The late-night host warns against "sanitizing" comedians.
Jimmy Kimmel thinks that the audience is the ultimate judge on when disgraced comedians like Louis C.K. can perform again.
While chatting with The Hollywood Reporter about his new comedy club opening in Las Vegas this spring, the "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" host was asked if his business will be vetting comedians harder in wake of the backlash over C.K. surprising an audience at a small New York City venue several weeks ago.
"If we get into the business of sanitizing every comedian and doing a thorough background check before they walk through the door, it's going to be a very empty stage," Kimmel said. "I think people tend to focus on the one or two people who walk out of a situation like that. Ultimately, the audience decides whether someone is welcomed back."
"Comedy is very democratic," he said when the reporter pressed him on if there are any plans to make an effort to include more female comics. "The people who are great, rise to the top; the people who are good, rise to the middle; and the people who aren't good, don't make it. We want to get a lot of very funny people, and we want to give new comics an opportunity to work."
"I don't focus on their gender or their skin color," he continued. "I'd never want a woman to think that the reason she's booked to be on stage at a club is because she's a woman. The reason she'll be booked to be on stage is because she's funny."
When the reporter clarified the context of the question was more about creating a "safe space," Kimmel laughed and said, "Oh, I don't know that comedy clubs should be a safe space!"
Back in November, C.K. was accused of sexual misconduct, including masturbating in front of five different women without their consent. The comedian admitted the stories were true. As a result, C.K. projects were shelved throughout Hollywood and he lost his lucrative production deal with FX, where his critically acclaimed show "Louie" aired between 2010 and 2015. He said in a statement that he would "step back and take a long time to listen."
C.K. was roasted when he returned to the stand-up comedy stage for a surprise set at New York's Comedy Cellar in August. Many complained that it was too soon for C.K. to return stand-up. Despite the backlash, C.K. performed again in another unannounced appearance at the Comedy Cellar last Sunday.
Last month, Jane Fonda expressed that C.K. and other men accused of sexual harassment should not be allowed to make any sort of career comeback until they "learn." The actress said that these men can "sweep the floor at Starbucks" until they're ready to make a change.
"If they haven't gone through the changes, then why should they come back? If you can't learn, you don't belong in the boardroom," Fonda said. "There's plenty of women who do belong in the boardroom."
"Why not do what the guys who lose their union jobs in Pennsylvania do? Work at Starbucks, f--k it," she added.
Although C.K. has been criticized by many fellow comedians, "Saturday Night Live" star Michael Che defended the once-beloved comic after his first surprise performance by arguing it's not too soon for him to return to the stage.
"'OMG! Can you believe that guy went on with his life?!'" he wrote on Instagram, clearly mocking the outrage.
In response to a follower making the point that C.K. is "going to be getting money and opportunities that he shouldn't be allowed to get," Che countered, "Who's to say what someone should be 'allowed' to get? I mean, who makes THAT decision? You? The law? Jesus?"