Where’s All the Outrage From Male Comedians Over Louis C.K. Getting a Grammy?

The Will Smith slap caused an uproar, but no one has said a word about an admitted sex offender winning a Grammy

Louis CK speaks on stage during The 76th Annual Peabody Awards Ceremony at Cipriani, Wall Street on May 20, 2017 in New York City.
Louis CK speaks on stage during The 76th Annual Peabody Awards Ceremony at Cipriani, Wall Street on May 20, 2017 in New York City.
Brad Barket

For those keeping track at home, we’re now on Day 10 of Will Smith slap discourse. A slew of famous comedians have already spoken out about the dangerous precedent set by the actor’s assault on Chris Rock, arguing it gives others who are offended by a comic’s jokes permission to physically attack them. The slap wasn’t just an assault on Rock, they argue, it was an assault on comedy itself. And yet, when it comes to assaults on female comedians specifically, they’ve been eerily silent; since Louis C.K., who admitted to masturbating in front of several women (many of whom were also comedians) without their consent in 2017, won the Grammy for Best Comedy Album last Sunday, many of the performers who spoke out about how traumatized they are by the Rock slap have kept mum about his controversial victory.

As Jen Kirkman, who tells the story of the time when Louis C.K. asked her if he could masturbate in front of her on her stand-up album OK Gen-X, pointed out on Twitter, C.K.’s win sends a message to female comedians — and women in general — that they’ll never truly be safe because their abusers will always be able to bounce back, reenter respectable society and receive new accolades. (You can read Kirkman’s full story of her interaction with C.K. here, but the gist of it is that she thought he was workshopping a bit when he asked her, proving that his “I always asked for consent” argument is perhaps more complicated than he’d care to admit.)

“I’m sad,” Kirkman later wrote on Twitter (in a since-deleted Tweet). “I thought a lot of male comics were my friends. Not one has reached out to see if I’m okay or any other woman who gets triggered by harassment. Not one has reached out to say he’s going to do something with other men to wipe rape culture from comedy. My heart is broken.”

Of course, she’s right to be devastated. Where is all the outrage in the comedy community over Louis C.K.’s win? A slap is a bridge too far to them because it implies that they too might one day get slapped for making a joke that crosses a line, but what about the implication to their female colleagues that if they ever get harassed or sexually assaulted at work, the man who did it could very well go on to sell out arenas and win awards as if nothing had ever happened?

We can argue over whether award shows are dumb and irrelevant, but there’s no denying that handing someone a trophy is an endorsement of them and their behavior. The Grammys could have intervened and decided not to award Best Comedy Album to Louis C.K. because he doesn’t reflect their values as an organization. (Although, given the Recording Academy’s long, problematic history of mistreating women, maybe he does actually reflect their values.) They didn’t, though, because they knew that the outcry would be minimal. That’s why it’s so important for male comedians in particular to speak out and make it clear that there’s no place in their ranks for men who abuse or harass women. Until they do, we’ll have to assume otherwise.

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