Some of the funniest comedians I’ve ever heard are dirty as hell.
Some of the most intelligent comedians I’ve performed with work almost entirely blue.
Some of the most politically astute comics I know — not with my political affiliation, either — have a cache of sex jokes.
They also talk about race, religion, sexual preference and identity. They cuss. They say some things that would be highly inappropriate in the workplace.
So why in the fuck are some idiot LA comics willing to treat comedy clubs like a traditional workplace?
There is a piece posted on my Facebook feed today about female comedians fighting sexual harassment in the oh, so naughty and inappropriate Los Angeles scene. To which I say, except for one point, fuck that. Aside from the obvious assault on freedom of speech, this assertion opens up a Pandora’s box that no comic — indeed, no artist of any sort — should open.
I agree on one point. Sexual assault has no place anywhere. That’s a no-brainer, but I’ll address how to combat that in a moment.
Consider the definition of what makes a business liable under sexual harassment laws: It is what the aggrieved party deems offensive that is considered sexual harassment. Even if that party says the same thing back and you are not offended, it is not considered harassment.
What does that mean? For example, there was a rather infamous open miker in Los Angeles who was in adult films. Her entire act was one-liners about her sexual escapades. But if you mentioned pornography around her, she was willing to fight you. It made for some of the creepiest confrontations I ever witnessed in Los Angeles.
Common sense makes you wonder what her problem is. After all, she brought up her sex life in the first place.
But sexual harassment laws say she was in the right.
Imagine a world where that person is in the right. Always.
And now you’re willing to give up your rights to say what you want on stage? Do you even realize that a primary reason comedy clubs exist is for people who want to hear something inappropriate after a work day of being politically correct?
The damndest thing about me writing this post is that I worked almost exclusively clean, but don’t for a minute think I did so on this moral high horse. I didn’t go around pooh-poohing comics talking about titties, butts, penises, AIDS, group sex, Richard Gere, 9-11, “Two Girls One Cup,” or an orgy involving every living president and First Lady.
Because it’s your art, or at least your attempt at art.
To include sexual harassment in the “workplace” of the comedy club will lead to an unlimited array of ugly consequences that would kill stand-up comedy as you and I know it.
Doug Stanhope couldn’t work again. Neither could Andrew “Dice” Clay, Dave Attell, Jim Norton, Sarah Silverman or Amy Schumer. Yes, take note that this movement also eliminates blue female comedians once these standards kick in. One person gets offended, and their material is obliterated, too. Or maybe one male comedian who had his material shredded by a comedy club “compliance manager” will get a little snippy and insist all women be held to the same criteria.
Faking harassment claims for vengeance. It happens all the time in the regular workplace.
Taylor Williamson would have never reached the finals of “America’s Got Talent” because judge Heidi Klum found his jokes offensive and he didn’t even say one sex joke.
Oh, and the median annual salary of a compliance manager is about $90,000. Good luck getting paid gigs when that becomes the industry standard.
Back in the day, George Carlin had a bit on the words you can’t say on television. Wait until you get a list that’s even longer for your three-minute showcase at The Laugh Factory.
Oh, and goodbye LA open mic scene. Goodbye, Marty’s. Goodbye, Comedy Store potluck. Goodbye, Meltdown.
Now, let’s take a moment and answer the obvious: What should a female comedian do when a shithead male comic gropes, won’t take no for an answer, etc.?
Well, there’s 911. But the LAPD might be too busy harassing black people. So there’s bouncers in comedy clubs. That would be a good idea. Having said all of that, there’s a really good third option: Professional male comics.
The vast majority of male comics — even if they think a female comic is attractive — know that to have sex with her is a bad idea professionally. Here’s why:
1) They fear you will ask them for favors if you do have sex. Stage time at other shows. Writing assignments. Paid gigs in LA are a pain in the ass to find. You think the comic wants to ask the booker, “Hey, could you also pay my girlfriend?”
Or if the situation was reversed: Say the female comic lands a movie role, a headlining gig, etc. She damn sure wouldn’t want to hear from me, either.
2) Most male comics know damn well you’re going to talk shit about them in your act when you break up.
I’d have to admit there were a couple of female comics where I was sorely tempted to ask the lady out, but it never went anywhere because of the first reason listed above.
So oddly enough, many male comics see female comics not as a sex object, but as a comrade — fighting the same struggle. Being a comic is tough as hell. If you have respect for the game, real comics will respect you for it.
Many male comics will defend female comics and pull the jerk away. Our comedian code may not make perfect sense, but it is a code. We despise joke thieves. We can’t stand people trying to harm brothers and sisters we respect.
And for the record, I have booked female comics for shows I ran and not once was sex part of the deal.
Also, more than once offered to kick the living shit out of a guy who wouldn’t take no for an answer from a female comic. I would have been happy to do that, even if it meant going to jail, because it would have been the right thing to do.
But what is not the right thing to do is to limit what can be said in a comedy club. The Comedy Store may not be a welcoming environment, but it is one of a precious few places left in this country for unfettered freedom of speech.
So to those who want to put the kibosh on that because they can’t stand up for themselves, I have one final thing to say.
Fuckin’ man up, already.