Bill Cosby’s team has signaled that the disgraced comedian is planning to revive his stand-up career now that he is out of prison. But Noam Dworman, owner of New York City’s famed Comedy Cellar, says Cosby won’t be mounting a comeback in his club.
The Greenwich neighborhood venue, which has played host to everyone from Robin Williams to Jerry Seinfeld to Chris Rock, has developed a reputation as a starting point for comedians looking to reboot their careers after a scandal.
In 2018, it welcomed Aziz Ansari and Louis C.K. to perform after both comedians were accused of sexual misconduct. The C.K. set, in particular, led to a barrage of negative press for Dworman, who received death threats in the wake of the event.
Comedy fans were clearly happy to see C.K., who received a 15-minute standing ovation, but many legacy media outlets slammed the club for the decision.
“‘Comeback’ is not the right word for what is being floated here,” Amanda Hess wrote in The New York Times, adding, “A comeback implies a hero’s journey — an adventure, a transformation, a triumphant return. This feels more like a malignancy. We try to cut men like him out of public life, but nine months later, we get a call with the bad news.”
And Arwa Mahdawi said in the Guardian, “Do people deserve second chances? Of course. But the more important question to ask is why some people get second, third, and fourth chances, while others are never even afforded a first chance? We should be asking ourselves how C.K.’s abuse of power robbed his victims of professional opportunities. We should be reminding ourselves that C.K. is not the victim in this situation.”
In response to the backlash, Dworman stood firm, arguing that it is not his job to decide who gets to continue their career, it’s the audience’s.
“I believe that the man is entitled to his livelihood and that it’s up to the audience to go or not go. I believe that in principle,” he told The Hollywood Reporter of C.K. at the time. He also pointed out that Bill Clinton and Mike Tyson still have careers, saying, “There is the matter of principle here, in my ACLU mode, which is that I don’t feel that there’s a clear standard out there in the world of when someone is supposed to be fired or denied an audience. And I don’t think anyone’s come after the theaters and stages that allow Mike Tyson to tour the country with his show, and Bill Clinton is still invited to charity events … I would just like to be a platform.”
But while the club owner said he “doesn’t know what the standard is” when it comes to booking a disgraced act, he knows it doesn’t allow for convicted sex offenders, even if their convictions have been overturned.
“Comparing Bill Cosby to these other guys is absurd,” Dworman told the New York Post on Sunday, pointing out that C.K. and Ansari had never been charged with crimes. “I just think these comparisons are ridiculous,” he added.
Cosby’s spokesman, Andrew Wyatt, told TMZ his client isn’t bothered by the Comedy Cellar ban. “That’s one club owner, and in the words of the King of R&B Bobby Brown, ‘It’s his prerogative to do what he wants to do,’” Wyatt said
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