“And the Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album goes to Public Masturbator Louise Cike!”
Wait. Let’s step back.
It was November 2021. When I was at the NY Comedy Festival in New York City, I was invited to a comedy sale by a friend of the comedian. Being invited was the only way I could have gotten inside. Anyone can enter by knowing the right people. So, I was part of the inner circle, got a desirable place among other comedians among comedians… and sat opposite Louise Cike.
After waving five fingers in front of unsuspecting innocent women, I wondered how this guy was allowed into the club. After all, this is a valuable comedy club. There is no shortage of great and popular comedians to sit on stage and put butt on the seats. Why him?
During the many years I worked as a comic, I understood the profession as a club for boys: men are pro-other men. Yet I was surprised to learn that the person who booked the club was a woman. In a 2019 interview, I learned that he described the accusations against Louis CK as “unfortunate” and that the offended comedian was “holier than you”. This is the general mentality that female comedians have to struggle with when dealing with bookmakers. It started to come together: the boys ‘association is not a boys’ club. It is a men’s and women’s pro – men’s association.
Fast forward to today. Since 1959, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences has produced the best comedy album for only five women. As a female comedian who experienced female hatred and sexual harassment in this business, I could not imagine how Louise CK victims would feel at this time. This is the appearance of a straight man. In 2017, CK suffered a setback for engaging in masturbation without the consent of several women. His reluctant audience, less powerful colleagues in the industry, talked about his sexual misconduct and many felt that their comedy career was directly blocked by his bodyguards. Some left the industry frustrated. While everyone is immediately concerned by questions about the possibility of a return to CK, where are the shows for comedians – including Dana E. Goodman and Julia Volov? Meanwhile, Louis CK performed again in 2018, announced an international tour in 2019 and won a Grammy Award in 2022.
In humor, this is still a good time to be a sexual abuser.
The message that this award sends to victims of CK and to other female comics and comedians is that their cries will fall on deaf ears – and may backfire. Men in the industry not only support other men, but also because the system is broken. The comedy company sends a dog whistle to the sex hunters, giving them a superficial apology (often drawn by their advertisers) and their misdeeds until they go underground for years. After that, they can emerge and renew their lives. Even if there is no evidence for change, they are considered to have changed.
Meanwhile, female comics are not given such benefits and there are no such gaps. It is a room in the face of all the brave women who risked their careers and reputation to get rid of industry poisoning.
Why was Louis CK given the pass, not even allowed on the doorstep of many women comics? What exactly is wrong with the computer?
It all boiled down to the gatekeepers.
You have to act in clubs if you want to get opportunities in comedy. To perform in clubs, you must be selected. The bookers decide who gets the exposure. They decide who should do their work before live meetings. Because of this, they are the ones who ultimately decide who will be considered for the Grammy Award. By allowing Louise CK to continue performing in their clubs, they are essentially helping them to gain a chance at success, no matter how many sexual abuses he commits. And by deciding not to nurture female comedians, bookmakers basically decide that no matter how good they are, those women have no career.
The opportunities you get below really need to be calculated. We need comedy clubs to give female comedians more space to catch their men. If the first door to winning a Grammy Award is closed to female comedians, how can we make a mark? How do emerging female comedians have the courage to speak out against the abuses of the system that has been layered against us when they volunteer to name their perpetrators, when they are accused of unbelievably seeking publicity or banned from entertainment?
Gatekeepers are not only bookmakers, but also agents, managers, advertisers, agents and executives who are part of a culture of reputation and focus on dollars and cents.
This faulty system needs to be fixed. We need gatekeepers with priorities other than downstairs. The men and women who run the comedy pipeline need to adjust their attitudes or be ashamed of the name in order to pave the way for better gatekeepers.
As I sat opposite Louise CK in the comedy cellar, I thought to myself, “He has two daughters.” His remorse is so amazing if it just doesn’t open his eyes. But when I think about how he acts – the world that supports and nurtures him – has the same lack of empathy, it makes sense. In life, you get what you put up with, and we no longer want to put up with this.
If the industry does not progress, there is no chance for female comics. And the public will not realize that they do not need men like Louis CK to fill the seats and make people laugh. Even good people can make great jokes. Women can laugh a lot too. They need a fight chance.
Mona Sheikh is a comedian, producer and actor based in Los Angeles. She is the first Pakistani female comedian to appear on ABC under the title Hollywood Improve. The Rookie And Apple TV Assistants Currently opening at Flippers Comedy Club for Jay Lenovo. Her live showcase series Minority Reports appeared at the NY Comedy Festival last November with the best-selling South Asian / Middle Eastern female comedy series.