What’s changed in the comedy industry after #MeToo?

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Comedians Megan Koester (left) and Merrill Markoe (right). Photo credit: Mandee Johnson

Louis C.K. and Aziz Ansari are back on tour after taking months off after accusations of sexual misconduct. Their shows are selling out all over the country.

Louis C.K has even gotten several standing ovations, including in December 2018 after a set in which he poked fun at students who survived the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida.

It seems like not a lot has changed, so Press Play turned to two women comedians to see what it’s like working in the industry after the #MeToo movement.

Megan Koester is a comic in her 30s, and Merrill Markoe has been a comic since the 1970s.

Markoe says, “I think being mean is a really wrong way to do comedy. But on the other hand, I don't think there are that many taboo subjects that you can't handle with comedy.”

In 2013, Louis C.K. projected himself as someone who stood up for women. What happened?

In his comedy special “Oh My God,” he said men were the biggest threat to women.“The worst thing that ever happened to them,” he joked.

Koester suggests she doesn’t buy the joke.

“It's lulling you into a false sense of security, which is something that a lot of men who outwardly identify as male feminists like to do while they're twisting the knife in your back,” says Koester.

Koester knew about the sexual misconduct allegations against Louis C.K. years before they came out publicly. Why didn’t anyone say something?

In 2015, Koester went to the Just for Laughs Festival, one of the biggest festival for comics in the world. She was a relatively new comedian and already heard the accusations, so it was likely other comedians did too. She tried to ask the more high-profile comics about the accusations, but few wanted to talk. She also got kicked out of the festival.

“He was the biggest comedian in the world, basically. And people were afraid that if you were to say something about it -- that you could sacrifice job opportunities, etc.,” she says.

She adds, "The reason why these men continue to get away with these things is because there's an entire network designed to protect them."

Can Louis C.K. redeem himself?

Markoe says she would have written the “smartest, most killer set about this stuff that happened.”

Koester believes redemption is possible for Louis C.K. “Louis is completely capable of writing an hour of material that is really thoughtful and addresses what has happened, and is contrite, and actually proves that he's worked on himself and realized the effects that his actions have had. I think it would be very easy for him to redeem himself because he is -- well, was -- a very intelligent thoughtful person.”

Has anything changed?

Koester says now she sees more opportunities for women comedians, but only to talk about the sexual misdeeds of men. “It’s not like for every guy who jerked off in front of someone and was shamed out of the entertainment industry, a woman gets her wings. And by ‘her wings,’ I mean a development deal.”

But Markoe feels more optimistic. “I'm seeing a lot more women supporting women concretely -- with eyes open -- than I used to see,” Markoe says.


--Written by Amy Ta, produced by Alex Tryggvadottir