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The Comedy Cellar Is Hosting a Sexual Misconduct Fundraiser Days After Yet Another Surprise Louis C.K. Appearance

It's anti-sexual misconduct but we can see if you might be confused.

louis c.k., ck, comedy cellar, metoo, sexual assault, domestic violence, benefit

Back in August, a whole 10 months after admitting to masturbating in front of female colleagues without their consent, Louis C.K. made his return to stand-up comedy with a surprise set at New York’s Comedy Cellar. Since then, the Comedy Cellar and its owner, Noam Dworman, have inserted themselves as a major footnote in C.K.’s story, mainly with the incredible mishandling of his ongoing attempted comeback.

Dworman defended the decision to let C.K. take the stage, calling his first appearance post-public disgrace a “historic event.” He continued to let C.K. drop in unannounced but tried to paint himself as having no say in the matter, as if he had no choice but to let a comedian take the stage. His solution was to put a warning out to audiences that they “swim at their own risk,” meaning they can just leave if they don’t want to watch a drop-in act. Surprise appearances by famous comedians are a staple of the Comedy Cellar, but it’s a ludicrous cop-out for Dworman to say that he, the owner of the club, has no control over who takes the stage.

Now, this same Comedy Cellar has announced that they’re hosting a fundraiser with domestic violence and sexual assault activism organization partnership RALIANCE.

This would be a pretty transparent PR-grabby move, even if Dworman had had a change of heart and realized that he was supporting the return of a man who has an admitted history of preying on young, far less established and therefore less protected, female colleagues. But that’s not even the case, as the benefit is happening tomorrow night, two nights after C.K.’s latest drop-in performance at the venue.

Angus Johnston, who posted that tweet about the benefit, notes that “All of the announced performers at tomorrow night’s fundraiser are women. The overwhelming majority of Comedy Cellar sets are either all male or nearly so.” If you think that’s an exaggeration, just check out this composite image that graces the bottom of nearly every page of the club’s website:

comedy cellar, men, comedians, louis ck


It’s hard to see this benefit lineup, then, as little more than lip service tokenism, asking these female comedians to do damage control and bolster the club’s image in a way that it has proven it hasn’t earned.

In fact, the event touts a lineup of four women and a male MC, meaning that even for this event, clearly hosted specifically to make us believe the Comedy Cellar isn’t a toxic space for women, they still don’t know how to let women take up the full space they deserve. It’s the real-life representation equivalent of that old Woody Allen (how fitting) joke about two people complaining about a restaurant–how bad the food is but also, such small portions.

Oh, and as the perfect capper to this whole story, that group, RALIANCE? Pajiba’s Mike Redmond notes that it was created with seed money from the NFL “after the league took a bunch of flack for how it botched the Ray Rice situation.” Now, I’m not saying they don’t do good, important work. I am saying that this team-up with another institution looking to improve its image regarding its continued leniency towards abusers is a lot less surprising knowing that information.

A rep from RALIANCE was on the Comedy Cellar’s podcast recently, promoting the “sexual misconduct fundraiser,” and she insisted that this wasn’t an “apology event” for Dworman or his club. But she did credit the Cellar for “spearheading” important conversations recently regarding these issues. While that’s true, forgive me for not wanting to give abuse apologists (which Dworman has proven himself to be time and time again) too much credit for leading conversations when they’re doing everything in their power to lead them in a destructive, normalizing direction.

(via Pajiba, image: Rich Fury/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) has a lot of opinions about a lot of things. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri with her husband Brock Wilbur and too many cats.