The conviction this past week of Harvey Weinstein on two of the counts in his rape trial is the latest rejoiner to the ever-repeated canard that “#MeToo has gone too far!” If there’s no #MeToo movement, as there was for the many years prior to its existence, Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly would likely still walk free today. All three men, after all, were prosecuted years, if not decades, later than they should have been.
Another place of heavy #MeToo resistance has been in the world of comedy. From Dave Chappelle’s warnings about “celebrity hunting season” to various predictions that one little harassment accusation would mean the end of careers, it hasn’t ended up that way. Because just about every comedian accused of #MeToo-related misdeeds not only still has a career, but most of them are thriving.
A look at the upcoming event calendar in my hometown of Philadelphia shows that various comics accused of such wrongdoing are headed to town soon, or recently passed through.
Louis C.K., the onetime A-list comic who lost various specials and TV deals in 2017 after he admitted that longstanding rumors about his habit of exposing himself to women were true, has been back on the road for the better part of a year, and has two shows coming up at The Met, which is now Philadelphia’s signature comedy venue.
…the movement appears to have shaken out in a way that’s been rather just…
Aziz Ansari, also accused in a bizarre story on the now-defunct website Babe.net, is also headed to The Met, in May, following a Netflix special last fall. Other comics accused of such misdeeds, including T.J. Miller, Chris Hardwick, and actor-turned-comedian Jeremy Piven, have also appeared in town recently, with the latter three appearing for interviews with local media outlets in which the accusations against them have not been mentioned.
Don’t Call It a Comeback
The argument here isn’t that these men actually deserve to be banned from comedy forever. Some of the men have been accused of worse things than others, while some have been more remorseful than others (Ansari, in particular, has expressed admirable contrition on stage.) It’s been argued, somewhat eloquently, that it’s neglegient for comedy clubs to allow sexual harassers such as Louie to continue to perform:
At any rate, it’s clearly true that these men’s careers have not been ended by the #MeToo movement. In fact, the movement appears to have shaken out in a way that’s been rather just: That those accused of full-on rape, and other horrific things, and/or convicted in a court of law, have actually lost their careers permanently, while others have not.
At the same time, there’s a parallel argument going on, based on the widespread belief that “political correctness” and “wokeness” are “ruining comedy.” But there’s no truth to that either.
As we saw last year with the most recent Dave Chappelle special (and the one before that and the one before that), it was alleged frequently that Chappelle had been “cancelled,” for his jokes about trans people, his argument for the innocence of Michael Jackson, and other such on-stage heresies. But… he wasn’t. He was criticized, in a way that in no way challenged his career or livelihood.
It’s the sort of thing that happens all the time these days – most recently when writer Dana Schwartz posted a moderately critical tweet about South Park, one that made no mention of cancelling or censoring the show, and fans of the show reacted as if she were attempting to destroy the show they love.
Being a comedian is a hard life, for sure. It’s not easy to go on stage, with no guarantee of success or ever making any money. But one thing that’s very clear is that comedians aren’t losing their careers, either to “wokeness,” or unfair #metoo accusations.