Culture

Why People Want Amy Poehler And Aziz Ansari To Speak Up About Louis C.K.

So far most of Louis C.K.'s collaborators have remained quiet.

In the aftermath of the Louis C.K. sexual harassment allegations, a number of celebrities have spoken out, condemning his behaviour and criticising his attempted apology.

But more noticeable than the celebs speaking out is the fact that plenty of high-profile comedians, including some of C.K.’s former collaborators, have stayed silent. Late night talk shows have had a political resurgence in the last 12 months with hosts regularly discussing heavy topical issues. But on the recent raft of sexual assault stories there have been some glaring silences, and the Louis C.K. news was no different.

While The Daily Show, Late Night With Seth Meyers and The Late Show With Stephen Colbert all discussed the allegations in some way, Conan, Jimmy Kimmel Live and The Late Late Show With James Corden steered clear. C.K. used to write for Conan O’Brien in the early 1990s and has regularly appeared as a guest on his show. He’s also made appearances on Jimmy Kimmel’s show, and shares the same publicist with him.

There could be plenty of reasons why these comedians didn’t cover the allegations, but some commentators are pointing to the intimate nature of the entertainment industry as part of the problem.

Two comedians in particular have been singled out for not saying enough about Louis C.K.: Amy Poehler and Aziz Ansari.

Why Are They Responsible?

C.K. is managed by a well-known talent firm called 3 Arts Entertainment. His manager, David Becky, also represents Ansari and Poehler and has produced shows like Master of NoneBroad City and Bored to Death.

But sharing a manager obviously isn’t a crime. Part of the problem is the fact that Becky has been accused of not just knowing about the allegations against C.K. but also hushing them up.

The initial story in The New York Times that broke the news of the harassment allegations mentioned that two of C.K.’s accusers felt like they were being pressured by Becky to stay quiet. Their manager, Lee Kernis, said that Becky was “upset” the women were talking openly about the incident.

Last week The Huffington Post contacted a raft of Becky’s clients, including Ansari and Poehler, to ask them for comment on the allegations. They didn’t get a reply. The silence is particular jarring when you consider the fact that other people in the industry who have worked with C.K. continue to speak out, including Parks and Recreation producer Michael Schur, who apologised for casting him in the series (he played an earlier love interest of Poehler’s character Leslie Knope).

The criticism of Ansari’s silence is even more pointed. One journalist recently recalled an interview he had done with the Master of None star back in 2015, where Ansari brought up the show’s depiction of sexual harassment.

“I thought it was interesting that this is happening, yet so many people are unaware of it,” Ansari said. “And the problem is people aren’t talking about it. What I’ve learned, as a guy, is to just ask women questions and listen to what they have to say. Go to your group of female friends and ask them about times they’ve experienced sexism at their job, and you’ll get blown away by the things they tell you. You’ll think, ‘What the fuck? This is way darker than anything I’d imagined.’”

When the journalist responded by asking about the harassment rumours swirling around C.K., Ansari replied bluntly with “I’m not talking about that”.

Back in 2012, the now defunct website Gawker ran a story about an anonymous comedian who forced women to watch him masturbate. It’s obvious now that the story was about C.K., and it seems unlikely that the comedian’s colleagues wouldn’t have been aware of them. In 2015 Gawker actually named Louis C.K., which makes it even less likely his contemporaries were in the dark.

Marlow Stern, the same journalist who interviewed Ansari in 2015, has this week written about C.K.’s “powerful army of celebrity enablers” and called people in the industry with power and influence to “speak up for what is right”. Plenty of others are making similar points.

It might seem unfair to single out individuals just for sharing management with C.K., but is it really too much to ask comedians like Poehler and Ansari, who are happy to project themselves as socially-conscious and the ‘nice’ people in the industry, to do more than stay quiet? In the case of C.K. it’s clear there was a culture of silence that protected him while his victims suffered.

If high-profile and respected entertainment industry figures don’t speak out now then the takeaway for the general public is that nothing has changed.