In the ‘90s, Louis C.K. began his career as a writer for several well-known comedians, including David Letterman, Conan O’Brien, Dana Carvey and Chris Rock. As a writer, he earned several Emmy nominations for his writing on Late Night with Conan O’Brien and The Chris Rock Show — for which he even took home the award in 1999.
After making a name for himself as a writer, Louis C.K. began to work on movies and even perform his own standup shows. His success grew in the 2000s as he landed his own FX show, Louie, and comedy specials while also snagging several film roles.
His prosperous career was brought to a halt after five women came forward to accuse him of sexual misconduct in November 2017. He later admitted that the allegations were true and apologized for abusing his power.
Keep scrolling to see Louis C.K.’s ups and downs over the years.
Louis C.K. rose to fame when his semi-autobiographical series Louie — which he starred in, directed and created — was picked up by FX. The dramedy ran for five seasons and earned a series of nominations including for the Emmys, Critics Choice, SAG Awards and more. Louis C.K. took home two Emmys for his writing on the series in 2012 and 2014. He also won back-to-back Critics Choice awards for his acting in 2012 and 2013.
As he gained success from Louie, the actor went on to snag supporting roles in the films American Hustle and Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine.
That same year Louis C.K. scored a deal with FX to have him develop and executive produce pilots with his production company Pig Newton. Under the contract, he worked behind the scenes on the series Better Things, Baskets, One Mississippi and The Cops.
Five women came forward in a New York Times exposé to accuse the comedian of sexual misconduct. The piece alleged that Louis C.K. masturbated directly in front of them or during phone calls while they worked with him. After news broke about the allegations, Louis C.K. admitted the women’s claims were true.
“These stories are true. At the time, I said to myself that what I did was OK because I never showed a woman my dick without asking first, which is also true,” he said in a lengthy statement to Us Weekly at the time. “But what I learned later in life, too late, is that when you have power over another person, asking them to look at your dick isn’t a question. It’s a predicament for them. The power I had over these women is that they admired me. And I wielded that power irresponsibly.”
Following the scandal, Louis C.K. lost several partnerships and projects including his big deal with FX.
“He will no longer serve as executive producer or receive compensation on any of the four shows we were producing with him – Better Things, Baskets, One Mississippi and The Cops,” the network said in a statement at the time. “Louis has now confirmed the truth of the reports relating to the five women victimized by his misconduct, which we were unaware of previously. As far as we know, his behavior over the past eight years on all five series he has produced for FX Networks and/or FX Productions has been professional. However, now is not the time for him to make television shows. Now is the time for him to honestly address the women who have come forth to speak about their painful experiences, a process which he began today with his public statement.”
Less than one year after his scandal made headlines, Louis C.K. returned to stand-up. In an August 2018 surprise set at New York’s Comedy Cellar, he made an unsavory joke about rape whistles which rubbed some women in the audience the wrong way.
“When he said ‘rape whistle’ people were laughing, and I was just sitting there, like, ‘Oh my f—k. This is so uncomfortable and so disgusting.’ Everyone around me was laughing,” one of the audience members said to Vulture. “That was just depressing.”
Four months later, Louis C.K. made headlines again in two separate instances. A 2011 clip of Louis C.K. and Rock resurfaced of the duo casually using the N-word, sparking outrage on social media.
A few days later, Louis C.K. found himself in hot water again when he mocked the Parkland Shooting survivors during his comedy set.
“You’re not interesting because you went to a high school where kids got shot,” he said, directly addressing the students who became vocal advocates for stricter gun control in the wake of the massacre at their school. “Why does that mean I have to listen to you? How does that make you interesting? You didn’t get shot; you pushed some fat kid in the way! Now I gotta listen to you talking?”
Social media and even several of the survivors slammed the comedian for his joke. “17 people died at my high school, my friend’s brother watched his friends die in front of him,” Jeremy Wein tweeted. “F–k you Louis.”
Louis C.K. took home a Grammy award for Best Comedy Album for his Sincerely, Louis C.K. special — which was his first major piece of work completed since his scandal. While his win was not included in the live broadcast, many viewers shared their disappointment for his accolade.
A documentary about the actor’s scandal, titled Sorry/Not Sorry, premiered at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival. The project took a look inside the allegations made about Louis C.K. and how his return to comedy affected his victims.