clueless about Louis C.K.’s predilections. In fact, he’d done the same thing to her that he did to others—only with her, he had full consent.

“I’ve known Louis forever, I’m not making excuses for him, so please don’t take this that way,” she began, after Stern broached the topic. “We are peers. We are equals. When we were kids, and he asked if he could masturbate in front of me, sometimes I’d go, ‘Fuck yeah I want to see that!’””

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