Sarah Silverman Says Louis C.K. Consensually Masturbated in Front of Her

Comedian tells Howard Stern she was not trying to defend C.K.'s sexual harassment of other women, but that he had not recognized that the dynamic changed when he became more powerful

Sarah Silverman on the arrivals carpet at the 70th Primetime Emmy Awards in Los Angeles, September 17, 2018.
\ KYLE GRILLOT/ REUTERS

Sarah Silverman said Monday that fellow comedian Louis C.K. had masturbated in front of her when they were young.

C.K. took a career break late last year after admitting that he had sexually harassed five female comedians by masturbating in front of them without gaining their permission.

During an interview on Howard Stern’s SiriusXM radio show on Monday, and later reported by Variety, Silverman said the comedian had occasionally consensually masturbated in front of her.

“I don’t know if I’m going to regret saying this,” Silverman told Stern. “I’ve known Louis forever, I’m not making excuses for him – so please don’t take this that way. We are peers. We are equals. When we were kids and he asked if he could masturbate in front of me, sometimes I’d go, ‘Fuck yeah, I want to see that!’

“It’s not analogous to the other women that are talking about what he did to them," she continued. "He could offer me nothing. We were only just friends. So sometimes, yeah, I wanted to see it, it was amazing. Sometimes I would say, ‘Fucking no, gross,’ and we got pizza.”

She told Stern she was not trying to defend C.K.'s actions with the other women. “I’m not saying what he did was OK. I’m just saying at a certain point, when he became influential – not even famous, but influential in the world of comedy – it changes,” she said. “He felt like he was the same person, but the dynamic was different and it was not OK.”

Silverman had previously discussed C.K.'s behavior on her Hulu show "I Love You, America" after the story about his behavior broke last November.

"He wielded his power with women in fucked-up ways, sometimes to the point where they left comedy entirely," she said, referring to C.K.'s victims. "I love Louie. But Louie did these things. Both of those statements are true. So, I just keep asking myself, can you love someone who did bad things? Can you still love them? I can mull that over later, certainly, because the only people that matter right now are the victims. They are victims, and they're victims because of something he did."

When C.K. admitted his guilt last year, he published a letter in which he wrote: "I have spent my long and lucky career talking and saying anything I want. I will now step back and take a long time to listen."

That quote resurfaced when he made a surprise appearance at a small comedy club in New York in August – a move that attracted considerable criticism when his set did not address what Silverman herself had previously called the "masturbating elephant in the room." Instead, he joked about tipping waitresses, rape whistles and parades.

When asked about his return to performing, Silverman told a television festival in September: “Things are very black and white if it isn’t someone you love on either side, on any part of it. My heart goes out to [Louis], [but] then I have to stop and say, ‘You know what? I think I’m too close to this to be objective.’ Sometimes when you know someone you don’t always know more, you know less.”

Meanwhile, Silverman's sister, Laura Silverman, tweeted last year that C.K. had masturbated in front of her while they were on a cross-country trip decades earlier, before he came famous. "About 20 times," she wrote. "Not criminal. But compulsive, rude & gross."