In just the past year, comedians as big as Bill Cosby, Louis CK and Chris Hardwick have found their careers halted or suspended due to newly surfaced or resurfaced allegations of sexual misconduct.
CK admitted his guilt, Cosby denied it but was convicted of rape, while Hardwick has denied allegations by an ex-girlfriend yet gone completely silent off the social media grid he virtually owned just moments before the allegations were made public.
In today’s comedy climate, you’d think the men of stand-up, sketch and improv would start behaving better. And yet.
As Arden Myrin writes in a new essay for Refinery29, we still have a long way to go. Myrin, a former cast member on Shameless and MADtv, who’ll co-star in the upcoming Netflix series Insatiable, recounts a gig just last month in Los Angeles which two men hosting the show introduced her by degrading her as a sex object.
“Our next comic is a female. Yup, she’s a girl comic. She’s got titties. That’s right guys, just picture taking out your wet dicks and sliding them back-and-forth between those big ole’ titties. Please welcome….”
And then they got my name wrong.
I don’t know if guys have any idea what it’s like to already be the only female in a lineup, which I was, and then to be so publicly humiliated and violated. Not only did I still have to go do my 10-minute set, but I was now starting at a disadvantage with the audience because the entire room JUST PICTURED TITTY FUCKING ME. When you really think about that act, it is so dominating. Usually, the woman is pinned down for a man’s pleasure, and often he ejaculates on her. That was my introduction at a comedy show.
I turned to my friend who booked the show, and she said “What the hell?” The audience nervously applauded and didn’t really laugh during the intro. I walked up onto the stage in a daze. I remember making awkward eye contact with a woman in the front row. The vibe in the room was not an ideal way to start a stand-up set.
One of these guys should know who I am because I’ve met him once before. A few years ago I had to do a television show with a panel of comedians, and he was one of them. He made jokes about me being covered in jizz during the taping. I don’t know if his comments made it into the edit of the show because I refused to watch myself be degraded on television. I didn’t recognize his name when I agreed to do the show in Silver Lake, but as soon as I showed up I thought, Oh shit, it’s that guy. Still, I tried to rationalize for him and say, “Maybe that was a one-time thing. Maybe he was just doing it for the show.” Nope. I have now had two interactions with this man, and both times I have either had my breasts mentioned or me being covered in semen.
What the hell, indeed.
Myrin later writes:
I am proud of myself and my career. I try to be kind to people, I show up on time, and I’m always prepared. I am happy that there are so many wonderful female comics right now. And honestly, more often than not, the men that I have worked with across the country have been generous, wonderful, funny souls. But things like this still happen, and you eventually get worn down after years of subtle (and in this case, not so subtle) degradation.
Time is truly up on all of this asinine behavior — and it being accepted. I’m so angry and over it. I have value. And to that 8-year old girl – even though I’m tired – I didn’t forget you. Women need to see other women onstage. I am proud to be a headlining comic. I am proud to do festivals and shows in tiny venues and big venues with lots and lots of wonderful funny generous comedians of all genders. I wouldn’t be the same person if I had never seen Gilda or Madeleine (even though neither was a stand-up, they lit my fuse). Maybe some young lady out there will see something in me that inspires her to want to own her voice and try her hand at telling jokes. I just pray for the next wave of funny young ladies out there that the path gets a little easier and a little more kind.