Earlier this month, Rumor’s Restaurant and Comedy Club announced plans to book American comedian and actor Louis C.K.
Until recently, C.K.’s comedy career has been on hiatus. In 2017, C.K. admitted to allegations made by five women of sexual misconduct. These charges included multiple instances where C.K. masturbated or asked to masturbate in front of women, both in person and over the phone. Despite the high publicity of this case, the recent shows at Rumor’s sold out in a matter of hours.
Winnipeg’s response to Rumor’s decision to book C.K. was far from unanimous. A faction of the Winnipeg community was outraged, using social media as a platform to express their anger and calling for a boycott.
Illustration by Gabrielle Funk
Others seemed to think that the confirmed allegations against C.K. were far enough in the past, that he has owned up and paid his dues. This second faction is probably much larger than it seems and is represented by the body of people who showed up to financially support Rumor’s booking C.K.
As Tyler Schultz, the manager and booker at Rumor’s, told CBC, “it went much quicker than anticipated.” Schultz explained that the 1,500 tickets to C.K.’s six shows sold out between 8:30 and 10 p.m. on the night that emails were sent out releasing the news. Rumor’s didn’t even have to advertise the show on social media.
This whole ordeal feels grimly unsurprising. In fact, at the beginning of October, Rumor’s had actually just finished a show with T.J. Miller, another American comedian who has been accused of sexual misconduct. Miller, who continues to deny allegations of sexual assault, is, like C.K., in the process of making a “comeback.”
And apparently, Rumor’s is the place to do this. It’s a working relationship: the venue capitalizes on a large segment of the population who either don’t care about the allegations or think these guys have been punished enough, and the poster-boys of the MeToo movement make their comeback.
Maybe this is just the beginning. In an article published in 2018 in USA Daily Chronicles, Kevin Price discussed the increasing possibility of a “comeback” for those who “(fell) like flies” when the MeToo movement hit its peak in 2017. Price wrote that, although it seemed “unthinkable” a few months before, now every day he is “seeing more stories about accused #MeToo perpetrators coming out of their exiles.”
Though people might not be able to change whether big venues start booking these “comeback tours,” everyone can start having conversations about what accountability looks like now that the viral moment of MeToo has dissipated.
It’s important to remember that even if people boycott venues like Rumor’s, smaller communities, friend groups and favourite venues are not untouchable. Just as high-profile cases like C.K.’s can be forgotten and discredited, so too can local efforts to create safer spaces develop intentional blindspots and make concessions based on personal bias.
Though Rumor’s blatant disregard for the experiences of women and capitalization on the controversy surrounding C.K. is disheartening, it is also a sobering moment.
The beginning of the post-MeToo “comeback” should remind people to continue to evaluate their own approaches to the movement and its aftermath.
It might now be time to ask: What has not been resolved? What has been easy to forget?
Haley Pauls is a writer, editor and academic working in the fields of cultural studies and communications. She is based out of Winnipeg, located on Treaty 1 territory.