Comedian Louis C.K. greeted by protesters including Michele Dauber

Organizer Michele Dauber, left, leads the political action committee Enough is Enough in a protest outside San Jose Improv Comedy Club on Wednesday night, Jan. 16. Photo by Supriya Yelimeli of Bay City News. Inset is comedian Louis C.K.

Hundreds of people last night (Jan. 16) streamed past a group of protesters led by Stanford law professor Michele Dauber to watch comedian Louis C.K. perform at the San Jose Improv Comedy Club. It was one of his first few appearances after admitting to sexually harassing women in November 2015.

The two groups interacted in varying degrees, as the group of about 30 mostly women protesters chanted “Shame!” and “Louis C.K. has got to go!” in front of the downtown theater. A handful openly mocked the protesters, while others acknowledged them and walked quickly past.

Louis C.K. briefly departed from the comedy scene after admitting to pleasuring himself in front of women without their consent, but has since made a slow return to the stage. His appearance at the Comedy Cellar in New York in October was also met with protests.

Prior to the event, the theater had an event description on its website listing Louis C.K.’s accolades and a disclaimer: “Louis C.K. is trying new material. XXX Adults only.”
The theater said yesterday it respects the group’s right to protest, but audience members can set their own limits.

A question of free expression

“We see comedy as the final frontier and we don’t censor artists,” the theater said in a statement. “We want them to perform without scrutiny.”

Dauber, a Palo Alto resident, organized the protest as the leader of political action committee Enough is Enough. The protest was geared toward the theater, rather than the attendees, and the group pointed out the venue has not booked a single female headliner through July.

“Does the art mean that we no longer care about the personal behavior, even when the personal behavior is extremely damaging?” Dauber said, explaining that C.K. should certainly face scrutiny.

Dauber led a successful campaign to recall Santa Clara County Judge Aaron Persky in November after he granted a controversial six-month sentence to Stanford swimmer Brock Turner, who was convicted of sexual assault. She said the 30 people protesting in pouring rain in front of the theater was a testament to the local community’s commitment to fight back against abusers.


An attendee in the ticket line, Eli Melo of San Jose, scoffed as he watched the protesters. “We all make mistakes,” he said, “I think it’s ridiculous…can’t nobody say nothing any more.”

Tom Nowitzky of Morgan Hill, who was also waiting in line, said he understood the protesters and that C.K. was a “particularly controversial figure,” but felt many of the protesters didn’t see a “path to redemption” for C.K.

“I think that comedy is in trouble due to an atmosphere of intolerance about anything,” he said.

Dauber pushed back at the idea, saying C.K. has made jokes to minimize the impact of his harassment and offered a disingenuous apology.

“C.K. himself does not take what he did seriously,” she said. “He is sorry that he got caught, he is sorry that he lost money. He is not sorry for what he did.”

According to the theater, C.K. sold out three shows with about 450 attendees each, a relatively small venue in comparison to C.K.’s previous shows. The shows require a “no phone” policy to ensure comedians can avoid internet leaks while testing out new material.

The theater hired additional security for the night, according to spokeswoman Wendy Zocks. Police were also aware of the event and had patrols in the downtown area.

Man with megaphone punched

One man protesting across the street with a megaphone was punched toward the end of the protest by a man who had been standing next to the theater. The man with the megaphone, who identified himself only as George, said they had a brief exchange about the nature of his protest before he was punched.

Police said the altercation may have been mutual, and George said he wasn’t sure if he was pressing charges.

C.K. has two additional shows at the Improv Thursday night (Jan. 17), but there are no planned protests for those appearances at this time.

— Bay City News Service


  1. Odd that Michelle Dauber remained silent during the sexual assault cases and coverage of those cases by student papers at PAUSD where her husband is on the board. I didn’t see her calling for anyone to be fired or protesting in any form. I guess her outrage has its limits. Sadly, the victims don’t get to pick and choose like she does.

  2. I don’t want to bash Prof Dauber, but I think a protest like this is counter productive. All it does is provide free advertising to Louis C.K., which will bolster his career as an “edgy” comedian. His fans won’t turn away because of some protesters, but it gets his face on the news. Sometimes the people she targets become sympathetic figures to the public, like that judge she went after who simply followed the law in the sentencing of that Stanford athlete. Prof Dauber and her followers might look for more productive ways to make their feelings known. This protest backfired, in my opinion.

  3. I am in the middle so to speak in your opinion. Basically I believe we need to hold offenders of all levels accountable for their actions, but a discussion of redemption and forgiveness is also important.
    But I have issue with your last comment, “Even the criminal justice system does not try, directly, to keep people in permanent poverty.” This is demonstrably false. It is more easily argued that the Criminal Justice system actively seeks to keep people in poverty. Virtually all those convicted of a felony are subjected to near joblessness, homelessness, and public scorn. Now there cannot be just a slap on the wrist for serious crimes, but there has to be some compromise. When the state gives someone the mark of a felon, their record is open for all to see, and jobs more and more refuse to hire a felon. They may be able to find low wage work, but even then it is very very difficult. What the criminal justice system does is hurt society more. They have someone who has potential to earn lets say a middle class income, and not only do they punish them with the legitimate and balanced punishment of their conviction, but beyond that their record is accessible virtually forever. So now they not only lost the potential to earn the income they otherwise would have, they now make much less or even nothing. So who pays for that? The rest of us do. We now have to pay for criminals that cannot find work. Food assistance, housing assistance, medical, etc… If a person has a sentence of X amount of months/years in jail, X amount of time on probation etc, then it should end there. They are more or less handing out life sentences to all felons regardless of crime committed, and you and I are paying for it. There is no rehabilitation intended, and it is absolutely not equal to the crime committed 9/10 times.
    The loss in public standing is far easier to stomach for someone like Louis CK than the life ruining power of being called a felon.

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