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[EXCLUSIVE] An Open Response Letter To Lindy West

[EXCLUSIVE] An Open Response Letter To Lindy West
Robert Lackey

This is an open letter in response to a recent Lindy West Article where she cited a quote from a thread on my Facebook page.

Hey Lindy,

I would like to apologize to you for saying I’d like to see you fall down a flight of stairs. That was a joke in a 100 comment thread on my Facebook. I also apologize for creating animosity and negativity for you and your boyfriend. I didn’t realize how much tension this was causing until your boyfriend started private messaging me in a threatening and angry manner. I didn’t apologize to you before because I don’t know you, I’ve never worked with you and I wasn’t aware the conversation on my Facebook was being monitored. I also would like to say, I like your boyfriend from speaking to him yesterday on Facebook and I feel awful for upsetting him.

I was raised to believe that women are completely equal and as strong as men. My mother was one of the first women of power in her industry and she raised me to look at peoples’ character regardless of sex, race, creed or religion.

I don’t know of any openly anti-female comics and there is a conscious effort in the comedy community here to not allow any anti-female shit fly. If anything (and this would be something interesting for you to address) the problem in my opinion isn’t the jokes or the joke content, it’s that new female comics have to deal with a lot of sexual harassment. It’s pretty disgusting and messed up. I also think new female comedians have to navigate a pretty gross world until they get their bearings.

My issues with your writing is that I think you’re disingenuous at best. I am not talking down to you and your experiences and you’re completely entitled to your opinion. However, in my experience there’s rarely horrible anti-woman or rape jokes out there now and when there are, they’re largely the product of new comedians who don’t know better. I’m out at comedy shows five to six nights a week and all this has generated a lot of discussion. Honestly from my own experience and from asking around to both male and female comics, there’s been maybe two or three horrible rape jokes that we can remember since the year started in this scene.

This rape joke argument has been around forever. George Carlin used to do jokes about how stupid it is 20 years ago and made jokes about raping feminists to point out the absurdity of the whole thing. I think you’re picking it up for political reasons. Politics don’t work in comedy and the only validation a joke needs is if an audience laughs at it. I also don’t think you’re offering much of anything new to this argument. And I think you’re creating a straw man argument.

I think it’s completely disingenuous to attack straight white male comedians and blame them for this thing you perceive when this is a symptom of bad joke writing from new comedians. I had an in-depth conversation with a great friend of mine who’s a black dude and he strongly thinks that this is a white person phenomenon. However, I think that’s completely wrong. There are predominantly more straight white males that attempt stand-up than any other demographic. So let’s say 100 new white straight male comedians and 10 new black straight male comedians show up. 10 white dudes may have a horrible rape joke and 1 black dude may have a horrible rape joke but it’s contingent upon them being new comedians who don’t know better and has nothing to do with race. That’s like saying ankle sprains in the NBA is a black folks problem.

I’ve seen bad rape jokes come out of the mouths of white people, black people, asian people and both men and women.

And you can point to Daniel Tosh but that was one instant of bad riffing on a bad night when Tosh was just working through new stuff. Do I support it? Of course not, but it’s not indicative of an entire culture.

I think the rape joke argument is ridiculous but to me, it’s as beautiful as the Westboro Baptist Church. Don’t get me wrong, I detest the WBC but the fact that something so vile is allowed to fly in society shows the freedom in our society. When I watch some new comedian go up and bomb with vile material, as much as I dislike the material it makes me happy because that means anything is allowed.

This is the greatest art form on the planet because it’s the freest. And I really feel your attacking rape jokes and straight white comedians is a form of censorship and creating a straw man argument. I also think the more you work to get something like rape jokes out of the scene the more that opens the door for things like abortion, interracial, or whatever jokes that make people uncomfortable. This art form is about attacking taboos and hypocrisy not creating them.

This is also the toughest art form because there’s no way you can practice it unless you’re in front of a crowd. You can’t sit in a room and practice saying jokes and know if it’s going to be funny or not. The only way a comedian can learn is by trial and error in front of people. And for new comedians there’s a seemingly infinite amount of trial and error. New comedians try things such as poor rape jokes thinking they’re going to get respect for being edgy or that they’re going to get a shock laugh. And the emotional toil a new comedian bombing with vile material feels is often the best experience to get them to change their approach. It ultimately takes a comedian years of working out several times a week before they come close to being a finished product. And there’s a lot of hard work, sacrifice and personal turmoil that goes into it. I strongly believe that anyone who puts their time in gets it.

I also think with all this you’re generating a lot of attention for yourself while this is going to backfire and now new comedians are going to write more rape jokes. Not because they hate women but because they want to be edgy and fight the establishment. You saw for yourself the hostility you engendered from comedians in your visit in Seattle. That’s not because you’re a woman, it’s because comedians are insulted that you’re trying to come across as an authority while having a lazy, uninformed and prejudiced view of comedy.

I also am somewhat irritated that you wrote an article on how to write jokes when you’re not a working comedian. However noble or well intentioned that was, that came off as insulting to a lot of us. I’m not trying to hurt your feelings or diminish you, I’m just telling you the perspective of some comedians here.

I think you’re making comedy look bad and making this world look like an overtly sexist fucked up prejudiced culture with your exaggerations and generalizations. In my experience comedy has been anything but and virtually every male comedian in this scene wants to stamp out sexism while treating women as equals. And that’s what my problem is with you.

Finally, I’d like to offer a solution to this entire mess. We don’t need controversy after controversy over such a pointless issue. If you don’t like what a comedian said, go talk to them about it. This is the general policy in this scene and it’s been a very positive thing. I think you’d be surprised how treating comedians like human beings and explaining like an adult why you were offended by something will produce a lot more positivity for comedy than generalizing. I’m not saying there aren’t dicks or horrible people in comedy but more often than not a simple conversation is the best thing.

I respect you as a human being, as a woman and as someone with talent who’s made success for yourself. However, I disagree with a lot of what you’re saying about the culture of comedy. I also think you’re missing out on some real issues like how gross it is to be a new female comedian in a male dominated culture or how sex charged this world is.

Finally, I’d just like to say I wish you and your boyfriend the best and I wish you continued success in your career.

 

- Robert Lackey

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