Revelations about Louis C.K. reverberated for comediennes working in Chicago, a comedy mecca that draws aspiring comics from across the continent.
by David Compa
Not long after she started performing her stand-up routine in Chicago, Erica Clark learned some very unfunny things about life in the comedy business. Clark started her stand-up career six years ago, with material that included bits about her famous dad, Mr. T, and some sexual “blue” content that apparently struck a chord with her male colleagues. After a show, a male acquaintance — unsolicited, texted her pictures of his penis. “I remember being so blown away,” Clark said. “The more comics I met the more I got. . . . I could do a calendar of these unwanted pictures from comics, like a two-year calendar. “I used to wonder, ‘Is it because of my jokes?’ But I think in comedy, even with someone like Louis C.K., [men] do things like that, and embarrass themselves, and then they can try to pull it back [by saying], ‘I was just joking.’” The comedy world has in recent months seen the downfall of icon Bill Cosby and, last week, one of the industry’s top performers, Louis C.K., with both men felled by accusations of rampant sexual misconduct and assault. Five comediennes revealed in a New York Times expose last week that C.K. masturbated in front of them without consent, allegations that the superstar comic acknowledged as true. Three of the women named in the Times story previously worked in Chicago, and the revelations about C.K. reverberated for many comediennes working in a comedy mecca that draws young, aspiring comics from across the continent. While performers interviewed by the Chicago Sun-Times in recent days all have said the majority of their male peers are supportive and non-threatening, many, like Clark, have stories of unsolicited come-ons, gross behavior, and worse. Louis C.K. | Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images “I would hate for young women to be afraid to do comedy because they’re afraid of all these predators,” said Kelsie Huff, a Chicago comedy veteran of nearly two decades and producer of The Kates comedy show, an all-female showcase. “There is this idea [in comedy] that you’re supposed to push boundaries on stage… and that can spill over into bad stuff off-stage,” Huff said. “But, having said that, I have worked in finance, and some of those dudes