• The Louis CK problem: Three things we need to stop doing (Guest post)

    Stop pretending club bookers have an ethical puzzle on their hands.

    For the love of comedy, please stop interviewing club owners about their Louis CK “dilemma” as if it’s some kind of Sophie’s Choice. It’s a business decision. To state the obvious, club owners own the club. They can—and do—decide to turn comics away from their stages for any number of reasons; reasons, by the way, they’re not required to provide to the comic, the press or anyone else. Sometimes it’s because the comic isn’t funny or experienced enough. Sometimes it’s because the show is already booked. And sometimes it’s simply because the comic is an asshole and the club just doesn’t want to deal with him or her. That is their prerogative as business owners and they exercise it. Every. Single. Day.

    Mostly, the clubs just want to have an audience for their comics so they can sell drinks and pay their bills. That it has become more complicated says everything about the state of the comedy industry (and frankly, every other industry). A few power players want to hold onto their dominance without being slowed down by petty details like sexual assault, and it’s an obvious affront to women in comedy.


    Stop being afraid to speak out.

    Certainly there was a protracted period of time when any dissing of Louis was tantamount to professional suicide. He had rapturous fans and representation, countless successful deals and he was seemingly everywhere. Who wouldn’t want to get on that train?

    Here’s the reality: It turns out Louis CK was doing some bad shit. He admitted it and for the time being, he doesn’t wield the power he once did. So what’s everyone afraid of?

    Yes, he may someday return to greatness, but he can’t get there without doing the kind of reflection for which some of the best comedians are known. The masters can brilliantly turn personal failings and even tragedies into laughs that help us see ourselves and everyone else with just a little more honesty. Frankly, this is a plum creative challenge and I’d be first in line for tickets if I knew he was bringing his A game to the subject. From reports of his recent sets, we ain’t close.


    Stop making it a ‘free speech’ issue.

    To be clear when Louis shows up at a club looking for a spot, he’s very likely bumping another comic who has worked his or her ass off to get there and maybe hasn’t been sexually harassing colleagues for years. Why is no one talking about their rights?

    Because this isn’t about free speech; Louis CK is not being stripped of his rights, nor is any other comic who doesn’t get booked. Louis has a subscriber list of what I’m guessing numbers in the hundreds of thousands, if not millions. That’s how he was able to self-release specials and series and get us to pay him lots of money for them. He wanted to reach his fans directly. Guess what? He still can.

    Might I suggest he write one of his signature too-long, navel-gazing emails before demanding stage time? If Louis has any remorse, awareness or transformation to share he can surely express it that way— where waitstaff, patrons and other comedians don’t have to face him if they’re not ready. 99.9 percent of talented comics don’t have anywhere near that kind of personal megaphone and they legitimately need the clubs to build a name for themselves. We already know Louis. Does he know himself?

    Lisa Cohen

    Lisa Cohen is best known as the founder and CEO of WitStream, the real-time digital comedy brand. Over the course of her career, Lisa has worked in management, production, digital, branding, television, comedy, and social media at both the startup level and at large media companies. She has produced comedy for live audiences, as well as for TV, Internet, video and podcasts.

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