“There is no greater threat to women than men,” Louis C.K. declared in his stand-up special Oh My God in 2013. “We’re the worst thing that ever happens to them.” In the film Sorry/Not Sorry, directed by Caroline Suh and Cara Mones, C.K.’s stage presence is defined as “I’m fucked up, but I’m trying to do the right thing.” This made him likeable and seem like an unrivalled comic genius in the eyes of many at the time.
C.K.’s argument is just one of several from his career that has aged like milk, feeling far more self-aware than he ever intended. Only a few years later, C.K. was accused of many instances of sexual harassment, all of which he said were genuine. Despite spending less than a year away from the public eye, C.K. returned with a fury, having made no apologies for his behaviour and even joked about the allegedly accurate charges.
Sorry/Not Sorry does not present any ground-breaking disclosures for those who have been following the Louis C.K. issue. Instead, Suh and Mones explain the impact C.K.’s judgements had on these women, how dismissively he plainly believed these decisions were, and what the path to redemption may look like for those who have made errors and want to atone for their wrongdoing.
While there have been plenty of documentaries about beloved actors and comedians who have been brought down by their horrific activities, such as last year’s excellent We Need to Talk About Cosby, Sorry/Not Sorry delves deeper into the question of how normalised shocking behaviour has become and whether men like C.K. can or should make a comeback.
Sorry/Not Sorry works best when it depicts the ladies who have been personally or indirectly harmed by C.K. Jen Kirkman, arguably the most outspoken about her relationship with C.K., discusses how her attempts to stop such behaviour had followed her for years, to the point that she felt she needed to lie about it ever happening. Abby Schachner, a comedian and writer, discusses how C.K.’s approaches changed her professional path, while Megan Koester explains how even attempting to call out C.K.’s behaviour in public had a long-term impact on her. While C.K.’s sexual harassment is depicted as casual, it has had a tragic rippling effect on these women.
Suh and Mones wisely focus on women in their piece, but they also interview males who wonder how they may utilise their positions to make a difference. For example, Parks and Recreation co-creator Michael Schur recounts how, when he recruited the in-demand comic for his show, he ignored the reports about C.K., and how his attempt to avoid making this his issue was part of the problem. Similarly, Michael Ian Black dives into his Twitter questioning of how men like C.K. can work their way back, or whether that’s even possible, and discovers the complexities of what makes this sort of talk so tough. We see what individuals in his circumstances should and should not do in terms of attempting to make apologies via this tale, which is partially about how C.K. behaved horribly to the harassment he confessed was accurate.
Sorry/Not Sorry isn’t intended to address the questions of what C.K. should have done or what the appropriate restitution for his actions would’ve been; rather, Suh and Mones are hoping to spark a debate about what should be the next step. C.K. has incredible comic skill, and while many have opted to move on from what he has done in the past—as seen by his still-selling-out Madison Square Garden in 2023—there remains a dark stain on his career that will never go away because of his response.
While C.K. may have stated that these occurrences were factual, making fun of these ladies and having comedians such as Dave Chappelle and Bill Maher parody these people and situations just demonstrates how filthy the route to standing up for what’s right can be. Suh and Mones demonstrate why it can be difficult for people to submit such claims, especially when the long-term ramifications might hurt the accusers while having little to no influence on the accused.
Suh and Montes are merely stating the facts as they have been known when the charges first surfaced. However, by presenting them in this manner, demonstrating the impact on these women and the lack of a significant impact on C.K. and his career, Sorry/Not Sorry remains an important part of the discussion surrounding ‘cancelled’ celebrities, as well as where viewers should draw the line in terms of their support.
A spectator attending Louis C.K.’s sold-out Madison Square Garden event near the end of the film says, “I think everybody lives with a certain amount of hypocrisy, and this is the amount that I’ve allocated myself.” This random comedy fan’s admission is, in a strange sense, one of the film’s most disturbing moments—a reminder that no matter what a person does, there will be some who turn a blind eye just because it’s simpler for them.
Sorry/Not Sorry isn’t a breakthrough documentary in terms of form or material, but it seems significant in the bigger themes that Suh and Montes are pursuing since C.K. isn’t the first or last celebrity to have the suffering they’ve inflicted exposed to the public. As more celebrities are called out for the terrible behaviour that their fame, power, and significance have allowed them to get away with for far too long, Sorry/Not Sorry seems like an important conversation about how we should go forward with folks we previously admired.