What's the official period of penance for famous #MeToo men accused of sexual harassment and assault? About eight to 10 months, it seems.
Comedian Louis C.K., who last November admitted to claims made by five women that he'd masturbated in front of them, returned to New York's Comedy Cellar on Monday for a surprise stand-up set, his first bid in a comeback attempt.
By the account of Comedy Cellar owner Noam Dworman, the gig was hilarious, "typical Louis CK stuff," he told the New York Times, perhaps an untimely choice of words.
C.K. didn't address the allegations or the fallout that cost him a TV show and a film release, instead spending his 15-minute set on bits about "racism" and "waitresses' tips".
"I understand that some people will be upset with me," Dworman told the Times, "but there can't be a permanent life sentence on someone who does something wrong."
I love a gag about "waitresses' tips" as much as the next chucklehead, but it seems a decision I'd prefer his victims to weigh in on first.
In a coincidental official return, as though it was orchestrated over a blueprint in a bunker for robe-clad #MeToo cast-offs, Aziz Ansari also performed three comedy sets in Wisconsin at the weekend, playing on his ‘‘modern romance is confusing’’ schtick. This came on the back of an earlier, impromptu appearance at Dworman’s Comedy Cellar in May, and confirmation from Netflix last month that they were ‘‘happy to make another season of Master of None with Aziz’’.
While more contentious than those against C.K, the allegations levelled against Ansari in January are as uncomfortable – a date saying she felt pressured into sex, creepily detailed with Ansari's proclivity for sticking his fingers in her mouth.
Comebacks have also already been touted by disgraced news anchor Matt Lauer ("Don't worry, I'll be back on TV," he reportedly told a group of "elder ladies" at a New York steakhouse this week, after they questioned his on-air absence), and actor Casey Affleck, who last month inched back into the limelight to offer an "I'm sorry, I've changed" narrative while promoting his new caper The Old Man & The Gun.
What's the arbitrary time period an accused should slink away in shame to ponder their actions or ways to make amends? It's an impossible question, the kind that drives goofy answers like that Charles Wooley segment on Sunday's 60 Minutes where he played a solemn violin for Barry Hall's limited job prospects.
But eight to 10 months out of the limelight, working on material that glosses over your creepy misconduct, only to return to ovations over jokes about "waitresses' tips", shouldn't really cut it.
That's the feeling online, where the #MeToo movement has become the #MeTooSoon movement, with activists demanding perpetrators be held accountable – or, at the very least, not rewarded – for their gross actions.
Just today, Page Six revealed cinemagoers are likely to face a year without a Woody Allen film for the first time since 1974, as the director struggles to attract financial backers amid renewed focus on his abuse allegations.
Public pressure also saw Matthew Newton forced to back out of a Hollywood project with Oscar-nominee Jessica Chastain, after online users put the focus back on his history of partner abuse and "blackballed" status in Australia. A recent discussion with a source close to the situation highlighted the trauma enacted on victims when their abusers are afforded such high-profile opportunities.
In his public apology last November, C.K. promised he'd "step back and take a long time to listen". Ten months on, the line deserves a rimshot.
As US comedian Sarah Lazarus put it in a prescient hot-take that's gone viral: "I'm still on the same shampoo bottle as when Louis CK's time out started."
Rob Moran is an Entertainment reporter for The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and Brisbane Times.