An elephant the size of Louis C.K. went undisturbed on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher tonight, as Maher welcomed guest Sarah Silverman, C.K.’s longtime friend and occasional costar, to the panel.
The topic avoidance – there can’t be another word for it – seemed as obvious as it was surprising and ultimately understandable. Silverman, of course, was and is under no obligation to comment on the matter, even – perhaps particularly – as her sister, actress Laura Silverman, has tweeted about her own experience with C.K. and his “compulsive, rude and gross” masturbation habit. (See those tweets below). As Uma Thurman recently said, “when I’m ready, I’ll say what I have to say.”
In his monologue Maher made a passing reference to C.K. – who just today admitted that allegations of sexual misconduct detailed in a New York Times expose yesterday were, in fact, true – but he did not mention the actor during Sarah Silverman’s interview segment. As a recurring performer on C.K.’s Louie, she played a fictionalized version of herself as one of C.K.’s poker-playing, comedy circle intimates.
Earlier today, Silverman retweeted a New York Times column by comic Laurie Kilmartin titled “Being a Female Comic in Louis C.K.’s World,” in which Kilmartin wrote that “the moment a female comic steps offstage, her power dissipates. She is a woman, again. A famous comic can masturbate in front of her and his powerful manager can tell her to stop complaining about it. In standup comedy, the contrast between those two states is so depressingly clear.”
Silverman’s retweet called the column “beautifully written and clear as a bell…”
Real Time’s C.K. shyness, though, even extended to the YouTube-only, post-show, viewer-questions free-for-all “Overtime” segment. Maher asked guest Chris Matthews, MSNBC’s resident Kennedy expert and admirer, about JFK “f*cking a mafia courier” (“Oh, yeah, that was a problem,” Matthews deadpanned). When the discussion turned to conservative comedians like Larry the Cable Guy and Jeff Foxworthy, former DNC chairwoman Donna Brazile cracked, “Of course I’ve slept with half of them.”
Still, no C.K., a non-discussion that came a day after the series of forthright, nuanced tweets by Laura Silverman, who dated C.K. years ago, in which she wrote that C.K. masturbated in front of her more than 20 times. “I did not enjoy it,” Laura Silverman wrote.
The tweets were in response to VICE writer Eve Peyser asking for women’s experiences with men masturbating in front of them without consent.
Laura Silverman wrote about a cross-country trip she took with a pre-fame C.K., whom she had previously dated.
“About 20 times. Not criminal. But compulsive, rude & gross.”
After Peyser quite rightly – perfectly, actually – cautioned commenters to avoid “mansplaining” to Silverman about her experience, the latter tweeted, “Thank you! I have refrained from initiating this conversation for a reason. Not criminal. Not abuse of power. I guess I’m just compelled at this point to be a character witness of sorts for those brave enough to finally come forward.”
“I am not a victim,” Laura Silverman wrote, “but I fully believe those coming forward.”