Updated at 5:10 a.m. ET on Friday
Louis C.K. masturbated in front of multiple female colleagues, to their shock and dismay, according to women who spoke on the record to The New York Times about their experiences.
Last year, the comedian Roseanne Barr told The Daily Beast that C.K. was "about to get busted" for his conduct. "It's Louis C.K., locking the door and masturbating in front of women comics and writers. I can't tell you—I've heard so many stories," she said. Comedian Tig Notaro acknowledged the allegations this summer and said C.K. needed to "handle" them.
But previously, those stories were shared secondhand. Now, five women have spoken to the Times directly, with only one requesting anonymity.
The women describe interactions that seemed professional or collegial — on set, at a comedy festival, on the phone talking about comedy shows. Then C.K. unexpectedly steered the encounter into overtly sexual territory. In one case he asked to masturbate in front of a female colleague on set and was rebuffed; in the other cases, he masturbated either in a room in front of the women or apparently did so while on the phone with them.
HBO announced Thursday that it was cutting ties with the comedian: "Louis C.K. will no longer be participating in the Night of Too Many Stars: America Unites for Autism Programs, which will be presented live on HBO on November 18," an HBO spokesperson said in a statement, as reported by Variety. "In addition, HBO is removing Louis C.K.'s past projects from its On Demand services."
A publicist for C.K. told the Times that the comedian "is not going to answer any questions."
Here are the incidents described by the newspaper:
- Comedy duo Dana Min Goodman and Julia Wolov say they met C.K. in 2002 at his hotel room, together, after their show at the Aspen Comedy Festival. They thought he was joking when he asked if he could, as the Times puts it, "take out his penis." Then he stripped naked and masturbated while the two women sat "paralyzed," Goodman told the Times. They told people about the incident (later described in a famous Gawker blind item) but felt pressure from C.K.'s powerful manager to fall silent, they told the newspaper.
- Comedian Abby Schachner called C.K. to invite him to a show and he started describing sexual fantasies and breathing heavily, she told the newspaper. Years later C.K. messaged her to apologize for the conversation ending in "a sordid fashion," according to a message seen by the Times.
- Comedian Rebecca Corry said C.K. asked if he could masturbate in front of her in her dressing room. She said no, and C.K. told her he "had issues," she told the Times. That incident was confirmed by Courtney Cox and David Arquette, the Times reports.
- A woman who wished to remain anonymous said she worked on the Chris Rock show while C.K. was a producer there, and that C.K. repeatedly asked her to watch him masturbate; she agreed. The encounter happened in his office during the workday. She described the experience as an abuse of C.K.'s power.
You can read the full story — which goes into much more detail — over at the Times.
The Times notes that the stories raise "sharp questions" about elements of C.K.'s enormously successful comedy career:
"He rose to fame in part by appearing to be candid about his flaws and sexual hang-ups, discussing and miming masturbation extensively in his act — an exaggerated riff that some of the women feel may have served as a cover for real misconduct. He has all but invited comparison between his private life and his onscreen work, too: In 'I Love You, Daddy,' which is scheduled to be released next week, a character pretends to masturbate at length in front of other people, and other characters appear to dismiss rumors of sexual predation."
C.K. has previously declined to comment on the allegations against him, before the accusers were public. "You can't touch stuff like that," he told Vulture in 2016. "My thing is that I try to speak to the work whenever I can. Just to the work and not to my life."
This September, he told the Times' Cara Buckley — one of the reporters who broke Thursday's story — that the allegations were "rumors."
"They're rumors, that's all that is," he said.
Amid other sexual misconduct scandals, starting with Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, former NPR Senior Vice President Michael Oreskes was forced to resign after allegations of inappropriate behavior toward women at NPR and at previous jobs.