Marc Maron on Louis C.K.: “This Is Obviously a Fucking Massive, Turbulent Learning Moment for Men”

Marc Maron - Minneapolis, MinnesotaSince last week’s New York Times report was published confirming the long-running rumors about Louis C.K.’s sexual misconduct, a handful of comedians have responded to the news by reflecting on their own experiences as well as what lessons the comedy world can learn from this going forward. At Vulture, Guy Branum wrote an excellent piece about comedy’s boys’ club atmosphere that focused on the famous comedians’ table at the Comedy Cellar, and it’s well worth the read:

I’m scared to write this, because I know the people who sit at the table will see it and say I’m not a real comic, and I don’t value real comedy. Writing this means I never get to sit at the table. At the beginning of my career when I was invited into some lesser comedy boys’ club, I did my best to play by their rules. I kept silent as they denigrated women, or explained to me how I wasn’t like the other gays. It never earned me real respect from anyone, least of all myself. My silence simply empowered a system to treat me and many other people like we were negligible and disposable.

Also worth the read is Laurie Kilmartin’s wonderful piece for The New York Times called “Being a Female Comic in Louis C.K.’s World”:

There’s a Hulu documentary called Too Funny to Fail, about Dana Carvey’s sketch show on ABC. Louis C.K. was the head writer, the guy who presumably did the hiring. When I started watching it, of course I noticed that all the writers on the show were men. And they are all great — not a dud in the bunch. But were there a couple of great female writers who didn’t even try to get a job on that show because they’d heard weird stuff about the guy who did the hiring? Are those women still in the business?

I wonder if there’s a parallel universe where I was born male and became a comic. Am I rich in that universe? Do I headline stadiums? Is my wife taking care of my son so that I can focus exclusively on my career? Am I better at networking with men because I’m not worried about sending the wrong message? Do I hang out after my show and have drinks because I know that will help me get work?

The latest comedian to grapple with the Louis C.K. news is one of his friends, Marc Maron, who spends the introduction of today’s episode of WTF trying to come to terms with not just C.K. but his own complicity in a culture that made it impossible for women comics to come forward with their stories about being harassed and assaulted. Maron notes that he brought up the allegations directly with C.K. in the past, but C.K. always dismissed them as “not true” and “not real.” “The environment enabled the dismissiveness of it,” Maron says. “It is pushed aside, it is dismissed, it is framed as an annoyance or an embarrassment, it is used against people, it is used as a threat. That is the structure that exists in life. So how do we get that power structure in check? The big step is empathy – something I’ve had problems with.” Here’s another excerpt:

Most male comics respect female comics, and they say “Well, she was able to do it.” Well, what we don’t really, I think, know is just how much bullshit they have to deal with on top of just figuring out how to get onstage and do comedy. They have to deal with all of us — all of the male bullshit that every woman has to deal with in every work environment. There just is no HR department in comedy. There’s no place to go to have grievances, it’s stacked against you.

Maron goes on to admit that he’s guilty of perpetuating the gender imbalance in comedy, whether it’s never hiring a woman writer on his TV show or being a “toxic male presence” in the comedy world and in general. “I am trying to access the empathy and the understanding of this implicit and malignant age-old power dynamic so I can grow and help change things. This is obviously a fucking massive, turbulent learning moment for men, if you choose to take the education.”

Maron doesn’t arrive at any easy answers, but hopefully other straight male comics and comedy fans take his lead and do the same kind of self-reflection. Listen to the full thing here.

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