He’s a Master of None who’s being welcomed back by many.
Aziz Ansari returned to the stage Sunday night and surprised audiences members including one woman who complained to management that she felt “blindsided.”
But according to Comedy Cellar owner Noam Dworman, that was an exception and not the rule.
“When he’s come down there, the crowd has been cheering even more than they were before the controversy,” according to Dworman, who has operated the legendary comedy club since 2003. He says Sunday’s unannounced appearance marked the third time Ansari has performed at the Greenwich Village hotspot since being shamed by a January story on the website Babe.net detailing an anonymous woman’s date night with the comic, whom she accused of being too aggressive. Ansari denied wrong doing, but offered “Clearly, I misread things in the moment and I’m truly sorry.”
Dworman doesn’t feel comedy fans in his downtown club are lumping Ansari into the same category as Bill Cosby, who was convicted of sexual assault in April, or Harvey Weinstein, who is reportedly under investigation for similar offences.
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“I feel the general consensus is that he was treated unfairly,” says Dworman, adding that he hopes to see Ansari on stage again. “Absolutely he’s welcomed.”
According to Dworman, after learning a customer complained to management that “she felt blindsided” by Ansari’s appearance, he personally tried contacting the woman personally the following day. Dworman says he still hasn’t heard back.
“I want to speak honestly about these issues,” Dworman says, noting that Sunday night wasn’t the first time an audience member has taken issue with a standup comic in Comedy Cellar’s 36 years in business.
While Dworman has seen Louis C.K. hanging around in the restaurant above Comedy Cellar since a November report in the New York Times accused him of five cases of sexual misconduct, C.K. has not returned to the stage. Dworman is open to speaking with him as well, should C.K. want to get back into the game.
“Louie admitted that he did things he’s ashamed of. Nobody should take this issue lightly. Yet as a society we also don’t believe that punishments go on forever, and we generally believe in a path to forgiveness for people who have shown real contrition,” Dworman says.
C.K. issued a written apology to the women in the New York Times story who detailed lewd acts he performed in front of them in statement that ended with him saying he planned to “step back and take a long time to listen” following a lifetime of saying whatever was on his mind.
“When Louis wants to go on, we’re sure he’ll do it in a way that shows respect for the seriousness of the issue and will maybe be confessional in some way. We’ll put him on if he chooses to do it at the Cellar. It will be dicey and we’ll get some flack.”
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Dworman points to the success of Mike Tyson’s Broadway show Undisputed Truth, which is now in Las Vegas, as proof “there’s no clear standard” for what society deems acceptable. In 1992, Tyson was sentenced to six years in prison after being found guilty of rape. Neither Ansari nor C.K. has been charged with anything criminal.
“Should Louis C.K. never be allowed to return to standup comedy?” Dworman asks.