The paths of rehabilitation for comedians accused of sexual misconduct as part of the #MeToo movement are winding. But one thing is clear: They all appear to include a stop at the Comedy Cellar in New York’s Greenwich Village.
After Louis C.K., the latest performer to make an appearance on the Village’s hallowed Cellar stage is Aziz Ansari—who faced an uncertain future after an anonymous 23-year-old woman accused him of pressuring her into giving him oral sex after the two went on a date.
Ansari sort-of apologized for his behavior, while denying he had been aware of doing anything wrong.
His vilification was held up by many as evidence the #MeToo pendulum had swung too far.
In fairness, the evidence against Ansari was not cut and dry.
Unlike other stories exposing sexual bullies, the website that posted his solitary accuser’s account, babe.net, did not establish a pattern of sexual abuse by Ansari. And while the woman’s account made Ansari seem predatory and sexually aggressive, there was no suggestion that Ansari used his power to actually threaten the woman to get her to have sex with him.
In one part of her account his accuser said, “He sat back and pointed to his penis and motioned for me to go down on him. And I did. I think I just felt really pressured. It was literally the most unexpected thing I thought would happen at that moment because I told him I was uncomfortable.”
Ansari released a statement that said, “In September of last year, I met a woman at a party. We exchanged numbers. We texted back and forth and eventually went on a date. We went out to dinner, and afterward we ended up engaging in sexual activity, which by all indications was completely consensual. The next day, I got a text from her saying that although ‘it may have seemed okay,’ upon further reflection, she felt uncomfortable. It was true that everything did seem okay to me, so when I heard that it was not the case for her, I was surprised and concerned. I took her words to heart and responded privately after taking the time to process what she had said.”
Ansari retreated from stage performances, but his acclaimed Netflix series Master of None was not pulled; in June, Netflix said it was open to making a third season of the hit show.
Aziz was one of three surprise guests Sunday at the Comedy Cellar in Greenwich Village, where, according to TMZ, he, along with Amy Schumer and Jeff Ross, each did 20-25 minutes of standup. Aziz reportedly did not address his own #MeToo allegation.
The Village show comes after Ansari announced he will perform eight standup shows across New England this week, his first string of confirmed performances since the accusation was made at the beginning of this year.
He did a short gig at the Comedy Cellar back in May and has also performed in Philadelphia; Milwaukee; Nashville; Chester, New York; and Columbia, South Carolina, his home state, in recent weeks, receiving mixed reactions:
Ansari announced on Instagram last week that he will be working on new material during his upcoming shows in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Maine.
He’ll start with a pair of shows at College Street Music Hall in New Haven Tuesday night and a show at Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Providence on Wednesday.
Three of the four venues Ansari will be visiting added additional shows after the initial shows sold out.
According to Greenwich Time, Ansari’s new set covers “sex, relationships, internet outrage, news coverage, racism and ‘self-righteous wokeness,’” but does not directly address the accusation made against him or the topic of sexual misconduct.