An Open Letter to the Comedy Community Regarding Louis CK and Acme Comedy Co

Cw: sexual harassment, abuse.

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In late 2017, it became national news via an article in the New York Times that Louis CK had participated in acts of harassment and sexual misconduct over many years against at least five women. In a statement he made in response in November of 2017 after years of denying these women’s statements, he acknowledged that these women’s experiences were true, and said he was committed to “taking a step back and taking a long time to listen.” It appears that “long time” ended in December of 2018 when he took to the stage again and proceeded to perform a set that included jokes that made it clear he had NOT listened. He is now set to include Minneapolis in his comeback tour and Acme Comedy Co has agreed to provide him a headlining spot eight times this week to aid him in that comeback.

FairPlay MN is an organization dedicated to building, claiming and protecting equitable spaces for womxn, trans, femme and non-binary comedians in the Twin Cities. Our primary goal has always been prevention and education/awareness. In order to fulfill our mission and goals, we must ensure that our performance spaces are free of individuals who have demonstrated dangerous and predatory behaviors in the past, particularly when those people have been removed from other theaters or creative platforms for that very behavior.

With that being said, we object to and are disappointed that a creative platform is being provided for Louis CK in our community. We urge the greater comedy community to honor and respect womxn, trans, femme and non-binary comedians AND audience members by not continuing to support and book known abusers. We also urge those in power at theaters and clubs to refrain from granting them a platform when their track record demonstrates that they have used that platform and their privilege as a way to manipulate and actively hurt others. To be clear, we’re aware that Acme Comedy Co isn’t the only local venue hosting known abusers.

Something we are frequently asked is “when is a person able to move past their mistakes?” or “when is someone considered forgiven for harassment?” And frankly, we don’t have an answer to that yet. There is a precedent in this country of harassers offering quick, insincere and half-hearted apology statements as a way to remedy years of poor behavior, and then continuing to act the way they always have. Louis CK is no exception to that pattern. There is not, however, any precedent for what it looks like to actually make radical change and repair the damages you have caused in your own community. If Louis CK wants to be the person to set this precedent, he is welcome to do so, but none of his actions thus far have demonstrated any interest or willingness in doing that work.

Every step we take as an organization is to better our community and change the way we understand our relationships with one another. Part of bettering our community is protecting it from those who have the ability to damage its members. If you would like to contact Acme Comedy Co to express your concerns about their decision to host Louis CK, you can do so by calling (612) 338-6393 or joining the scheduled protest (event in comments).

Lastly, one of the most powerful ways you can take a stand against abusers being given space in our community is by supporting underrepresented comedians on our stages. Comedians that are womxn, trans, femme, non-binary and people of color have shows every night this week and deserve your attention. We strongly encourage your support of them — we as a community get to dictate the voices we want to hear. Let’s elevate better voices.

Sally Foster, Lizzie Gardner, and Rana May
FairPlay MN Leadership Team

 

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Note: Remember, if you are experiencing or know about abusers in our local comedy community, you can always reach out to us at fairplaymn@gmail.com for help, or click “contact” on our website.

You can also support FairPlay’s mission monetarily by sharing our fundraiser to bring restorative justice training to the Twin Cities comedy community. https://www.gofundme.com/star-training-for-fairplay-mn

Welcome, Rana May!

Since FairPlay’s creation, we have worked with improvisers and theaters across the nation as a source of information and to provide guidance to improve gender equity as well as prevent and address harassment. While we do sometimes receive requests from outside of the improv community, we have thus far been unable to devote the time and energy required to step outside of the art forms we know and are actively involved in, though we have often dreamt of being able to bring the success of FairPlay to other disciplines. Simply put, we have worked primarily within the confines of improv as an art form because improv is what we know.

With that said, we are extremely excited to announce that FairPlay will be expanding our work to the standup community with the same goals that we currently pursue in working with improvisers. Our mission is and always has been to claim equitable space on and off stage for women, trans, femme, non-binary and genderqueer comedians and expanding to the standup community will allow us to work with and support many more venues, bars, shows, producers and comedians in meeting this goal.

Rana6.jpgTo be successful as we expand into stand up, we knew that we would need to fill out our board with performers that knew and were comfortable with the art of stand up. To that end, we are tremendously pleased to welcome our newest FairPlay Leadership Team member: Rana May.

Rana attended our public meetings held in the fall of 2018 and spoke with us about some of the issues that were affecting the Minnesota stand up community. She had reached out to us in the past to be a point of contact since there was so much overlap in the Twin Cities between stand up and improv, so we were well familiar with her work and felt very fortunate that she was interested in joining our team.

Rana has been a comedian for over five years, starting as a standup at local open mics to now producing multiple shows while continuing to perform. She is the co-creator and producer of PSSY CTRL, a monthly show at the Comedy Corner Underground, that highlights women, trans, queer and POC performers. She also produces and hosts an annual year-end roast (most recently “Fuck 2018”) and an annual Mother’s Day show (“Cool Mom”) at the Turf Club. Outside of producing, she frequently performs at festivals across the country including the Bridgetown Comedy Festival, Cream City Comedy Festival and the Memphis Comedy Festival. She headlines locally at clubs all over the cities and has helped create a network of and safer place for women, trans, femme, non-binary and genderqueer standups in Minnesota.

While Rana brings a breadth of experience in the standup field to our team, she also brings years of experience in social services. She has worked as a case manager for 12 years in the Twin Cities area with adults, families and children experiencing homelessness. She also has many years of experience working with individuals who have experienced chemical dependency, sexual assault, domestic violence and mental illness. Rana is driven by compassion and creating equitable spaces and opportunities, and we know that compassion will carry through to her work with FairPlay.

Please join us in welcoming Rana to the team!
Throughout the coming months, we will be making additional announcements about new Leadership Team members. As always, if you’re interested in joining us, please contact us at fairplaymn@gmail.com.

Meet the Leadership Team: Rana

To be successful as we expand into stand up, we knew that we would need to fill out our board with performers that knew and were comfortable with the art of stand up. To that end, we are tremendously pleased to welcome our newest FairPlay Leadership Team member: Rana May.

Rana6Rana attended our public meetings held in the fall of 2018 and spoke with us about some of the issues that were affecting the Minnesota stand up community. She had reached out to us in the past to be a point of contact since there was so much overlap in the Twin Cities between stand up and improv, so we were well familiar with her work and felt very fortunate that she was interested in joining our team.

Rana has been a comedian for over five years, starting as a standup at local open mics to now producing multiple shows while continuing to perform. She is the co-creator and producer of PSSY CTRL, a monthly show at the Comedy Corner Underground, that highlights women, trans, queer and POC performers. She also produces and hosts an annual year-end roast (most recently “Fuck 2018”) and an annual Mother’s Day show (“Cool Mom”) at the Turf Club. Outside of producing, she frequently performs at festivals across the country including the Bridgetown Comedy Festival, Cream City Comedy Festival and the Memphis Comedy Festival. She headlines locally at clubs all over the cities and has helped create a network of and safer place for women, trans, femme, non-binary and genderqueer stand ups in Minnesota.

While Rana brings a breadth of experience in the standup field to our team, she also brings years of experience in social services. She has worked as a case manager for 12 years in the Twin Cities area with adults, families and children experiencing homelessness. She also has many years of experience working with individuals who have experienced chemical dependency, sexual assault, domestic violence and mental illness. Rana is driven by compassion and creating equitable spaces and opportunities, and we know that compassion will carry through to her work with FairPlay.

 

Leadership Team Changes

FairPlay MN was formed in 2015 after the five original Leadership Team members (Hannah Wydeven, Sarah Busch, Gubby Kubik, Sophie Brossard and Lizzie Gardner) stepped up to lead our mission in claiming equitable space for women, trans, femme and non-binary improvisers on and off stage. In the past four years our Leadership Team has seen changes – the loss of the wonderful Sophie Brossard who relocated to France, and the addition of the highly committed Sally Foster.

We have always embraced the opportunity to have fresh eyes on a mission that sometimes feels more massive than we can tackle; working on the Leadership Team of FairPlay is a personally rewarding experience that we find undeniably important, but it is not without strain and emotional labor. At times, we have each taken a step back from the Leadership Team so that we can come back feeling refreshed and reinvigorated –we have always encouraged caring just as much for ourselves as we do for our communities and those who need our help.

In that vein, today we announce with mixed feelings that two of our beloved Leadership Team members, Sarah Busch and Gubby Kubik, will be stepping down from their positions with FairPlay (effective today). Don’t worry – we’ve known about this for a while and have been preparing for the shift in our team! We are still actively working on finding new additions to our Leadership Team, and have several exciting changes we will be announcing soon… but for now, let’s celebrate Sarah and Gubby.


Over the last five years, Sarah has brought a wealth of knowledge in the fields of communications, fundraising, and social work to our team. Sarah is currently serving as

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Sarah Busch

the Development Associate at Missions, Inc —  a nonprofit social service organization working to make change possible for people whose lives have been disrupted by domestic violence, addiction and alcoholism, or illness and disability. Her tireless work to assist those at a critical juncture in their lives carried over to her work with FairPlay. She was often our voice of reason, a calming presence on the Leadership Team, and helped us enormously when it came to crafting carefully worded responses to reports of harassment and abuse.

 

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Gubby Kubik

Gubby has brought an instructor’s patience, keen eye for detail, and a strong focus on the importance of inclusivity and intersectional feminism to our board. Working as an Itinerant Teacher of students who are Deaf/Hard of Hearing at Intermediate District 917, Gubby provides care and resources when considering the impact of hearing loss on language, communication and functional skill development. Gubby’s expertise in creating access has easily transferred over to their role on our team, and reminded us to approach all situations with an even keel, judgment free, and mindset of acceptance above all else. They have pushed us to remember that every human is different and needs to be cared for in different ways, and their experience as a teacher has lead us to success in teaching our community about things like boundaries and consent. Gubby has also been a celebrated improv teacher at HUGE Theater for almost three years, and has been performing and studying improv for many years beyond that.

To say that our team will miss Sarah and Gubby is an understatement, but they have taught us so much about leadership, teamwork, friendship and acceptance that we will continue to apply going forward. Please join us in thanking them for everything they have done to better and strengthen our community!

 

Changing Course

Over the past several months, the FairPlay leadership team has been putting out the call about electing new team members for 2019 and beyond. We chose to do an election because we wanted to make sure the WTFNB improvisers in our community felt like FairPlay represented their interests, and that their voices were being heard in the process. We also wanted to hold elections to give ourselves a chance to step back from leadership if necessary, and make sure our team always has fresh voices to contribute.

We have noticed that there has not been much interest in the election process for the 2019 year, so we would like to change course and find a solution that works better for the community. Some of the things we have heard from folks is that they are concerned about the time commitment, that they don’t want to participate in an election process, and that elections are inherently bias against People of Color. These are all valid concerns and we are hoping we can work to find a better solution to bring more folks into the fold and allow for more voices to be heard.

For reference, here is some greater information on what it means to be a FairPlay leadership team member or consultant.

What does joining the FairPlay Leadership Team entail time-wise?

  • Monthly in-person meetings (approx two hours/month) to discuss agenda items which may include: reports of harassment received, budget, hot topics seen/heard in the community, updates on previously addressed situations, creating educational materials, outreach progress, etc..
  • Frequent communication via the Slack communication platform (approx 1-2 hours/week depending on time constraints and happenings that week).
  • Additional time as needed when reports come in; time may be spent discussing with the group, researching options, communicating with survivors, theaters and harassers, etc..
  • In-person conversations with community members (we are frequently approached while out in the community).
  • Self-care is an essential priority, and we all have multiple responsibilities in our lives. While the above time commitment is generally expected, short breaks can be taken as needed, as long as they are communicated to your team members.

What does it look like to be a FairPlay consultant?

  • Monthly check-ins with leadership team during meetings (can be done digitally)
  • Expectation of follow-through on assigned items or volunteered items.
  • Good communication skills, checking in with the leadership team and being honest about limitations and abilities.
  • Attendance to an in-person meeting at least twice in the year.

We are looking for both feedback on the process of adding new leadership team members, as well as a better understanding of how WTFNB folks would like to be involved in FP moving forward. Below is a form we are hoping you will fill out to let us know your thoughts and interest level. The form can be anonymous, if you have feedback you would like to offer but do not want to be identified. 

Please fill out the form here!

Thank you all for your support – we love this community and want to do whatever we can to grow with it!

Sally, Hannah, Gubby, Lizzie and Sarah
FairPlay Leadership Team

Fair Play Election Information

Informational Meeting: November 13th, 7-9pm, at the Wedge Table (2412 Nicollett Avenue, Minneapolis)

Info Meeting Facebook Event Here

Meet the Candidates: December 4th, 7-9pm, at the Wedge Table

Meet the Candidates Facebook Event Here

This fall and winter, the FairPlay Leadership Team will be hosting a number of meetings aimed at educating and providing resources/information about the role that we play in the community. The meetings will be held on October 2, 2018 and November 13, 2018. The goal of these meetings will be to prepare those interested in running for the FairPlay leadership team during our winter elections!

***Where/when are the meetings? Who should attend? ***
The meetings are October 2, 2018 and November 13, 2018 from 7-9p at the Wedge Table in the classroom. These meetings are for women, trans, femme and non-binary individuals *only* and are intended for those interested in potentially running, or those who just want more information in general.

***Do I need to attend a meeting if I want to run?***
Yes. You must either attend the October or November meeting in order to run. If you absolutely cannot, but are very interested in running, please contact us at fairplaymn@gmail.com.

***Who can run for election?***
Anyone who identifies as women, trans, femme or non-binary. As we deal mainly with the improv community, it would be great to have some improv experience but if you are a performer in another area and want to learn, we welcome your application as well.

***How many spots are open for election?***
All of them, with some caveats: there need to be at least 1-2 (TBA) current Leadership Team members returning to catch our new team up to speed and to ensure that we aren’t leaving them stranded without the information and processes they need to succeed. We are also placing a strong emphasis on diversity in the upcoming election, so space will be open specifically for people of color.

***When will elections be?***
The informational meetings are October 2 and November 13 from 7-9p. There will then be a “meet the candidates” type meeting on December 4 from 7-9p. Elections will be held online in January.

An Open Letter to the New Orleans Improv Community

An Open Letter to the New Orleans Improv Community

We have recently become aware of the situation taking place at the The New Movement Theater. From our conversations with folks within the New Orleans improv community, as well as the google form and letter sent from The New Movement Austin, we have come to understand that you are calling for the resignation of Tami and Chris, owners of the New Movement New Orleans. They are being asked to resign due to mishandling sexual assault reports, questioning the mental health of the reporting survivor, engaging in inappropriate relationships with people under their power, as well as lying to the community and stealing from the theater. The details are plentiful and will likely become even more clear in days to come. We are not writing to you to clarify any of these details or ask you to rehash the pain happening in NOLA, but rather to offer support for your community and encourage the work you are doing.

FairPlay MN is an organization and advocacy group based in the Twin Cities that acts to build equitable space for women, trans, femme and non-binary improvisers on our stages. In the past two years we have worked within our own community to call out harassment and assault, educate improvisers, teachers and community leaders on setting and respecting boundaries. We have engaged and drawn our community together to address the issues of sexual assault, harassment and rape culture in how it affects our performance and relationships.

As an organization, we extend our full support to your community as you ask Tami and Chris to end their positions as owners of The New Movement. Not just stepping down, but completely removing themselves as owners. We support your boycott of the theater and encourage the conversation you are having now about what happens next. You are doing the work, and the work is extremely difficult. This is happening in your community now, but it has happened in one improv community after another, all across the country. You are not alone. The pain that comes with these awful revelations is intense, deep and lasting. We have experienced that pain in Minneapolis, and unfortunately we as a nation will continue to experience that pain as more stories of sexual assault and harassment come to light.

As you move forward, we hope to offer you support in your rebuild process. We have created a folder of documents that we are happy to share with your community to use as a starting place for building advocacy in your own theaters around sexual assault, harassment and rape culture. In addition to those resources, we can offer some guidance as to what things can happen next to help your community grow and flourish. We have worked with other improv communities to help rebuild their community guidelines and would be ecstatic to work with you in any way you need. We understand that the most important thing at this time is just to get through the next few days and weeks, and persist in making your voices loud until they are heard.

We have your back.

Sincerely,

The FairPlay MN Leadership Team