It’s time for the 2018 Catty “Everyone is Gossiping About You Behind Your Back” Awards, counting down the biggest and baddest scandals that rocked the comedy world this year.
It’s a TMZ world, and Gossip, Scandals and Controversies are everyone’s favorite part of the news in 2018. We can’t get enough of celebrity gossip, fights, drunken arguments, apologies, infidelity, breakups, we love seeing people at their worst, and passing on the bad news, we continue to love OMG, WTF and SMH.
In 2018, comedians seemed to be at the center of more controversies than ever before. We had so many controversial stories to choose from this year, that we expanded the list to the top 25 scandals, and still had to cut out at least a dozen crazy stories.
It’s our third annual edition of the “Catty Everyone Is Gossiping About You Behind Your Back” awards. The stories that flew around Facebook, got upvoted on Reddit, and hit all the front pages of the internet. They’re listed backward, countdown style; you’ll need to add your own imaginary ‘countdown’ sound effects (pew! pew!).
America is Worried About Pete Davidson. Pete Davidson scared everyone in America with his Instagram post just over a week before Christmas. “I really don’t want to be on this earth anymore. i’m doing my best to stay here for you but i actually don’t know how much longer i can last. all i’ve ever tried to do was help people. just remember i told you so.” The internet went crazy with posts of concern, for the young comedian who has had a rocky personal year, and police were sent for a wellness check. Davidson made a brief appearance on SNL that night, but word was he was refusing to see ex GF Ariana Grande who rushed to 30 Rock. He reportedly spent the days leading up to Christmas in the woods at a private home belonging to Dave Chappelle. Grande’s former ex Mac Miller committed suicide just months ago. Davidson has remained a trending topic all year, first for the news that he was dating Ariana Grande, then for every new Ariana related tattoo he added, getting engaged to the pop star with a very bling ring, and ultimately breaking things off. He may have been gossip boy of the year this year in terms of frequency of page six appearances, but dating a pop star isn’t exactly controversial or scandalous, so he kicks off our list at #25.
Chris Rock a Race Traitor? Another late breaking December story- Chris Rock is being heavily criticized by social media-ites for his reaction (or more accurately, failure to react) to the use of the n-word by fellow comedians Louis C.K. and Ricky Gervais during a conversation about comedy. The kicker is, the conversation took place seven years ago in 2011, when the collective social-verse had different standards about what was outrageous conduct. The jury remains out on whether he will be forgiven, or whether the incident will just be forgotten or whether things get worse from here on.
Comedy vs Bannon. John Mulaney lead the pack and Judd Apatow fanned the flames when a group of comedians refused to show up for scheduled interviews at the New Yorker festival. Why? They found out that Steve Bannon was scheduled to appear at an event during the weeklong event, and neither Apatow or Mulaney wanted to be a part of any event that would book Bannon. Jim Carrey, Bridget Everett, Jimmy Fallon, Mike Birbiglia, and others followed suit, and Bannon was quickly canned.
Comic Strip vs Comic Strip. The legendary comedy club Upper East Side that launched the careers of many stars including Jerry Seinfeld, and Eddie Murphy is one of the oldest comedy clubs currently operating in New York City, and should be a crown jewel of NY’s comedy scene. But the club has been criticized over the years with some comics saying its just not being run right. This year it’s not just comedians complaining. The club’s controversial reputation got more controversial when one of club’s co-owners Tess Wachs sued another- Richie Tienken in Manhattan Supreme Court. Wachs claims that he, his wife and the club’s manager are running the club into the ground, neglecting the physical space, and she alleges in the pleadings that all three are misusing club funds. The papers filed allege there are holes in the floor, and dead rats and mice on the premises. Nothing funny about that.
Jim Gaffigan vs Beer America. Jim Gaffigan angered beer lovers everywhere during a CBS Sunday Morning show lighthearted rant about craft beer. In his segment he joked about beer that tastes like chocolate, oranges or avocados aren’t for him, and mocked local/specialty/artisan beer. “I can tell you without exception,” he said, “they’re all bad.” He joked about waiters who ask detailed questions like ‘how hoppy do you like your beer.’ Well, America’s beer connoisseurs were pissed and fired back with hate and anger, calling him uninformed, pointless and shortsighted, calling his segment lazy, and even banning him from at least one microbrewery. But at least he didn’t apologize.
Open Mic Pushes T.J. Miller Out. In a controversial move, the host of a Denver open mic stage shamed T.J. Miller till the comedian left the club. Miller is very proud of his Denver roots so when he was back in town, he stopped by a Denver open mic- maybe to perform or maybe to just support young comedians. The mic’s host didn’t want Miller there based on charges leveled against Miller by a girl Miller knew in college. But he also didn’t want to confront the comedian directly so instead he just shamed him from the stage until T.J. left. The host joked about Miller specifically, several T.J. controversies, and cracks about how to apologize. He later wrote about the incident saying that there is an unspoken contract that comedians speak the truth, and that they should not return to the stage until they are ready to “fearlessly address their misconduct.”
David Cross’ Underwear. David Cross upset a large group of Mormons this year by tweeting out a photo wearing sacred Mormon undergarments. The image was a photoshop of a photo of Cross’ Arrested Development character Tobias Funke trying on red underwear. Scores of Utah locals called the photo insensitive and called for the show to be cancelled. The show wasn’t cancelled, and instead Cross spent his first ten minutes onstage addressing the controversy. “I don’t give a shit” he said about angry protestors. He then turned the tables telling the audience that what he finds offensive are people in power covering up sexual abuse, or religious beliefs that lead to racism, or the ostracism of gay people. “Get your own fucking house in order first before you fucking yell at me for a photoshopped picture of underwear. Because I don’t like hypocrisy.”
Seth Rogen Responds to Black Face. Seth Rogen took heat after it was discovered that a child was made up in blackface on one of his movie sets. The child was a stand in for 11-year-old actor Keith L Williams who is in Rogen’s upcoming movie Good Boys. The boy stand in was white, and in order to match lighting, rather than hire a stand in who actually looked like the actor, someone decided to put an Afro hair prosthetic, fat suit and skin darkening makeup on the boy. Rogen apologized for the incident saying he will do everything in his power to make sure nothing like this ever happens again.
Norm Macdonald x 2. Double controversy in one week for Norm Macdonald. Norm was the target of massive blowback after he told The Hollywood Reporter that he had concerns over the speed of social justice in America this year, particularly the way the #metoo movement has gutted careers without stopping to think things through or look at facts. He pointed out that we used to say “one hundred women can’t be lying” and then it quickly became “I believe all women.” He also suggested that it was smarter to deny allegations, because an admission of wrongdoing is a career death sentence. As outrage in response to his statements grew, the Tonight Show decided to cancel his scheduled appearance on the show while he was in the dressing room preparing to appear on the show. Just when things seemed like they couldn’t get worse, Norm upset people even more while trying to explain what he meant during an appearance on The Howard Stern Show. You’d have to have Downs Syndrome to not feel sorry for”women who have endured sexual harassment and abuse, he said. Oh Norm. He later apologized for the insensitivity of the remark.
Nick DiPaolo gets hate punched. Nick DiPaolo sported a nasty looking black eye on Twitter this year. Nick told SiriusXM host Ron Bennington that he got the shiner after performing at Levity Live while taking photos with fans. He said a guy came over to him to tell him how much he loved the show, adding, “but my daughter wants to punch you in the face.” It was at that moment that the man’s daughter sucker punched DiPaolo, hitting him right below his left eye. “He didn’t even finish the word face, and she sucker punched me,” Nick said. Nick did nothing in response, but later filed an incident report with police. It may not have smoothed things over when he called her a “self-righteous little twat.” Bonus: DiPaolo got in Twitter trouble later in the year when he tweeted a cover from Glamour magazine with the caption “Fuck these dumb cunts and their black power salute.” One of the women on the cover was a 12 year old student organizing gun reform and survivors of the Parkland shootings. No apology but DiPaolo did take down the tweet, ending the controversy before it got bigger.
Amy Schumer interrupts Breakout Comedian. In one of the funniest controversies this year, Amy Schumer was criticized for interrupting comedian Brendan Sagalow on stage at Carolines. Sagalow was doing his first hour gig at Carolines’ part of the club’s ‘Breakout Comedian Spotlight.’ The audience was packed with his family, friends and fans, and Brendan was already on stage doing his first hour, when he heard a voice calling from the side of the stage– “Brendan! It’s Amy Schumer, can I do 10 minutes really quick?” Schumer wanted to run her SNL monologue, and needed an audience. The internet found Schumer’s request pretty offensive, but others argued that it wasn’t a big deal at all, and common among comics. Sagalow was gracious on stage and immediately after to the press, but then during an appearance on the Legion of Skanks podcast seemed to be pissed over the incident. The incident, and Brandon, were quickly forgotten by the Social-Verse who were really only looking for Schumer-news.
Nimesh Patel Escorted Off Stage at College Gig. Nimesh Patel got booted off stage, in of all places, a festival celebrating diversity. Patel’s set at an event hosted by Columbia University’s Asian American Alliance was cut short after organizers didn’t like one of his jokes. They interrupted Patel, asked him wrap up, and then cut his mic when he didn’t disappear fast enough. The joke was about the difficulties of belonging to two minority classes- in this case the struggle of being both black and gay. The Alliance felt that his joke was out of alignment with their mission of 100% inclusivity. Everyone knows all great comedy is 100% inclusive.
Variety Top 10 Comic booed offstage. Every year at Just for Laughs in Montreal, Variety showcases 10 comedians worth keeping an eye on. They’re breaking comedians who have already achieved some level of accomplishment and recognition and the show usually goes off pretty smoothly- great comics, great show. This year, there was a hitch when one of the performers, Darren Knight, reportedly spent a lot of his set bragging about his fame, telling schoolyard jokes, and insulting the other comics, complaining that they were talking too much about their race or sexual orientation, saying people didn’t pay to be there to have to listen to that stuff. The crowd boo’ed Knight off and on his way off the stage he reportedly called Dulce Sloan “Precious.” The other comics were pissed and posted on social media with one of them calling him a “clown ass hack”. Knight doesn’t have a traditional stand up background- he rose to rapid stardom as a social media star with millions of views across various platforms and also performing live shows. He’s most well known for his character “Southern Momma”.
Artie Lange Back in Rehab. Lange made this list easily half a dozen times in 2018, most of the incidents connected to his 2017 drug arrest. In late 2017 Lange had pleaded guilty to possession of 81 bags of heroin, and started 2018 off in a private rehab. In June he was sentenced to four years probation and the strict condition that he remain clean. In November he voluntarily entered inpatient rehab for 30 days after failing to pass a drug test. He once again avoided jail time in December when a judge ordered him into a drug program that will monitor his rehab attempts. 2018 also saw the end of Artie’s partnership with Anthony Cumia and the AA Show, and essentially saw the end of Artie having a nose. Throughout, fans have rallied around him, supporting his efforts and gossip publications have followed his every move.
Katt vs Kevin vs Tiffany vs Comedy. Katt Williams is no stranger to gossip lists, nor is he a stranger to controversy. 2018 was actually a relatively quiet year for Katt; he had fewer arrests than we’re used to reading about. This year he made our list for a lengthy feud that started with his appearance on Atlanta’s Frank and Wanda Show. Williams, known for calling it as he sees it, trashed a long list of comics- Kevin Hart, Lil Rel, Jerrod Carmichael and Hannibal Buress- and especially Tiffany Haddish who he basically said ‘ain’t ready’ yet. The trash talk led to a fight with Wanda’s husband that involved a gun, and then Kevin Hart fired back during a shit talking appearance on power 105’s Breakfast Club show with Charlamagne tha God, not only defending Haddish but shitting all over Katt. Williams of course, fired back calling Hart a “fuck ass ni**a,” and a “fuckboy” and said he would knock Hart’s mouth sideways. Pretty good, but still didn’t make our top 10.
Kevin Hart gets, and loses the Oscars. Kevin Hart kicks off the top ten this year with his media dominating 48 hour non stop media circus. This is the anatomy of a scandal in 2018. First, Hart’s named host of this year’s Academy Awards show. Exciting stuff. That’s on a Tuesday. All’s well until Thursday evening when someone starts posting links to some of Hart’s old tweets from 2011 using homophobic language- words like “fag,” “homo,” or “gay” used to call someone weak. The controversy grows all day on Thursday, and then Hart responds on Thursday night via video explaining the tweets, explaining how he feels now, and saying he’s not going to apologize. On Friday, the Academy is demanding he apologize our he’s out. And by Friday night, Hart steps down from hosting, and then apologizes. By Saturday morning, its over and nobody cares. For being the fastest and the most public scandal of 2018, Kevin Hart is #10.
The Pro-Rape Comedian Strikes Again. Kurt Metzger didn’t do anything new in 2018 to get onto our list, but he was still a part of one of our top ten scandals of the year. It wasn’t even one of the most famous scandals. But it was so patently offensive to us, and so endemic of the way media and social media operate in 2018, that we included it in our top ten list. It was back in July when a Daily Beast reporter wrote a story with the headline “The Pro-Rape Comedian Writing for Sacha Baron Cohen’s Who Is America” hoping to stir up trouble. Writer Libby Torres expressed anger that a “pro-rape” comedian could get a gig with an already controversial tv series and she was clearly hoping the story would go as viral as the last time Kurt Metzger received national attention when he was scolded as writer for Inside Amy Schumer who was writing controversial Facebook posts. Well the formula didn’t repeat, and everyone in comedy knows Metzger isn’t “pro-rape.” She got a few other major publications sniffing around and raising a flag, but this one never fully flew.
Sam Bee Says Cunt. Samantha Bee got her nose cut short this year after she called Ivanka Trump a feckless cunt. It was incredibly bold to do. Very few talk show hosts call anyone a cunt on television, let alone the President’s daughter. And we learned that the c-word still has sting. Bee, sting. Get it? Anyway, Ivanka had posted a loving photo with her son, but a badly timed one, while the issue of separating parents and children at the border was reaching a pitch. Bee called the tweet oblivious and said “one mother to another, do something about your dad’s immigration practices, you feckless cunt! He listens to you. Put on something tight and lowcut and tell your father to fucking stop it.” It only took a few hours of angry blowback and skittish sponsors before Bee apologized to Ivanka, saying “it was inappropriate and inexcusable. I crossed a line, and I deeply regret it.” Reminiscent of Kathy Griffin’s gaffe, Samantha had come out so strong, so seemingly aware of the firestorm she was starting, and willing to take the consequences…that is until the consequences were financial. And then its apology city. What choice did she really have?
T.J. Miller vs Amtrak. T.J. Miller made our list twice this year. He hit the list at #20 based on an incident at an open mic, but cracked the top ten with a move that would have been crazy even by Erlich Bachman standards. Miller stands accused of phoning in a fake bomb threat. Allegedly the comedian accused a woman of having a bomb in her bag causing massive travel delays topping his prior scandal of getting into a fight with an Uber driver. Miller of course has also been accused of some pretty fucked up things by a college acquaintance, but there’s a trail and a trial of evidence suggesting that those allegations may not be accurate. But that’s a scandal from another year.
Pete vs Veterans. Pete Davidson was in the news all year long with pop fans following his fast moving relationship with Ariana Grande but Davidson the top ten of our list of scandals and controversies for something that had nothing to do with Ariana. While joking about the candidates who were running in the midterm elections and how evil they looked, Pete Davidson said about congressional candidate Dan Crenshaw “You may be surprised to hear he’s a congressional candidate for Texas, and not a hitman in a porno movie,” showing a photo of Crenshaw who wears an eye patch, adding, “I’m sorry. I know he lost his eye in war or whatever.” Crenshaw never asked for an apology or any reaction from the network. SNL (and Pete) received an enormous amount of anger for the joke. Crenshaw is a war veteran who lost his eye in combat, and people were PISSED. So pissed that SNL went to an extraordinary length to quiet down the anger. They wrote Crenshaw into a bit, and gave him the floor to roast Davidson. Then Pete and the man who stands for everything SNL mocks hugged it out. Yay!
Michelle Wolf’s Make Up Joke Changes Everything. One of the biggest stories of the year was Michelle Wolf’s White House Correspondent’s Dinner speech and the firestorm that followed and continues to follow Wolf. Wolf took heat for her jokes and the focus seemed to be on the one about White House Press Secretary Sara Huckabee Sanders, saying that she “burns facts and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smoky eye,” a joke which some took to be appearance shaming. The Association in turn, condemned Wolf’s monologue, calling it “not in the spirit” of the WHCD. Later in the year, the WHCA announced they would not be inviting a comedian to host next year’s event, leading some to say Wolf “broke the White House Correspondents Dinner” which is of course ridiculous, but all in all, the event proved to be one of the biggest controversies in a year full of controversies, landing it at #5 in our list.
#MeToo is All Over Comedy. The #metoo movement continued full force in 2018 and comedy was a big part of some of the big stories with Aziz Ansari, Dan Harmon, Chris Hardwick all being accused of sexual misconduct in 2018. All four stories had something to illustrate about the nature of the moment. The accusations of Woody Allen’s sexual misconduct took on new dimensions this year, with everyone involved speaking out including some family members who have never spoken out before about Allen’s actions and behaviors. The question of what Allen did continues to be debated. Dan Harmon’s #metoo moment came when a former writer spoke out about his behavior when she was writing on Community, and how it affected her. Harmon immediately apologized with what seemed to be a sincere and repentant public me aculpa. The Ansari and Hardwick scandals each raised totally different questions each adding new layers to the difficult questions surrounding sexual assault. Ansari was accused of sexual assault, but with a woman who at least superficially consented to the behavior. He was criticized for ignoring allegedly obvious signs of a woman’s discomfort while on date, and of being blind to her actual feelings about what was happening between them. In Hardwick’s case, when a former girlfriend accused him of horrendous behavior the reaction by the public, by his fans, and by his employers was so swift it could give you whiplash. Questions soon arose about the allegations against him. Maybe they weren’t all true. Maybe this ex had an axe to grind. But by then his career was a mess, and even the company he founded had disassociated with him. Hardwick has his jobs back but his scandal left a large wake and may questions unanswered about how allegations should be handled going forward.
Cosby in Cuffs. In any other year, this would have been the biggest story in the world. Bill Cosby, America’s dad in handcuffs and going to jail. It’s unbelievable. It’s been four years since Hannibal Buress’ joke turned the whispered rumors about Cosby into mainstream news that would take down a giant. In that four years, Cosby has been slowly stripped of virtually every honor he has ever received, branded a sexual predator by the courts, and convicted of criminal sexual misconduct. Still, nobody believed they would see the day that Bill Cosby would be led off in handcuffs to begin incarceration.
Hello and Goodbye Roseanne. Roseanne Barr made the comeback of a lifetime in 2018. Once a major star on top of the world, Roseanne had faded into the background in Hollywood, occasionally making the papers for a crazy tweet or an outrageous quote. Nobody predicted that rebooting her ABC television series would have massive success, and nobody predicted that one tweet would suddenly yank all of that success away. Continuing with the events nobody could have predicted, Roseanne tried to stem some of the stigma by agreeing to give up her rights to the character she created, ostensibly so that her co-stars and crew could continue to have jobs and ongoing success. But unfortunately, either the negativity surrounding the series proved to be too strong, or the show was completely dependent on Barr’s inclusion to be successful because the Roseanne-less reboot has faded into insignificance.
Louis C.K. Returns. Nine months after admitted to exposing himself to colleagues and co-workers with very questionable consent, Louis C.K. returned to the stage this year and the controversy that has erupted over his return has been overwhelming and has dominated every other entertainment-related news this year. Louis return has brought gigantic ovations at comedy clubs in New York City and around the country, served up with a media backlash that continues to grow. That anger has not only been directed toward C.K. himself but also toward the Comedy Cellar, the club C.K. continues to call his home base. The debate over whether he came back too soon, or should have come back at all is loud all over the internet. Those who have defended Louis C.K. have faced swift social-media justice (see above, Norm Macdonald) and Noam Dworman who owns the Comedy Cellar has found himself at the center of the debate, forced to defend his every decision on an ongoing basis. C.K. has largely ignored the blowback, but that hasn’t quieted down the controversy, and may even be fanning the flames. The same media outlets that at one time lauded Louis as some kind of super-comedian now write articles with equal levels of hate, and every day new articles appear adding more gasoline to the controversy. No doubt C.K. will remain at the top of the controversial list throughout 2019.