Yes, You Should Still Wear A Mask At The Comedy Club

A physicist explains why state guidelines and club policies may be too lax.

In April the piecemeal reopening of comedy clubs across the country finally reached two longstanding holdouts: New York, which allowed indoor entertainment venues to reopen at limited capacity on April 2nd, and California, where indoor performances were cleared to resume earlier this month, with restrictions varying by county. In Los Angeles, which appears set to enter the least restrictive tier of reopening early next month, the Comedy Store is planning a grand reopening in its Main Room tonight. The Laugh Factory, half a mile down the street, will hold a “soft reopening” tomorrow.

The reopening of comedy’s capital cities draws renewed attention to safety issues that have dogged the industry for the past year, as headliners toured the country performing in states with differing health guidelines and negligible enforcement. Some states didn’t require masking or distancing at all; others declined to penalize clubs that ignored the rule. A number of high-profile comedians, like Dave Chappelle and Brian Regan, tested positive for Covid-19 while on the road, raising questions about audience and employee safety. Still the industry chugged indefatigably toward something resembling normalcy—albeit at reduced capacity, with a negative test result or vaccination card required at the door. 

Those safety issues have never been resolved. Central to the reopening of indoor comedy is a contradiction that also defined the reopening of indoor dining, itself connected to a raft of Covid-19 outbreaks: the science says you should avoid unnecessary indoor gatherings with people outside your household, and if you can’t then you should wear a mask. The guidance clears you to remove your mask periodically throughout indoor gatherings with people outside your household, if not the entire time. In New York, comedy audiences “may temporarily remove their face covering when seated at an assigned seat/area to eat or drink.” In California, masks are “mandatory unless actively eating and/or drinking”; likewise in Ohio. In Texas, you are “strongly encouraged” to wear a mask when you can’t stay six feet away from your fellow patrons—that is, when you’re at your seat—but the state forbids local governments from enforcing mandates. In Utah, you must similarly mask up “when physical distancing is not feasible.” In Florida, you can pretty much do whatever you want, as close as you want to whoever you want: some localities still have mask orders, but as in Texas they’re barred from fining violators. The list goes on.

In practice, these rules amount to a pass on wearing a mask at comedy clubs, whether or not you’re putting food in your mouth. A brief scan of social media images taken at clubs in all the above states and more suggests that if it is not the norm for comedy clubs to adopt a “mask up if you want” policy, then they are at the very least lax about enforcing state guidelines. From these images emerge some obvious questions: Does it matter? How safe are comedy audiences under the rules as written, and how safe are they under the rules as observed?

According to Eric Schiff, a physicist who’s researched airborne transmission of Covid-19, masking up indoors is still critical—especially if you’ll be there for a while. "The first thing that counts is how much unmasked time you spend in the club," said Schiff, the interim director of Syracuse University’s Center for Excellence in Environmental and Energy Systems Innovation. As the scientific and medical community has known for almost a year, he explained, you can still catch the virus from people indoors even if they’re more than six feet away. He cited a recent study by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who argued that in a well-ventilated indoor space, six feet of distancing between masked people offers little more protection than 60 feet. The study suggests that in such a setting, time spent indoors is a more important consideration than social distancing. (A few extra feet of distance do make some difference when people aren’t masked, the authors said). 

“That picture that you [only] catch it when you're in close contact is not correct,” Schiff said. “If there's anyone in the club infected, then whenever they breathe out, they emit a certain number of virus-carrying particles. Little tiny things, nothing like spit, nothing you can see. And it spreads a little bit like cigarette smoke might spread in the old days, at least in comedy clubs and bars. It just goes everywhere. And then if you breathe in a lungful of air that happens to have enough virus in it, you will get sick.”

Wearing a mask goes a long way toward mitigating the risk you inhale that lungful of air. But masking up only when you’re out of your seat? Not so much. “To wear a mask just for, let's say, ten minutes on the hour at the most, when you go to the bar or the bathroom, leaving 50 minutes of unmasked breathing—that would be almost no protection,” Schiff said. He added that occupancy reductions are still an important safety measure, with a 50% limit cutting the odds of transmission fourfold. (Comedy fans in Texas and Florida, beware.) While rising vaccination rates certainly help a great deal, he stressed that they don’t eliminate the risk entirely. All it takes is one infected customer to spread the virus, and Covid-19 is most contagious when people don’t know they have it—that is, when a temperature check at the door won’t catch anything wrong. 

In comedy as with everything else in this pandemic, what’s technically allowed is not the sole public safety consideration. Masking, distancing, avoiding unnecessary physical contact—these things still matter, even if state guidance and club policies de-emphasize them. The virus is still out there, it’s still deadly, and it’s still everyone’s responsibility to take a full stock of the risks before venturing out to an indoor comedy show. “The best you can do is say, well, if there's a lot of cases in the community, then there might be one here," Schiff ultimately advised. "If the caseload in the community is very low, you're pretty safe."


Header image via Terry Ross/Flickr.

Second City Invites Laid-Off Workers to Reapply for Their Jobs

After being laid off last March and fired in October, the theater's night staff will receive "first priority" to interview for open positions.

As Covid-19 demolished the live entertainment industry last spring, The Second City laid off its entire night staff, about 90 part-time and full-time service workers. While there was some confusion at the time as to whether the action was permanent—an email announcement seemed to use the words “layoffs” and “suspension” interchangeably—the famed Chicago institution clarified the matter in October, when it announced that it was adjusting the night staff’s employment status “from suspended to terminated.” Now under new ownership, The Second City has informed its former night staffers that their jobs will not be waiting for them when the theater reopens.

In an email sent in late March, The Second City announced that going forward its restaurant will be managed by The Fifty/50 Restaurant Group, which operates two restaurants and a bar in the theater’s Old Town complex. “Food and beverage, we have acknowledged, is not our core competency,” the email said. “Fifty/50 has demonstrated its ability to champion their staff and we believe they are in a better position to lead this area of our theaters and support the staff going forward… Night staff working in our theaters prior to the COVID-19 lockdown are encouraged to apply on Fifty/50’s website. We anticipate open positions will be posted within the next two weeks on Indeed and Craigslist as well.”

Second City did not respond to a request for comment about the announcement. In an email signed “Recruiting / Human Resources,” The Fifty/50 Restaurant Group told me that "previous employees of Second City will be given first priority to interview for any position that the Fifty/50 Group hires for within the theaters, and we will select the most qualified candidate for each position. There were a lot of great team members that worked at Second City and we hope to rehire as many of them back as possible, if they were in good standing with the previous management." The firm would not commit to rehiring every former night staffer who wants the job. “We have no experience working with any of the previous SC employees," it explained. "Several job descriptions may be altered due to the nature of the theaters during the pandemic, so we are unable to determine at this time, who or who is not qualified for each position or what positions we will have available."

Former night staffers were less than thrilled with the news. “The Second City has always taken advantage of the good faith of their employees,” Ale Domeier, a bartender for almost three years at the theater, told me in a Twitter message. “A lot of people who lost their jobs were people who spent years working for the company just because they genuinely cared about the productions in the theaters, and because they had a deep admiration for the theater’s legacy.” Night staffers were active members of the community even in their off-hours, Domeier added, with many spending their paychecks on classes or small-scale productions at the theater. “It’s just upsetting to see so many dedicated people completely let down by a company they gave their lives to,” she said.

Adam Hildenbrand, who worked as a server before the layoffs last year, said in a Twitter message that The Fifty/50’s statement “sounds like bullshit honestly.” He was skeptical that many former night staffers will return. “I think they will likely give the few SC folks that actually apply an interview,” he said. “I couldn’t see them actually hiring many. They are changing everything and the way jobs operate. They don’t want a bunch of people that preferred how SC is meant to run that will go against the grain.”

The night staff announcement came during a remarkable unionization effort by Second City’s teachers. That effort ended successfully on Thursday, when the National Labor Relations Board ratified a vote by educators in the Chicago training center to form a union with the Illinois Federation of Teachers, joining their colleagues in Hollywood and Toronto. Second City’s onstage talent are represented by Actors’ Equity; in 2017, night staffers unsuccessfully attempted to unionize through the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, an effort they claimed was disrupted by union-busting tactics. Some were preparing to try again before the mass layoffs last year.

Hildenbrand and Domeier both pointed out that The Second City received a $3.2 million Paycheck Protection Program loan last August, two months before it informed night staffers of their permanent termination. PPP funds are forgivable if the recipient spends at least 60% on payroll costs. Businesses that don’t meet this threshold, but which spend the funds on other eligible expenses, must repay the loan (minus any partial forgiveness for payroll expenses) at 1% interest; businesses that spend the funds on unapproved expenses may be subject to legal scrutiny. Records published by the Small Business Administration show that in its loan application, The Second City said it would spend about $2.4 million on payroll for 490 employees and the remainder on rent. Four months earlier, the Chicago Tribune reported that Second City’s mass layoffs reduced its workforce from 750 to 250. The theater’s spokesperson did not respond to questions about the PPP loan.

Like other comedy theaters, The Second City received harsh criticism last summer for its longstanding institutional racism. The theater’s owners responded by declaring their willingness “to tear it all down and begin again.” Then, in February, they sold the company to private equity firm ZMC, perhaps best known for its owner’s role as CEO of the company behind video games Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption. In the email to former night staff, Second City said it was “working closely with Fifty/50 to ensure that they understand our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, as well as our policies, procedures, and training in how to engage audience members.”

The Association of International Comedy Educators, the union representing Second City’s teachers, declined to comment on the night staff news. Actors’ Equity did not respond to a request for comment.


Header image via Jeffrey Zeldman/Flickr.

On Being Wrong

Also, an announcement.

I've been very disgusted by the apparently now weekly phenomenon where Tucker Carlson's friend Glenn Greenwald launches some vicious personal attack against a less powerful (usually female) journalist who then receives an onslaught of rape threats and death threats from Greenwald's massive following while he says this is just reasonable criticism and he's the victim. He did this again yesterday to a USA Today intern who co-wrote an article about Capitol rioters using online payment platforms to crowdfund their legal fees, or as Greenwald described it, who tried to "pressure tech companies to terminate the ability of impoverished criminal defendants to raise money for their legal defense from online donations." Thus began another of his cruel, dishonest, tedious day-long meltdowns whose aggregate effect will be to drive journalists out of an already dying industry. It's very depressing stuff that I'm horrible at looking away from, which is how I found myself chewing over one particular rhetorical thread in Greenwald's responses to this current round of people telling him he's an asshole: that actually he's popular.

I've previously written about how important it is for artists to recognize that people liking a piece of work does not in and of itself mean the work is good. This is a subset of a broader truth about the world, one so obvious you've known it your whole life but which our entire society requires us to politely ignore: lots of people can be wrong. Lots and lots of people can be wrong. Overwhelming majorities of people can be wrong. Whole countries have been created and run by wrong people given their power by other wrong people who fought and died in wars against even more wrong people. The fact that thousands or hundreds of thousands or millions of people agree with something does not mean it's right. It just means they agree with it; that it serves them. Maybe it serves them for reasons correlated with its rightness, maybe it serves them for reasons divorced from its rightness. The belief that popularity confers rightness is fundamentally a belief that power confers rightness, an extremely dangerous idea not unrelated to all those wars and dead people.

Again, this is a super obvious thing everyone learns from a young age. You would think a critical mind like Glenn Greenwald's might be able to remember that what's popular is seldom indicative of what's good. Unfortunately the world conspires to make us forget this, especially those of us in the arts and media, where if you wish to make a living you are obliged to seek out large audiences who like you and agree with you and constantly tell you so. One illuminating and obliterating quirk of my job has been the front-row seat it affords to the psychological ravages of being liked, how often it cleanses a person of all the doubt and shame essential (in my opinion) to critical thought. How can you discover what's right without the perpetual nagging worry that you're wrong? How can you responsibly wield an audience's trust without some conception of what it would mean to abuse that trust, let alone the fear that you may already be abusing it? What if everyone who agrees with you is a fool? Once you get a large enough audience you'll never have to bother yourself with these questions. The positive feedback will always drown out the negative. Go deep enough and you'll eventually stop asking them, if you ever did at all.

A post shared by @thegoodseth

A few years ago in a poetry workshop my friend Anna observed that many of my poems were about failure. It's true and I can't really articulate why other than to say I'm interested in the very cliché thing where our entire existence on this earth is defined by loss and we still have to go about enjoying our lives and trees and birds and walking the dog who's going to die in ten to fifteen years if we're lucky. For me reading and writing poetry is a way of practicing holding these irreconcilable ideas in my head without falling apart. Everything is incredibly bad and also incredibly good and beautiful and I love it. I don't think I'm particularly unique here. Practically all narrative fiction through all of history is about failure. We tell stories about people trying to get something and failing and trying harder and failing again and trying even harder and then finally they get it but it comes at some terrible cost and/or isn't what they thought it would be. We're all taught from the moment we understand language that getting what we want is dangerous. It changes us, it takes from us. And yet here we all are trying to get it anyhow.

This is all a long way of saying that when you find an audience who loves and supports what you do, if you haven't already, I hope you hold onto your skepticism, your doubt, your curiosity, your capacity to believe that you're the asshole. I hope I do too and I trust you to tell me if I don't. Also, I'm going to take a short break from this newsletter. I'll pause billing tomorrow night and turn it back on May 1st. I've been writing this in earnest for a little over a year now, the entirety of the pandemic. It's a chill-ass job that I'm incredibly lucky has somehow become my main source of income. The thought of stepping away makes me nervous—I'm saving up to move out of Boise when my lease ends, and growing this thing pretty much depends on regular publication. But yesterday I found myself debating whether tweeting a picture of my dog wearing a bandana with his trainer's name on it would put her at risk of getting doxxed, which I realized is probably as glaring a sign as any that I need to clear my head, something I can't possibly do while writing several posts a week about the thing fogging it up in the first place. I'm a firm believer that writing and reading should be more interesting than thinking. Lately my thoughts haven't felt up to snuff; best to take some time and replenish them.

When I come back it won't be on Substack. You may have seen the flurry of discourse over the last few weeks about this platform's refusal to enforce its policies concerning harassment and hate speech. If you haven't, I'd recommend starting with Emily VanDerWerff's take on the matter, which I pretty much agree with wholesale. I see no compelling reason Graham Linehan's harassment of trans people falls outside Substack's terms of use. I'm not interested in using a platform whose highest-profile users are people like Jesse Singal, whose writing on detransitioning helped set the groundwork for the violent transphobic legislation being enacted around the country, and Glenn Greenwald, who seems set on leveraging his larger-than-ever audience to harass women in journalism. I'm sure it's true, as some have said, that all platforms are corrupt and no writer can make money without selling some portion of their soul. But only one newsletter platform has done the specific objectionable things Substack has done, and the only reason I can see not to draw a line is the slight inconvenience of drawing it. Right now I'm planning to switch over to Letterdrop. The move should happen seamlessly on your end, but check your spam folder if you haven't heard anything from me by early May.

Anyway, I'm being dramatic. Probably I'll send out a few posts next month as events or boredom warrant. Please email me whenever you want; that's usually a better way to reach me than Twitter DMs.

Finally, so long as we're here: before "Shrimp Guy" Jensen Karp was widely outed as a bad guy last week, he claimed that the National History Museum of Los Angeles reached out to him offering to analyze the shrimp tails he allegedly found in his Cinnamon Toast Crunch. When I contacted the NHM to confirm that this happened, a spokesperson told me that while one of their scientists did reach out to Karp, they understood that the samples were instead being sent to a team at UC Santa Cruz. The director of UCSC's Institute for Marine Studies told me he hadn't heard of anything like this and suggested I reach out to two other scientists at the IMS. Neither of them had heard of it either. Both suggested I ask one Dr. Giacomo Bernardi, whom they described as the guy at UCSC who'd conduct that sort of molecular analysis of shrimp tails. Dr. Bernardi told me he was not involved in any sort of viral shrimp tail-related activity. Karp did not respond to a request for clarification.

So, you know, make of that what you will.

“You’re a coward.”

A bit more about that book about the club.

Hey! If you’re into this newsletter, please feel free to forward it to anyone you want, even the paid editions. These things don’t really go viral—except, you know, the occasional extremely long essay about Colin Jost that takes a month to write—so word-of-mouth is my main “acquisition channel.” Thanks!


Last week I chatted with a scholar working on a book about comedy. She asked at one point if I think the industry’s right-wing elements will dissipate as its older generations retire. I tend to think they won’t, because cultural forces reproduce themselves: the Anthony Cumias and Adam Carollas inspire the Luis Gomezes and Andrew Schulzes. This is why I generally disagree with those who argue that the insularity of the traditional standup world renders its problems—the political ones and the labor ones—less pressing for the rest of the industry. Some of these reactionary comics have huge audiences, they’re not going away of their own volition, and the club world has quite a bit of overlap with the outside. The Legion of Skanks perform at the Stand, but so do Josh Gondelman and Emmy Blotnick. On one hand this means audiences who seek out more… normative comics are constantly exposed to the reactionaries. On the other it means those normative comics have some degree of leverage over how that world operates. Change is possible; it’s happened before.

The real problem may lie not in the transmission of ideology through successive generations of comedians, but through successive generations of comedy’s ownership class. This is one striking takeaway from Don’t Applaud, Andrew Hankinson’s forthcoming book about the Comedy Cellar. Part of the issue is that at a club like the Cellar, talent churns at a glacial pace. In one chapter Hankinson reproduces an early-oughts open letter to management whose signatories are overwhelmingly current Cellar regulars: once you’re in, you’re in, and the established comics get years to set social norms for the younger crowd. (See: Michelle Wolf’s journey from liberal feminist TV commentator/host to part of Louis CK and Dave Chappelle’s inner circles.) But this can only happen thanks to the people who decide which comics (and which norms) get tenure. Here are a few sections from a letter Greg Giraldo wrote to one of those people, Cellar owner Manny Dworman, in the early 2000s:

My dearest Manny,

I don’t quite know where to begin. You should know that as I write this I am sick to my stomach with shame.

Before I even begin to address the situation as Colin [Quinn] described it to me, I want to say some things that may be easier to express in writing and that hopefully will make clear that there was nothing underlying my moronic antics other than blind drunkenness.

First of all, Manny, you should know how incredibly highly I think of you. Our relationship has become, quite honestly, one of the most important in my life. You are one of the most interesting, intelligent and funny guys I’ve ever known. The friendship, support, inspiration and generosity you’ve shown me has affected me more deeply than you might even imagine.

[…]

Colin and I discussed the fact that you are likely to think that what I said and did must have come from some real place, that I must have feelings beneath the surface that came to light in my drunkenness. Again, after talking to Colin, I only vaguely remember the specific things I said. But I hope you’ll believe me when I say from the bottom of my heart that I have absolutely no unresolved issues with you. I have nothing but positive and warm feelings for you. I love the discussions that we have. I was so happy with this whole book thing that I was going to suggest we all make it a habit to read the same things at the same time, etc. I think you’re always willing to listen to all perspectives and in fact are only too often frustrated that no one is able to provide a sufficiently challenging argument for you. Colin told me that the word “Nazi” came up. The fucking stupidity of that is so obvious that I almost can’t think of what to say about it.

Colin also said that you felt betrayed, that there was something in my tone and demeanor which implied that I had anger toward you for some reason, or that I was trying to embarrass you, etc. He mentioned that I was essentially accusing you of racism. After the conversations we’d had about your feelings with regard to giving out the book, etc, I can only imagine how fucking hurtful and infuriating this must have been.

Don’t Applaud does not exactly describe whatever argument led to this letter, but there are ample clues. As I wrote earlier this month, the book describes Manny Dworman’s fondness for hosting debates between comics, for which he would buy them books representing two sides of an issue so they could debate it on shared terms. At least one of these was about the Israel-Palestine conflict, for which he bought everyone The Case for Israel by Alan Dershowitz (lol) and Righteous Victims by Benny Morris. Manny was an immigrant from Israel and this was one of his favorite topics. Here’s Jim Norton in the chapter contextualizing Giraldo’s letter:

Manny, he loved to argue about the Middle East. And good luck debating that with him. And somebody listening at the bar overheard. It might have even been me and Manny debating something, but not even that passionately because I knew Manny knew way more than I did about that shit. I only played devil’s advocate. And the guy at the bar goes, “I don’t agree with that.” And Manny goes, “What do you mean you don’t agree with it?” You know, Manny was drinking, and the guy goes, “I just don’t.” And Manny’s like, “Well, come over, defend yourself.” And the guy’s like, “Nah, I don’t want to get involved.” And Manny goes, “You’re a coward.” And he starts screaming at this customer, it’s his fucking customer, this maniac is yelling, and then Manny goes, “Oh, I’ll buy you a drink. I own this place.” And the guy goes, “Who the hell are you?” “I own this place.” So he gets the guy to come over and sit down and have a drink and in ten minutes they’re friends.

And here’s Colin Quinn a few chapters before that:

He’d be like, “Let me ask you something, why do you believe Palestine? Okay, now let me ask you this. What are you basing that on?” So he’d be very logical. He’d be, like, “Well are you talking about ...” And you’d be like, “Oh, I don’t know.” And he’d go, “So if you don’t know then why would you come to that conclusion?”

Elsewhere Noam refers to a shouting match Giraldo and Manny got into about Israel. Again, he doesn’t outright spell it out, but the book suggests there’s only one side Giraldo could have taken that would have put him so at odds with the boss.

So here we have a workplace committed to free speech, debate, and ideological diversity, where a comic like Giraldo nonetheless felt compelled to write his boss a groveling apology for crossing the line, that line being “calling someone racist.” This was almost twenty years ago. It will surprise no one to hear that sons inherit their fathers’ ideas, but let’s look anyway at just what ideas were inherited by Manny’s son and successor, and how seriously they figure into his politics.

In 2009, Noam Dworman—who once invited me onto his podcast to apologize for calling him racist—was considering running against Kirsten Gillibrand for New York’s open Senate seat. The following, per Don’t Applaud, is from a letter he wrote to a longtime campaign operative outlining his platform:

In foreign affairs I support the president in his desire to have good relations with all foreign governments. Our president is a gifted man, and a wonderful ambassador to the world. Nevertheless I think we need to remember who are our friends, and who are our enemies. Let’s not forget who was crying when the towers came down, and who was cheering. 9/11, which was the defining moment of the twenty-first century, occurred only a year after Israel had accepted the Clinton plan for peace in the Middle East. It was the Palestinians who rejected it without so much as a counter proposal, and then initiated a bloody intifada. And as far as I know, they haven’t changed their minds or expressed regret at their decision. Yet lately we have come perilously close to blaming the Israelis for our problems in the Middle East. But how long should we expect Israel to tie up its flexibility, its freedom to act the way every other nation on earth can, in servitude of a lie — the lie that they have a partner for a two-state solution peace? It is a lie, and we should say so. I have spent my entire life socializing, playing music and working with Arabic people, and I have an admiration and love for them. Yet I think it’s clear that the Palestinians are not rejecting peace because Israel has plans to build some apartments in a Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem.

In the Middle East, we may be living in 1939 all over again. Iran has made its intentions every bit as clear as Mein Kampf, yet we seem to be drifting towards acceptance of an Iranian nuclear bomb. We can’t let this happen.

The belief that we could change Iran by talking to them more nicely was dangerously naive. We and our allies need to be prepared to impose tough sanctions against the Iranians, with or without the UN — and we must not appear to take the military option off the table. We need to set out what the consequences will be if Iran continues its policies, and those consequences need to be severe. We may not have any perfect options in Iran, however we should not forget that even imperfect measures can slow Iran’s nuclear progress. Iran is a politically unstable regime, and time may present us with future opportunities that are currently unforeseeable.

I know we’ve discussed this many times before, but I really find it fascinating how much of standup’s history was shaped by a small handful of people with the same basic personalities. Obviously there’s no secret to this—it takes capital to open a comedy club and capital tends to come with certain politics attached. Still, I don’t think it’s widely appreciated that all these institutions presenting themselves as neutral platforms for free speech—where all it takes to prevail is hard work and talent—have never been neutral at all. The people in charge had specific beliefs that very obviously influenced their tastes. The industry veered so far to the right in recent years because they steered it that way. That’s who they are, that’s what they wanted. This is extremely depressing and also a cause for hope: none of it was inevitable. If you can steer something in one direction, you can steer it in another. You can even build new models that don’t require bosses at all.

…But that’s a subject for another newsletter. For now I will leave you with a picture of the dog in one of his funny little postures. Enjoy!

Two Funny Things

But also, serious.

Once before the world stopped I was sitting at a comedy club slash bar arguing with someone who produced shows there about (sorry) Louis CK. At one point she gestured around the room and said something to the effect of, There are probably lots of people here who’ve done much worse than Louis. You’re saying we should kick him out instead of them? I don’t remember what I replied exactly but it was probably (hopefully) some form of Why not kick them all out?! which she probably scoffed at because the only consistent principle in that world is that it’s foolish to have any principles. No one in charge cares about the Bad Things except as a rhetorical device, a thought experiment, an excuse not to do anything about the other Bad Things.

Today I would like to share two pieces reckoning with this most pressing of comedy’s moral concerns—the ongoing return of its canceled men—with more thoughtfulness and grace than you’ll ever find from any of their apologists. One is “The Opener,” a short story by Fran Hoepfner. The other is “Green,” a short film by Kylie Murphy. I hope you enjoy them.


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