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Louis C.K. performs stand-up for the first time since misconduct allegations

The comedy club owner described the set as "typical Louis C.K. stuff" — jokes about racism, waitresses tips, parades.
Image: Louis C.K. on stage
Louis C.K. performs at Madison Square Garden, New York on Nov. 1, 2016.Stephen Lovekin/REX/Shutterstock / AP file

Louis C.K., the comedian and filmmaker who retreated from the limelight last year after admitting to sexual misconduct, returned to the stand-up stage on Sunday.

He made an unannounced appearance at the famed Comedy Cellar in New York's Greenwich Village late Sunday, receiving an ovation before he launched into his set, according to the the club's owner, Noam Dworman.

Dworman, who first spoke to The New York Times, said the Emmy-winning comedian riffed on racism, waitresses tips, parades. Louis C.K., reportedly clad in a black V-neck t-shirt and gray pants, apparently did not address the misconduct claims or the #MeToo movement.

"It was just like regular Louis," Dworman told NBC News. "He talked about quirky things that he found funny."

Five women have accused Louis C.K. of inappropriate sexual conduct dating back more than a decade, including two comedians who claim he masturbated in front of them in a Colorado hotel room in 2002, the Times reported last November.

In a lengthy statement released in the wake of the Times report on the accusations, Louis C.K. admitted to misconduct, saying in part: "These stories are true." He said at the time that he would "step back and take a long time to listen."

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In the wake of the allegations, he was effectively exiled from the entertainment industry.

FX, the cable network that aired his sitcom "Louie," cut ties with the Emmy-winning star and his production company. HBO pulled his earlier work, such as the short-lived sitcom "Lucky Louie," from its on-demand platforms. (The network has no plans to reverse that decision, a spokesman said on Tuesday.)

The Orchard, an indepedent film distributor, shelved "I Love You, Daddy," a dark comedy he wrote, directed and starred in. The movie was originally slated for release last November.

In the film, Louis C.K. plays a television writer whose 17-year-old daughter (Chloe Grace Moritz) becomes involved with a 68-year-old filmmaker (John Malkovich). In one scene, the protagonist's male friend (Charlie Day) mimes masturbating even when a female producer (Edie Falco) walks in the room.

The Times reported that Louis C.K. appeared to be "very relaxed" and drew a generally warm reception when he took the stage at the Comedy Cellar, a storied venue where many scenes of "Louie" — including part of the opening credits — were filmed.

But on social media, the reaction to his return to the proverbial spotlight was far more mixed.

"I believe people can grow and change, but this urgency to bring him (and others) back SO soon just sends a bad message," MAD Magazine editor Allie Goertz tweeted.

"Louis CK is spearheading the #MeTooSoon movement," comedian and actress Melinda Hill tweeted.

Seth Simons, a freelance writer, appeared to take the Comedy Cellar to task for allowing Louis C.K. to perform:

Dworman, the Comedy Cellar owner, said he understood the venue would face criticism for hosting the embattled star. He said one audience member called the club on Monday to voice an objection to the surprise appearance.

"It's a very difficult position to be standing between a person and his livelihood," said Dworman.