SORRY/NOT SORRY – Review by April Neale

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Louis C.K is ready for his closeup, again.

Sorry/Not Sorry is the documentary about the rise and fall and rise(ish) of comic Louis C.K. Caroline Suh and Cara Mones’ film centers on a New York Times article that chronicles the downfall and comeback of the comedian in the wake of serious sexual harassment allegations. We are not talking about rape but exposure-related intimidations.

Full disclosure: this reviewer used to work at the agency (Triad) that booked the earliest stadium tours for Roseanne Barr (nightmare), Louie Anderson (a doll), Robin Harris (dead), and Sam Kinison (dead, but hold on to your pearls). You have no idea what true stories are tucked away out there on comedians’ destructive and hugely awful behaviors. The same agency repped Jerry Lee Lewis—so girl, please.

Now, C.K. did not rape anyone like the allegations made against convicted Bill Cosby, but what he did was, as Joe Rogan put it, a bit sad and gross.

C.K.s entire career was built on the disgusting truths about men, thanks to testosterone and their one-track minds. Then, his sex-obsessed schtick, which he made a great living off of, was weaponized against five female comics who saw more of C.K. than they should have. C.K. was eventually then dismissed from the comedy A-list.

End of the story?

No. Time heals a lot, and memories fade, but women remember everything. In his prime, C.K.’s coterie of famous comics aided the goodwill C.K. built as a touring comic and riotous commentator on the nature of men and why women even put up with them. These titans of comedy still love and stand by him, albeit offering carefully worded explanations like Sarah Silverman does early in the film about his “behaviors.”

One aggrieved comic, Jen Kirkman, talks about her interactions and revelations about Louis in her standup, backtracking and trying to work around this giant open secret in the business despite what people wanted to hear. Ultimately, she finds her career on the downslide as the imbroglio unspools. But why did her career start to slip, and was it directly because of Louis? The doc doesn’t go there, and funny women get bookings; there’s a demand for strong, whipsmart funny female voices in comedy; ask Monique Marvez, Elayne Boosler, Ali Wong, Nicole Byer, or Margaret Cho.

Louis C.K. gave us a great gift in using his star wattage to get comic Tig Notaro’s act to wider audiences and the brilliant Pamela Adlon out to the forefront in his earliest series, leading to Better Things, one of the top comedy series I adore (and miss) in this life. Baskets, starring the late Louie Anderson on FX, would not have been without him. For that, I harbor no ill will toward his public penis shenanigans.

But there’s a sea of offended women who feel his entire act is an insult to women, and how do you argue with what people think or feel? You cannot. But you also cannot dismiss his comedy career arc, his excellent taste in brilliantly funny women we are all the better for knowing, like Adlon and Notaro, or material that rang true for so many and appealed to a large audience despite his fixation on jerking off. Clearly, C.K. was an idiot and let the hubris that comes with huge fame go to both heads.

This doc also exposes a divide in generations where ribald remarks, offensive words, and what was expected in behaviors from men were either taken with a grain of salt or wounded a woman to her core, rendering her unable to work. If C.K. asked to flog his bishop in front of Joan Rivers, Phyllis Diller, Moms Mabley, or Marsha Warfield, hilarity in responses would have ensued. They would have ripped his ballsy “ask” apart and demolished his fragile ego from here to Phuket. And then likely buy him a beer and laugh like hell about it.

C.K. never claimed (or filled) the lofty observational philosopher comic shoes of George Carlin, Bill Hicks, or Richard Pryor. C.K. was always stuck in the corporeal world. But he did it with a lot of heart. The sad thing is he didn’t work out his sexual proclivities in the privacy of a doctor’s office.

Sorry/Not Sorry does a superb job as it mines the source article for the talking heads interviewed and involved in this tawdry modern drama to discuss the gender imbalances (pay and star power) in comedy, gender, and the publicity juggernaut that built behind each success C.K. had to take advantage of his female colleagues. The film also shows how websites like Gawker and Crazy Days and Nights made their bones by ginning up internet rumors and accusations without the accused having a chance to defend themselves, set the record straight, or, at the very least, apologize to the offended. True stories are more than just one-sided accusations, and conversely, if you are guilty of the rumor, well, brother, you better think twice about your modus operandi and pay up.

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April Neale

April Neale is a film and television critic. She appears on “What’s On” KTVB Channel 7 (NBC) Boise for Idaho Today. She is the editor of IdaHome FLAVOR, a worldwide magazine featuring celebrity chefs and Idaho culinary bosses. Neale is also the Entertainment Editor for IdaHome Magazine.