Comics Tackle Megyn Kelly

Comics Tackle Megyn Kelly’s Defense of Blackface – This Week at the Comedy Cellar

Jerry Seinfeld on Louis C.K.

In some ways, the world of Jerry Seinfeld is the same as it ever was. He’s still the singularly recognizable stand-up, the star and co-creator of his eponymous TV sitcom and the host of a Netflix talk show, “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.” At 64, he is still playing dozens of live dates a year and, on Friday, announced the return of his residency at the Beacon Theater with 20 new shows in 2019.

But the comedy world that Seinfeld inhabits is in a tumultuous period. While some performers feel uneasy about what they can or can’t say onstage, several prominent stars have been disgraced by scandals of their own making. Bill Cosby, once one of Seinfeld’s creative heroes, was convicted of sexual assault in April and sentenced to prison in September. Roseanne Barr had her resuscitated ABC sitcom canceled in May after she posted a racist tweet. Louis C.K., who last year admitted to several acts of sexual misconduct, has resumed performing in clubs again, prompting an outcry from some audience members and rebukes from fellow comics.

These are complicated and uncomfortable issues that Seinfeld knows he can’t avoid, given his standing in the industry, and that he is still thinking through and processing in real time. On Wednesday, over lunch at Barney Greengrass on the Upper West Side, he spoke about the current cultural moment, which he said felt necessary. “We’re figuring it out as we go along,” Seinfeld said. “And there’s something very stimulating and empowering about that. We don’t really know what the rules are.”

Seinfeld also spoke about his approach to stand-up in this anxious period, the performers who have transgressed and the artists he still admires. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.

What made you want to return to it in 2019?
When we decided to try it out, I just loved playing there. Then it just seemed like we had done it a lot, and you never want to overstay your welcome anywhere. And then I missed it. It’s my vision of what I consider to be the ideal stand-up experience, which is a beautiful old theater in someone’s hometown, where they know every inch of the neighborhood. You see someone at Madison Square Garden, or Radio City or Carnegie Hall, each one is a totally different experience. You’re not getting the same interaction with that performer.

Is it still important for you to work out new material in smaller clubs?
I went out to Long Island yesterday, got home at 7, and then grabbed a sport jacket to run out of the house. My wife says, “Where are you going?” I go, “I got to go to a club.” She says, “Why?” We’re married 18 years, you still have to answer these questions. I go, “I need to try out some stuff.” Real comedians want to go on every single night.

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There’s a lot of tension in comedy right now, for many reasons. 
Sure. I was saying to an audience recently, “Why do you even come out here for this? I guess you just like to see somebody sweat.” Chris Rock gave me a theory that in the old days, when you’d go see Neil Young or Jimi Hendrix, you saw the whole artist. Now, most music artists, that person’s talent is just a component of what they’re making. But with a comedian, you’re still getting the whole artist: the writer, the director, the presenter. All their talent is on display in one package and that’s intense. It’s why stand-up is still so popular.

So you feel that anxiety, too?
Of course. With Cosby and Louis and Roseanne. The thing about being in comedy is, “We hate you, get off the stage” is what we’re used to. Every comedian has that as part of their life. Getting booed, yelled at, hated. So you almost don’t notice it. You either have the skin for it or you don’t.

There are the people who were punished for their behavior offstage — we’ll come back to them. For those people who believe they’ve been penalized for things they’ve said onstage, are they entitled to a sphere of protection in their performances?
No, I don’t agree with that. Because the audience automatically filters what you’re saying. You know how many people are around from when I started? I started with hundreds of guys and women, 99 percent are gone. And some of them were great. Why are they gone? Every reason you can name. Every human frailty there is. Every hairline crack in your personality gets pulled on — let’s see if we can make it a gash and then push you into it. That’s what happens in stand-up.

Sarah Silverman & Louis CK

Sarah Silverman Says Louis C.K. Masturbated in Front of Her With Her Consent

Joe Scarnici/Getty Images for Vulture Festival
Sarah Silverman

“I’m not saying everyone should embrace Louis again,” Silverman told Howard Stern. “I believe he has remorse. I just want him to talk about it onstage.”

Sarah Silverman opened up about her relationship with her longtime friend and fellow comic Louis C.K. on Monday’s episode of Howard Stern’s SiriusXM radio show. During the interview, Silverman revealed that C.K. — who faced a number of sexual misconduct allegations last fall — used to masturbate in front of her with consent.

“I know I’m going to regret saying this,” Silverman said. “I’ve known Louis forever, I’m not making excuses for him, so please don’t take this that way. We are peers. We are equals. When we were kids, and he asked if he could masturbate in front of me, sometimes I’d go, ‘Fuck, yeah, I want to see that!'”

C.K. was accused by five women of masturbating in front of them in a New York Times story published last November and written by one of the journalists who penned the first exposé on sexual misconduct allegations against Harvey Weinstein. C.K. later admitted to the allegations.

During her chat with Stern, Silverman said that she understands that her experience with C.K. is incomparable to what the “other women,” some of which were younger female comedians, went through.

“It’s not analogous to the other women that are talking about what he did to them. He could offer me nothing. We were only just friends,” she said. “Sometimes, yeah, I wanted to see it, it was amazing. Sometimes I would say, ‘Fucking no, gross,’ and we got pizza.”

Silverman went on to say that her encounters with C.K. took place early on in their careers when they were “letting our freak flags fly.” She also said that she and C.K. would sometimes take their clothes off together, throw them out the window of their apartments onto the street and then take the elevator naked to go and get them.

Silverman noted that C.K.’s behavior didn’t change once his star began to rise. “Once he became powerful, even within just his [comedy] community, he felt like he was the same person, but the dynamic was different and it was not OK,” she said, adding that she believes C.K. was trying to change before the accusations in the Times article made headlines. “Even in that article they talk about how he tried to connect with some of these women to say he fucked up and wronged them.”

Silverman continued: “I’m not saying everyone should embrace Louis again. I believe he has remorse. I just want him to talk about it onstage. He’s going to have to find his way or not find his way.”

Not long after Silverman’s interview with Stern aired, Rebecca Corry — one of C.K.’s accusers — reacted via Twitter. “To be real clear, C.K. had ‘nothing to offer me’ as I too was his equal on the set the day he decided to sexually harass me” Corry wrote on Monday. “He took away a day I worked years for and still has no remorse. He’s a predator who victimized women for decades and lied about it.”

Silverman later apologized to Corry on Twitter. “Rebecca I’m sorry. Ugh this is why I don’t like weighing in. I can’t seem to do press 4 my show w/out being asked about it,” she wrote. “But you’re right- you were equals and he fucked with you and it’s not ok. I’m sorry, friend. You are so talented and so kind.”

Silverman’s interview with Sten isn’t the first time she has spoken out about C.K.’s #MeToo allegations. Last November, she broke her silence about the issue during an incredibly poignant episode of her Hulu talk show, I Love You, America.

“One of my best friends of over 25 years, Louis C. K., masturbated in front of women. He wielded his power with women in fucked-up ways, sometimes to the point where they left comedy entirely,” Silverman said at the time. “I hope it’s OK if I am at once very angry for the women he wronged and the culture that enabled it, and also sad, because he’s my friend.”

Then, in a May profile for GQ, Silverman said that she has “compassion” for C.K. and suggested that she was hopeful that he could make a comeback.

“There are people that just deny everything they’re accused of and they continue to be the politicians or the filmmakers that they are,” she said. “And there are people that come and say, I’m guilty of these things, and I’m wrong, and I want to be changed from this. And yet those are the ones that kind of are excommunicated forever. He’s my brother, so it’s hard. I may not have a very clear perspective on it, but I’m trying to.”

C.K. was largely shunned by comedy clubs following the sexual misconduct allegations. However, he has performed a string of comeback sets at different venues throughout New York City in the past several months. While he failed to address his #MeToo scandal during surprise sets at the Comedy Cellar in August and September, C.K. “addressed that he did something wrong” during an Oct. 10 performance at the West Side Comedy Club, according to host AMarie Castillo.

“He didn’t specifically address what he did, but he did seem to admit to doing wrong and it was clear that he’s just trying to figure out his life. He talked about his life over the past year and acknowledged how it’s been tough for him,” Castillo told The Hollywood Reporter last week. “And he spoke about how weird it’s been.”

The female comic added: “He talked about how everything, what happened to him in public, has affected his family. He spoke about losing lots of money because of everything. Louis was very sincere and genuine about it all.”

Monday, 10/22, 2:22 p.m. Updated with Rebecca Corry’s Twitter response to Sarah Silverman’s interview.

Tuesday, 10/23, 6:33 a.m. Updated with Silverman’s Twitter apology to Corry.

Michael Che

Michael Che – Lying on Your Résumé, Paying Taxes & The History of Sexting

comedy specials that are changing the game


When you imagine a stand-up special, you might think about Eddie Murphy in a skintight leather suit or Richard Pryor directly in a spotlight against a black background or George Carlin standing in front of a huge USC mural. These are the images that tipify the modern comedy special. When audiences tune into Comedy Central or HBO, they expect a (cough) man, a microphone, and the laughs of a roaring crowd over sharp jokes. But as stand-up comedy got more popular, so did the stand-up special. Now there is a seemingly endless list of new comedy specials to watch. Streaming sites like Netflix have produced more specials in the last few years than audiences have ever had before (in fact, they released a new comedy special every week in 2017). With the influx of new specials, many have started to play with both the limits of structure and content when crafting their hour. From sincerity about hard subjects to the complete lack of an audience, these 8 comedians challenge the limits of what a comedy special can be:

8) Neal Brennan: 3 Mics, Netflix (2017)

Neal Brennan’s 3 Mics deconstructs three types of comedy. He labels each mic: one-liners, stand-up, and “emotional stuff.” By labeling the mics and physically moving in between them, he makes the audience hyperaware of the types of performance they are watching. While most stand-up specials will naturally have at least a little bit of all three categories, Brennan seems to be teaching the audience how to understand the comedy writing process. While the three modes are completely different, his crass one-liners, his tight stand-up, and his honest look at depression meld together to paint a full portrait of the comedian.


7) Wyatt Cenac: Brooklyn (2014)

Wyatt Cenac’s Brooklyn could have been a very traditional stand-up special. But Cenac made it unique by not only taping it in a tiny Brooklyn venue, but also acting out a handful of his jokes with puppets superimposed over his set. The puppets break the confines of the club and introduce an element of imagination and whimsey while Cenac is talking about heavier topics like the death of his father when he was a child. If it wasn’t hipster enough, Cenac released a limited edition vinyl album if puppets weird you out.

6) Judah Friedlander: America is the Greatest Country in the United States, Netflix (2017)

Judah Friedlander created a truly DIY special. America is the Greatest Country in the United States was filmed over a collection of nights at the famed Comedy Cellar in New York City. The first stand-up special from the self-proclaimed “world champion” is comprised almost entirely of crowd work. Filmed on a shoestring budget in black and white, the special feels like a mix between a documentary and a found film. Some jokes are repeated. Different nights are smashed together, creating an absurdist picture of political comedy in a post-Trump America.

5) Maria Bamford: The Special Special Special (2012)

Maria Bamford was already a celebrated stand-up in 2012 for her less-than-conventional approach to comedy, but The Special Special Special played with the very concept of what a comedy special can be. Filmed entirely in her California home with only her mother and father in the audience, Bamford creates an often uncomfortably intimate space. Jokes that should have had uproarious laughter by a crowd are instead punctuated by a single chuckle from her dad. While The Special Special Special doesn’t contain many of the mental illness-related jokes she would later be praised for, its tone is fascinating and unshakable. Her newest special, Old Baby, continues to challenge the form as she performs in a wide range of different venues from a living room to a library to, yes, a bowling alley.

4) Hasan Minhaj: Homecoming King, Netflix (2017)

For stand-ups, a microphone in hand can almost be a security blanket. But not only does Minhaj not need the crutch, it would have held him back in his first Netflix special Homecoming King. He moves around the stage quickly, at times running and jumping. He shows the audience family photos on the giant screen behind him. While most comedians tell jokes about their families, Minhaj pushes it further. At times, Homecoming Kingfeels like a memoir reading or a one-man show. Not every story is happy—much of the special revolves around being brown in a post-9/11 world. While Minhaj tries to punctuate each story with a joke, the realities of racism leak into this special in a way that forces you to think and remember and examine what it means to be a person of color in America.

3) Bo Burnham: Make Happy, Netflix (2016)

Musical comedy specials have always felt a little different, but Make Happy stands out for its last 15 minutes. Bo Burnham explains in the special that he has been performing since he was a teenager and this is all he knows. He asks the audience, “What? Do you want me to be funny and make a point?” And then he goes on a 10-minute Kanye West-style rant which starts about Pringles and ends in an opus on the nature of the relationship between performer and audience. He captures the feelings of a clown that is trying to give the audience the happiness that his declining mental health won’t let him have. Make Happy follows his 2013 special What?, also on Netflix, where he truly broke free from ‘guitar guy’ criticisms, masterfully blending stand-up, song, and performance art.

2) Drew Michael, HBO (2018)

Drew Michael has a frenetic energy that leaves the watcher in a suspended state between agitation and alarm. Michael forgoes both audience and theater and instead performs in a space that looks like a photographer’s studio on a spaceship. Directed by fellow comedian Jerrod Carmichael, the look is unlike any special you’ve ever seen. His intensely personal jokes are intercut with FaceTime conversations with a girlfriend-type, but the most striking thing about the special is his delivery. Michael approaches extremely well-written jokes with a delivery so angry that the special feels like a psychotic take on a one-man show. Without an audience, all the viewers hear are their own laughs; the audience gets to decide what is funny without feeding off of a larger audience. Drew Michael is an experience. As Michael says in the special, if a joke isn’t for you, ignore it and let it hit the person that it is meant for. Drew Michael isn’t for everyone and that might be the most revolutionary thing about it.

1)Hannah Gadsby: Nannette, Netflix (2018)

Truly the stand-up special that launched 1,000 opinions. Is it comedy? It has all the trappings of a comedy special. There is an audience. It is taped inside a large theater. Comedian Hannah Gadsby—previously an unknown here in the States—even starts with typical stand-up material. It isn’t until the last third of the special that the intensity ramps up as she starts expressing her personal trauma and you see the special for what it really is: a discussion of comedy as a coping mechanism. Parts of the special feel like Gadsby is putting comedy on trial. Other parts feel like she’s putting men on trial. But more importantly, Nanette is a love letter to women in the #MeToo era.

10 Times Bill Cosby Was Creepy AF



10 times Bill Cosby was creepy af

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Many Bill Cosby fans were shocked when the legendary comedian was accused of sexually assaulting numerous women. But maybe we shouldn’t have been so surprised. After all, Cosby, who was recently found guilty of aggravated indecent assault and sentenced to up to 10 years in prison, has a history of bizarre and downright creepy behavior. Here are 10 times that Bill Cosby was a total creep:

1. His advice to George Lopez

During an interview with Howard Stern back in 2016, Lopez recalled a conversation he had with Cosby after taking over as host of Playboy Jazz Festival several years earlier. According to Lopez, Cosby gave him some weird tips about dealing with the opposite sex. “He says, you know, like, ‘If you meet a lady, man, put her in the audience. Don’t bring her backstage,’” Lopez said. “If you want to get blown, keep her out there … None of it had anything to do with jazz, by the way.”

2. His conversation with Kenan Thompson

George Lopez isn’t the only comedian who has recently come forward with a weird Bill Cosby story.  New Emmy-winner Kenan Thompson revealed in 2015 that Cosby also gave him some bizarre advice when they worked together on the Fat Albert movie. “There are little indicators of things that happen that you just go, ‘Hmmm, that was a little different,’” Thompson told Late Night with Seth Meyers. “And one of them was this story that he told me, where he was like, ‘You know, life is good in the movies or whatever, but you just be ready, because when this movie comes out, you’re going to need two dicks because women are going to be all over you.’”

It’s no wonder Thompson called Cosby a “monster” during a stand-up set that same year.

3. His books

Bill Cosby wrote three books in the late 1980s, and they are chock-full of examples of his dirty mind. Just take this passage from Love and Marriage, where he described how he preyed on women back in high school: “It was in those basements that I tried to squeeze girls as if they were melons to see which ones might be ripe for going steady with me. Sometimes I managed to lure one of them outside to sit with me in a car for a little kissing and rubbing; most of the other girls I managed to lure away from the crowd just sat there like statues, hoping that this moment would pass and they could get on with their lives. “

Or this excerpt from Fatherhood: “A father… knows exactly what those boys at the mall have in their depraved little minds because he once owned such a depraved little mind himself. In fact, if he thinks enough about the plans that he used to have for young girls, the father not only will support his wife in keeping their daughter home, but he might even run over to the mall and have a few of those boys arrested.“

4. His anti-prejudice special

Back in the 1970s, Cosby starred in a TV special where he played the ultimate bigot. The satirical program was designed to teach viewers about prejudice. But it also revealed Cosby’s disturbing views of women. Toward the end of the routine, he stated, “They’re not pieces of flesh, but if I want to take one out, I’ll take her out. I buy the dinner—she didn’t pay for it. I expect something in return!” He even said that women are not as strong as men and that women are only supposed to “have babies” and “wash dishes.” While Cosby was ostensibly in character at the time, he may have been expressing his true views through the guise of comedy.

5. His interview with Sofia Vergara

Fans got to see Bill Cosby’s creepy antics for themselves when he filled in on The Late Show back in 2003. Cosby interviewed Sofia Vergara and spent the entire conversation ogling over the actress. “Men look at you, and they only think of sin,” he told an uncomfortable Vergara. “… Now what you have on tonight is wonderful. This is wonderful. And when you walked out, many, uh, many people became attentive.”

6. His weird rider

While visiting The Late Show, Cosby had a truly odd request. He reportedly wanted some of the young female staffers to stare at him. “He’d include as a request, before he arrived, that the young girls, interns, and assistants, all had to gather around in the green room backstage and sit down and watch him eat curry,” a source told NY Daily News. “No one would say anything, and he would sit silently eating and make us watch and want us to watch.”

7. His joke about a special barbecue sauce

During one episode of The Cosby Show, the comedian joked about a special barbecue sauce he makes that causes women to become “huggy buggy.” Sure enough, daughters are all over their significant others after having it. Cosby’s character then attempts to seduce his wife (played by Phylicia Rashad) by saying he has a cup of the sauce waiting for her upstairs. While this just seemed like an innocent joke at the time, it’s hard to watch this scene without thinking about the reports of Cosby drugging his victims.

8. His Spanish Fly “joke”

This wasn’t even the first time that Bill Cosby joked about drugging women. In 1969, he released a comedy LP called It’s True! It’s True! that featured a bit about Spanish Fly. Cosby “joked” about using the aphrodisiac to drug and lure women. “Spanish Fly is groovy,” he said. “Yeah boy. From then on, man, any time you see a girl: Wish you had some Spanish Fly boy. Go to a party, see five girls standing alone—boy, if I had a whole jug of Spanish Fly I’d light that corner up over there.” The only thing worse than the joke itself is hearing the audience members laughing in the background.

9. His thoughts on birth control

Yet another standup routine that predicted some of Cosby’s predatory ways came on his comedy album Those of You with or Without Children, You’ll Understand. During that record, he stated why he didn’t think he had to talk to his son about birth control. “It’s the female’s job to protect herself,” he said. “It’s like a goalie… you have to keep people from scoring on you.” Men continue to use similar explanations to justify rape.

10. His “gift” for a female journalist

Reporter Dana Kennedy did a story on Bill Cosby back in the early 1990s. And while she maintains that Cosby never tried to seduce her, she did notice his creepy tendencies throughout the interview. At one point, he told her, “Tell me what you want to ask and we’ll see how it goes. If it doesn’t go well, I’ll give you a piece of fruit. I’ll give you an apple or pear and you can be on your way.”

Sure enough, within days of the story being published, Cosby mailed Kennedy a dying apple.

Dave Chappelle

Dave Chappelle’s Netflix special Bird Revelation is the perfect rape joke

Dave Chappelle slaps the mic to his knee and laughs—he’s playing the famed Comedy Store. “Everything’s funny, until it happens to you.” From the start of his Netflix special The Bird Revelation, Chappelle’s brow is furrowed, face flat, as he levels his Black experience to that of white feminists who dragged him in the name of #MeToo for expressing “as little empathy as possible.” The audience laughs with the Chappelle’s Showstar as he wonders aloud, “What happened to me? Where did I go for 12 years if I wasn’t raped? Maybe these rapes aren’t the worst of it.”

Chappelle’s entire set is a rape joke, one that won’t leave you holding your sides with laughter, but instead giggling as he does. Chappelle uses an extended metaphor, rather than a quick rumination on men being men. He doesn’t rely on a penis punchline to get the audience to chuckle. The Bird Revelation has been regarded by The New York Times as “the first comedy special to focus on the #MeToo movement.” It is my favorite exploration of the subject. Chappelle captures, at times clumsily, but most pointedly, why I don’t care about the Brett Kavanaugh sexual assault allegations.

This Netflix special is not about the Kavanaugh allegations directly. Although Chappelle does cut to the chase on Louis C.K., Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, and Kevin Spacey. It was released in December 2017. When I first watched it, Kavanaugh was not a name I had heard. At this point, I can’t remember when I first heard it. The entire Ford v. Kavanaugh case has been a concern I haven’t given much energy too. Other things have been on my mind.

“It’s funny for a Black dude to see white people go through this because this is how it always is for us,” Chappelle says straight up. In The Bird Revelation, he talks about the 400-year nightmare that underpins our country—uses his experiences in Hollywood as a metaphor of a kind of rape. He hints throughout his set about why he left Chappelle’s Show in 2006, and the U.S. altogether. Iceberg Slim’s Pimp: The Story of My Lifeis what Chappelle refers to when he says “I’ll tell you what happened to me, but I can’t say it directly.” He says, “[In the memoir,] Iceberg Slim is trying to control a woman that he finds uncontrollable.” He calls this bit the capitalist manifesto, and “the reason [he] went to South Africa.”

Black paranoia sets the tone in Chappelle’s most intimate of his four Netflix specials. Often this is where we see great Black American comedians at their best: when they take a subject so aching in America’s current consciousness, and sit it next to our country’s greatest sins. Chappelle thinking through #MeToo reminds me of Paul Mooney in his special Analyzing White America. Mooney talks with white Americans who are troubled by 9/11. On stage he is in black, on a high stool, and says “I want to thank white America…because [Black Americans] will get through this terrorist stuff. White folks made us tough. Because they been terrorizing us for 500 years.”

Chappelle is a comedian of this tradition of joke-making. In The Age of Spin: Dave Chappelle Live at the Hollywood Palladium—one of his first two Netflix specials—he describes the wilds of Hollywood. The Washington, D.C. native gives us a portrait of a superhero who, as he puts it, “Rapes, but saves a lot of lives.” The superhero rapist is, at first, a fictional character in a movie pitch who resembles our current U.S. President. Then later, the superhero rapist is Bill Cosby, who was recently sentenced to 3-10 years in prison for his sexual assaults. But Chappelle in The Bird Revelation, like Mooney and #MeToo, misses it in regards to Black women. He flicks his cigarette, continuing with man-behind-the-desk authority. He says “You notice, a lot of Black dudes haven’t been getting me-too’d.” Chappelle adjusts in his seat. “The reason is because Black women, [since] slavery, won’t tell on us. Because they know that no matter how bad us Black dudes are, white dudes are very mean.” Chappelle gets it mostly right. He hits on a truth, but forgets Anita Hill.

Twenty-seven years ago, law professor Anita Hill accused then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment. Thomas dodged these accusations in a frenzy, securing his Associate Justice seat. The Hill-Thomas hearings are obviously urgent today. Hill is a Black woman, who came forward about a Black man, whose harassment against her needed to be considered and tried. Hill coming forward has set a tone for Ford v. Kavanaugh and sparked an on-going national discussion about sexual harassment. Former Vice President Joe Biden, then Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, told TeenVogue “I wish I had been able to do more for Anita Hill.” He retrospectively admitted, “I owe her an apology.” The U.S. justice system has never been fair. The Hill-Thomas hearings are infamously known for how poorly they were handled. Hill faced harsh judgement about the case, her race-gender, and her character. She did so with meager defense or support. There was no trending hashtag for her back then.

#MeToo was started by Tarana Burke, an activist known for her work around sexual assault and abuse. But in classic white American tradition, the #MeToo movement has become a cacophony of white feminists. Those feminists are who Chappelle is addressing when he says “I am not saying [jokes] to be mean. I am saying it because it’s funny.” Many did not find his jokes funny, and I thought as a survivor of sexual assault I wouldn’t either. But when a joke is funny, it’s funny.

After watching The Bird Revelation, I turned my television off wondering why Dave Chappelle has rape on his mind? “You know what ladies, you’re right! And they coming for you bitches”, he warns. “To be honest with you, your lives look terrifying to me. I know nothing about being a woman, but I know fear.” I connect with Chappelle here, and am glad he is back from his longtime at-sea, back from searching for his peace of mind—wherever Hollywood had flung it.

Bo Burnham

Bo Burnham Wants to ‘Tear Down’ Those ‘Masculine Bullsh*t’ Comedy Clubs

Photo: CBS Photo Archive/CBS via Getty Images

Bo Burnham sat for a conversation with Michael Schulman during the New Yorker Festival on Saturday, and the takes were strong. After unpacking how comedy helped Trump win the presidency, the comedian-turned-filmmaker was asked by Schulman if he’d ever return to comedy. “I think I’d love to do it again. I don’t have an idea and that’s the problem other than getting up and just doing Make Happy again, just like a different version of that,” he said before noting that aside from the challenging landscape comedy now faces, there’s also the fact that well, he hates stand-up clubs. “I hated those fucking comedy clubs, fucking brick two minimum masculine bullshit places,” he said. “They self-selected one type of thing, of course women feel fucking awful to come, have you been there? Anyone that’s even vaguely not like the most masculine person in the world feels uncomfortable there.” But luckily Burnham has a quick fix, “Tear them down, they’re from the goddamn ‘80’s.”

Elayne Boosler

The Comedy Master Who Hasn’t Gotten Her Due: Elayne Boosler

Elayne Boosler in a screen shot from her “Party of One” special, part of a box set of her work.CreditCreditShowtime Networks

In booksTV series and documentaries, stand-up comics of the 1970s have become nearly as mythologized as the auteurs of the New Hollywood. If Richard Pryor, David Letterman and Andy Kaufman were the Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg and Francis Ford Coppola of the club scene, then Elayne Boosler is the Hal Ashby, the misunderstood master who never got proper due.

This makes the release of her new box set “Timeless,” which includes four of her old specials along with one new album, a prime opportunity to reassess her role in the comedy canon.

The Brooklyn-born Ms. Boosler, now 66, started performing at the fabled Improv in New York in 1973 and before the decade was out, she was widely regarded as an elite club comic on both coasts, one of the few female stars in male-dominated rooms. Richard Lewis called her the “Jackie Robinson of stand-up in my class.”

Yet she never got her big break in the form of her own network sitcom or talk show and had very limited success getting booked on the “Tonight” show, where Johnny Carson preferred female comics who were not aggressive. When Larry King asked Ms. Boosler on CNN, “Why is comedy considered not for women?,” the question answered itself. Ms. Boosler’s career clearly suffered from systemic sexism, the impossible bind that demanded women command the stage without being too, well, commanding. You see this perhaps most clearly in her positive reviews, which maintained that she was not abrasive or feminist, as if that would scare away audiences. (She actually could be both, but that was part of her charismatic power.)

She also developed a reputation in the industry for being difficult, and untangling this from the sexism can be hard. Yet the narrative surrounding her — of a career thwarted — can be overstated, when the stand-up special has become such an important genre. Make no mistake: Ms. Boosler was its first female star, regularly putting out hours of jokes on cable in the 1980s and early ’90s that represented a break from the past. Unlike the acts of Joan Rivers and Phyllis Diller, there was not a whiff of the borscht belt or the coffeehouse about her material. Her act — hard-hitting, topical and dense with punch lines — anticipated the future of comedy better than most if not all of her peers.

Decades before Hannah Gadsby argued that self-deprecating bits by comics from marginalized communities amount to humiliation, Ms. Boosler took pride in being a female comic who didn’t make herself the butt of the joke. Much of her act, alternating between scathing political gibes with raunchy takes on the life of a slovenly single woman, would not be out of place in the current material of Amy Schumer, Michelle Wolf or Ali Wong

Her 1986 debut special, “Party of One” on Showtime, was a major breakthrough. (HBO debuted “Women of the Night” the following year, a showcase for female stand-ups that introduced a generation of stars including Rita Rudner, Paula Poundstone, Joy Behar, Susie Essman and Ellen DeGeneres.) “Party of One” is dedicated to Andy Kaufman, Ms. Boosler’s ex-boyfriend and sometime collaborator who died in 1984, and it focuses on the absurdity of dating with the giddy glee of a long-awaited debrief with your best friend. She makes walks of shame or sex talk gone wrong seem like ridiculous fun, and domesticity (cooking, cleaning, doing laundry) seem like a bore. Men, she sighs, expect her to cook breakfast the morning after sex. “They want things like toast,” she says, exasperated. “I don’t have these recipes.”

She’s surgical in her attack on double standards in show business and beauty, including how men have more leeway in aging, echoing jokes on her new album, “The 50/50 Club,” that poke fun at the way weight makes a woman invisible: “If I gain 10 more pounds, I’m going to spy for the government.”

Her second and third specials, “Broadway Baby,” and “Top Tomata,” were even more political, if still not the least bit dogmatic, skewering the gender pay gap, sexual harassment and the way female candidates are expected to hold back emotions. (This was about Geraldine Ferraro, but just as relevant today.)


These specials suffer from overproduced introductions that are at odds with Ms. Boosler’s comedy club roots. “Party of One” opens with cameos by Bill Cosby and Mr. Letterman that are transparent attempts to establish her bona fides by using major stars of the day. “Broadway Baby” begins with a tepid song-and-dance number and a scene of her as a showbiz-besotted kid. This straining for broader appeal also shows up in the choice of jokes, which lean heavier on dogs and baseball than, say, her more ethnic material. “Pac-Man is the history of the Jewish people,” goes one of her lines from the 1980s that doesn’t appear in this set. “Being chased while eating.”

A more convincing argument for Ms. Boosler’s place in the pantheon can be found in her regular appearances on “Late Night With David Letterman.” It’s common today to see female comics fusing a feminist sensibility with frank, giddy discussions of sex, but that wasn’t the case on television in the early 1980s. Her jokes arrived with a knowing attitude that fit the insider mood of that NBC show, which booked her one month after its premiere, the first woman to do stand-up there. She set a brazenly attention-getting tone from the start with an obscene joke about why women prefer slot machines to men. As her eyes darted back and forth, slyly, the crowd howled. She then moved onto one of her most reliable jokes, one rooted in her days working as a waitress when she heard men order for their dates with the phrase “The lady will have …” She pointed out that this makes it seem like there’s only one lady and then flipped her mop of curly hair, pantomimed chewing gum and quipped: “O.K., the slut will go get it.”

After her last joke, Paul Shaffer played the J. Geils Band song “Centerfold”and Ms. Boosler curtsied.


An earlier version of this article misspelled the surname of the bandleader on “Late Night With David Letterman.” He is Paul Shaffer, not Schaffer.

Cedric The Entertainer

Cedric The Entertainer Talks Kings Of Comedy History, New Show ‘The Neighborhood’ + More

John Mulaney on His 5 Favorite Comedy Albums

John Mulaney
John Mulaney photo courtesy of Netflix

John Mulaney’s latest stand-up special, Kid Gorgeous at Radio City, came out on Netflix in the spring, and it remains one of the year’s best. (It also just picked up an Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Variety Special.) On September 28, it’ll be released on vinyl courtesy of Drag City, which means you can now put it on your turntable and listen to Mulaney yelling about street smarts and that time Mick Jagger told him he wasn’t funny.

Since he’s responsible for some of the most outstanding comedy records of the last decade, we asked Mulaney to talk to us about his five favorite comedy LPs. “I went for albums and moments that earned a Mount Rushmore spot in my brain rather than, say, recommending the top five albums everyone should hear,” he explained over the phone. “A lot of people have heard the great ones, but these are the ones that meant a lot to me.”

Ali Wong: Baby Cobra (2016)

Baby Cobra looms large in my head because it’s like a machine gun—like when an old gangster would have a Tommy Gun, take that stance, and just let loose. With hour-long comedy albums, it’s damn near impossible for the whole hour to be great. But there are a few absolutely perfect hours, and this is one of them. It’s just nonstop, relentlessly funny, and absolutely tough. If you’ve seen the film of the special, she comes out extremely pregnant and she does not shoot to wound. She shoots to kill on every joke. Watching and listening to that special, I’ve just never been so happy for someone—and also so like, “Shit, I’ve got to work hard.”

Eddie Izzard: Glorious (1997)

I lived in Ireland my junior year of college, and I got Glorious on CD. I just listened to it on a Discman on the bus in Dublin. It was a big deal to me. I had always kind of wanted to be a comedian, but that was the first time I was like, “Oh, that’s how I would do it too.” Not that I thought I could be as good as him, but Glorious is divided up into the Old Testament and the New Testament. That’s how he says the hour’s going to be. He starts on the Old Testament, and it’s like a long run with tons of tangents. Then, about a half hour in, far from the beginning of the premise, he finishes a bit and then pauses and goes, “So, the New Testament,” and it gets this huge laugh. It was so funny to me, to go back to the thesis statement that the show was going to cover the Old Testament and the New Testament when it hasn’t at all. He trusted that the audience was paying attention to the show, which speaks to his natural ease. I loved it.

Nichols and May: Mike Nichols & Elaine May Examine Doctors (1961)

I got this album for Christmas when I was in junior high. The last track, “Nichols and May at Work,” is an outtake from recording the album, they were just improvising dialog in a studio. They’re trying to do a piece where a son goes to his mother and says that he wants to become a registered nurse—let me state in ink, in Pitchfork, that the premise does not age that well. It’s something you just have to experience, because two people that funny laughing that hard is really, really, really funny.

You hear how they start. He goes, “Oh, I have an idea. I’ll be a son. You say, ‘What do you want to be?’” She goes, “What do you want to be?” He goes, “No no, start off like, ‘You’re getting older now.’” They’re going through the beats of what the sketch will be. She doesn’t know what he’s going to say, and he just can’t get through it from the beginning. I think it might be the happiest thing ever recorded.

Spalding Gray: It’s a Slippery Slope (1998)

His monologues were branded as theater, and I think they are; he was not doing stand-up comedy because he was literally sitting at a table. He didn’t write jokes, he just told you something one of his parents said or some other detail from his life. But his monologues bank on the same thing a comedian hopes for as their career develops, which is a place in your mind: If you’re familiar with their past material, you know walking in who this personality is and you’re willing to learn more about him and watch him change and hear the latest developments in his life and have him show different sides of himself.

Slippery Slope is about him learning to ski at the same time as he was having this total mental breakdown. He talks about how he left the girlfriend who he’d lived with and then actually married, and the audience has gotten to know her over many years. Now he’s had a child with another woman. He knew he wanted to be with this new woman and his son, and also he couldn’t leave the woman he was with. It borders on extremely unlikeable. I remember hearing him get interviewed by Terry Gross about that monologue, and she said something like, “You know, I hate to say this, I didn’t like you in that one.” He said, “I’m not a nice guy, Terry.” Not a lot of people will admit that, and maybe more people should.

Earthquake: About Got Damn Time (2005)

The great thing about stand-up comedy is that, as a fan but also as a comedian, you interact with people with whom you might not have a lot of shared autobiographical details. I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Earthquake the comedian, and there’s bits in this show where I don’t understand the reference at all. He talks about playing the card game spades and having a “possible,” which I guess is a move or situation in the game. I have no idea. But it makes me laugh so hard, because he’s dying laughing talking about it, and the audience is dying laughing.

This is not a proper album, but I would listen to this with headphones. It’s just a powerhouse of a special. He has a joke about the next guy to try to date Michael Jordan’s wife after they got divorced—it is so funny, and I will not quote it. Honestly, just trying to mix Spalding Gray and Earthquake and Bernie Mac into some kind of amalgam has been the goal of my career.



Amy Schumer

Amy Schumer Tells Comics There Is a Comedy Topic That Should Be Off Limits

 says she is tired of hearing men joke about their ignorance. Specifically, she’s done with hearing male comics on stage saying they don’t know how to act around women now. She’s sick of comedians joking that they’re afraid to be alone in a room with a woman, or asking if its okay to say hello. “STOP.” she wrote on Twitter.

Schumer feels that the joke belittles victims who have been wronged. “Stop making fun of the terror and indignity most have us have faced in our lives,” she wrote after pointing out that somewhere between 1 in 3 and 1 in 6 women are victims of assault.

To those who are actually confused about how to act, she suggests they simply ask, “and don’t make it a joke,” she wrote, adding “because that’s harmful and we don’t want to hear that kind of joke right now. Mmmmmkay?”

Schumer has always been considered part of the “no topic off limits” comedians, and several of Schumer’s comedy friends tell jokes that sound a lot like the ones mentioned in her tweets. She’s not naming names.

It will be interesting to see if her comments have any effect.

Comic Jaye McBride Breaks Through the Trans Barrier

Comic Jaye McBride Breaks Through the Trans Barrier at Broadway Comedy Club


Trans comic Jaye McBride

(Jaye McBride photo from Facebook)

Comedienne Jaye McBride has been named the first transgender comic to be passed into regular rotation at Broadway Comedy Club. While trans comics have long performed at nightspots around the city, McBride stands alone as the first to reach that lofty rung of Manhattan’s show business ladder.

She hit that milestone after an audition a few days ago, where Broadway Comedy Club Owner Al Martin caught McBride’s act for himself. “Jaye was amazing and the crowd loved her,” Martin attests. “Our crowd was comprised of 50 per cent New Yorkers and 50 per cent tourists. Both groups loved her. She killed and that’s my criteria when judging comics. I ask myself ‘is this comic incredibly funny?’. Jaye absolutely is. So I immediately passed her into the club.”

That’s a boost that every comic hopes to hit on the way up. What does that mean for McBride specifically? As the first Manhattan Comedy Club to place a transgender comic on their “passed” roster, MCC says that now McBride will perform on a regular basis at the venue. Certainly there are other hills to climb — and many of them are familiar to audiences who have followed stand-up comics from Bob Hope to Phyllis Diller, Richard Pryor and Jeff Foxworthy. Every one of them, whether they went on to cable specials, TV sitcoms or multi-million dollar movie deals, had to pass through the same ring of fire to be where McBride now finds herself.

For her part, the comedienne is taking it all in stride. “To be honest,” McBride said after the announcement, “I didn’t know that I was the first trans person to be passed in the city. I kind of suspected as much because I pretty much know every trans comic in the country. We all know each other; we’re like the Amish,” said McBride.

She also has a sense of perspective about her newly improved fortunes. “I’m very excited to be part of the Broadway Comedy Club lineup,” she’ll say now, “but also to be an example to other trans kids to show them that there is a place for us in the world. I’m not exactly Jackie Robinson, I mean for starters, I tell more d*¢k jokes and throw like a girl, but I think it’s a huge deal that this club believes in me. I can’t wait to show them that they made the right call.”

McBride, while not yet a household name, has already been seen by audiences across the globe. She’s been a headliner for years in smaller markets and appeared on the bill alongside such established names as Aziz Ansari, Gilbert Gottfried, Jim Norton & Bobcat Goldthwait. She’s also participated in The Boston Comedy Festival, The Maine Comedy Festival and the She Devil Comedy Festival and was recently invited to the Big Pine Comedy Festival.

In addition to stand-up, Jaye writes for Lady Parts Justice League and speaks at colleges and groups all across the country with her lecture about being transgender called Trans 102: the Chamber of Secrets. Having transitioned in 2007, Jaye is uniquely qualified to talk about awkward first dates, strained family relationships and self-acceptance.

Her opportunity arose when the founders of YAAAS! Fest — NYC’s biggest LGBTQ Comedy Competition — first approached the MCC owner earlier this year and vouched that McBride was ready for a larger spotlight. Martin says that “the organizers of YAAAS! Fest told me she was funny, and that Jaye had actually started doing comedy in Upstate New York. So I called an upstate comedian who told me that Jaye not only performs upstate but also has a big following in Albany and Syracuse. That intrigued me. I thought: “if she is knocking them dead in Upstate New York, I wonder how she would do here in the city?’”

Comic Drew Tessler — the host of this year’s YAAAS! Fest — applauds the decision. “We were so excited to find out that Broadway Comedy club added Jaye to their regular line up of comics. We made Broadway Comedy Club the home for YAAAS! Fest because its owner has always proudly showcased comics from the LGBTQ community. Our YAAAS! Fest Board could not be more excited for Jaye and to partner with Broadway Comedy Club this year.”