Comedian Louis C.K., who admitted to sexually harassing female comedians, continued his apparent comeback tour Wednesday night at a sold-out show in San Jose, California — opening his set by defending the revelations that he masturbated in front of female comedians.
“I like to jerk off, and I don’t like being alone,” he said, according to The Daily Beast, which also noted that the sold-out crowd gave him a standing ovation.
Virgilio Gonzalez, who attended the show, confirmed that Louis C.K. joked about his sexual harassment by “saying he didn’t like to masturbate alone” and added that he also joked about his previous Parkland comments.
“He said the way for people to forget about you masturbating in front of people is to make fun of school shootings,” Gonzalez told HuffPost in a Twitter message.
“The school shooting jokes are not to everyone’s taste but that’s always been his style to make dark jokes,” he added.
The audience welcomed his return, according to Gonzalez, who called it “a great show” and “a classic Louis C.K. set.”
“He got a standing ovation when he came out. There were females in attendance — I’d say a 60-40 men to woman ratio — and it felt like a normal fun night of comedy,” he said. “Nobody in the audience had a problem with anything he was saying.”
If you attended or are planning to attend one of Louis C.K.’s sold-out shows in San Jose, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The comedian has performed multiple shows in recent months, attempting to mount a comeback. Despite pledging in 2017 that he would “step back and take a long time to listen,” he has done little to address his behavior, while doubling down on his controversial and offensive remarks, including referring to “retarded” kids, mocking the students who survived last year’s mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, and making racist and transphobic jokes.
Wednesday’s performance was one of three sold-out shows at the San Jose Improv Comedy Club, which advertised the comedian’s appearances as “trying new material.”
More than two dozen protesters gathered outside, chanting “Louis C.K. has got to go!”
“We do not think it’s appropriate to welcome him back as a celebrity as if he has not caused all of this harm,” organizer Michele Dauber told the San Jose Mercury News. “He does not appear to really be accountable or be sorry for what he’s done.”
The comedy club, which added an additional show after the first two sold out, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, defended hosting the disgraced comic.
“We see comedy as the final frontier and we don’t censor artists. We want them to perform without scrutiny,” San Jose Improv said in a statement. “We trust that our audiences can decide for themselves what their limits are. We understand that not everyone will agree with our decision and we respect their right to protest. We also respect Louis C.K.’s right to perform.”
Attendee C.J. Browne said that Louis C.K.’s sexual harassment gave him pause, but “seeing as Louis performing is such a rare occurrence, I felt it would be interesting,” he wrote in an email. “Every time he goes on stage, it seems to make headlines, so I thought it would be fun to be a part of a moment in time.”
When asked why he decided to attend the show, Gonzalez said that he thought Louis C.K. had made adequate amends and claimed that he “wasn’t forcing himself on” the female comedians and that “it happened before his recognition.”
“I feel like what he did happened so long ago,” Gonzalez said. “It is a weird thing to do to people but he did try and apologize 10 years ago, so I think he has a right to continue to make a living.”
This article has been updated with more quotes from attendees.