Louis CK’s “Grammy” comes from Comedy’s Enablers – The Hollywood Reporter

“And the Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album goes to public masturbator Louis CK!”

Wait. Let’s go back.

It was November 2021. I was in New York at the NY Comedy Festival when I was invited by a comedian friend to Comedy Cellar. The invitation was the only way I could get there. This is the only way everyone can get there: knowing the right people. So I was part of a close circle, claiming a coveted spot among comedians mingling with other comedians … and sitting across from Luis K.K.

I thought, “How can this guy be let into a club after he shuffles five fingers in front of unsuspecting innocent women?” After all, it was a prestigious comedy club. There was no shortage of great and famous comedians to bring to the stage and set examples in chairs. Why him?

During my many years as a comedian, I realized that business is a club for boys: men prefer other men. And yet I was surprised to learn that the booker of the club was a woman. I also learned that in a 2019 interview, she called the accusations against Louis CK “unhappy” and the offended comedians “holier than you”. Here’s such a common mentality that female comedians have to contend with when dealing with bookers. It began to unite: the boys ‘club is not a boys’ club. This is a club of people – men and women – who prefer boys.

Rewind to today. Since 1959, the National Academy of Arts and Sciences has awarded the best comedy album to only five women. As a female comedian who has experienced her share of misogyny and sexual harassment in this business, I can’t imagine how Louis CK’s victims feel at this point. It is the embodiment of a naturalistic man who is unlucky. CK faced a reaction in 2017 for masturbating in front of several women without their consent. His reluctant audience members, who were less influential colleagues in the industry, spoke of his sexual abuse, and some felt that their comedic career had been halted by his defenders as a direct result. Some have left the business in utter disappointment. While everyone was immediately concerned about the possible return of CK, where were the concerts for comedians – including Dana Min Goodman and Julia Ox – who were forced to watch him jerk off? Meanwhile, Louis CK performed again until 2018, announcing an international tour in 2019 and receiving a Grammy in 2022.

Comedy is still a good time to be a sexual rapist.

The message that this award sends to the victims of CK and other authors of comics and comedies is that their cries will remain deaf – and may well have unpleasant results. Not only because men in the industry support other men, but also because the system is broken. The comedy establishment sends dog whistles to sexual predators, forgiving their abusive actions as long as they bring superficial apologies (often composed by their publicists) and go underground for a year or so. After that, they can show up and revive their careers. It is assumed that they have changed, although there is no evidence of change.

Meanwhile, women’s comics do not give such convenience or such breaks. It’s a slap in the face to all the brave women who have come forward, risking their careers and reputations to rid the industry of toxic behavior.

Why is Louis CK given a pass, and many comic book women not even allowed in the door? What exactly is wrong with the system?

It all comes down to goalkeepers.

In comedy, to give opportunities, you need to perform in clubs. To perform in clubs, you need to be chosen. Bookers decide who gets the autopsy. They decide who will work with their material in front of live crowds. And because of that, they ultimately determine who will eventually be considered for the Grammy. By allowing Louis CK to continue performing at his clubs, they are essentially giving him a chance at success, no matter how much sexual abuse of power he commits. And by deciding not to nurture female comedians, no matter how good they are, bookers are essentially deciding that these women won’t have a career.

The opportunities you get downstairs are really important. We need comedy clubs to give more space to female comedians to catch up with their male counterparts. If the first door to a Grammy victory is closed to comedians, how can we ever make our mark? If novice female comedians speak out and name their tormentors and disbelieve them, accuse them of advertising, or banned from working in the entertainment industry, how can we muster the courage to call the abuses of a system that is set against us?

Goalkeepers are not only bookers, but also agents, managers, publicists, representatives and executives who are part of a culture that promotes fame, dollars and cents.

We need to fix this broken system. We need goalkeepers with priorities other than the final one. We need the men and women who run the conveyor belts of comedy to either adjust their attitudes or name and disgrace their faces to make room for the best guards.

As I sat across from Louis CK at Comedy Cellar, I thought to myself, “This guy has two daughters.” His lack of empathy is very surprising, unless it opens his eyes. But when I think about how the world in which he works – the world that sustains and educates him – carries the same lack of empathy, then it makes sense. In life you get what you put up with, and we don’t want to put up with it anymore.

If the industry doesn’t develop, women’s comics won’t stand a chance. And the public will never understand that you don’t need people like Louis CK to take your seats and make people laugh. Good people can also make great comedy. Women can also cause a lot of laughter. They just need a chance to fight.

Mona Sheikh is a comedian, producer and actor from Los Angeles. She was the first Pakistani female comedian to head the Hollywood Improv, appearing on ABC Newbie and Apple TV Assistants and is currently opening for Jay Lena at the Flappers Comedy Club. Her series Minority Reportz appeared at the NY Comedy Festival last November sold out of South Asian / Middle Eastern female comedians.

Leave a Comment