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Noam Dworman Schools Seattle Comedy Club on Free Speech

Club owners who canceled four comics defend decision on Comedy Cellar podcast

Give the duo in charge of Seattle’s Capitol Hill Comedy Bar credit.

Jes Anderson and Dane Hesseldahl appeared on “Comedy Cellar: Live from the Table” this week to defend their decision to “un-book” four comedians.

The show is co-hosted by Noam Dworman, owner of New York’s Comedy Cellar and a staunch free speech advocate.

Anderson and Hesseldahl should have known Dworman would be tough on them, and he was. In the process. the podcaster revealed plenty about the situation and showed the two have plenty to learn about free speech and comic history.

The Seattle comedy club owners, both aspiring stand-ups, defended the decision to cancel gigs by Kurt Metzger, Dave Smith, Jim Florentine and Luis J. Gomez as business-related. Their customer base would punish them for having unwoke comics at the club, they said over and over.

Their business model relies heavily on local patrons, and that hard-Left base would flee if one of the aforementioned comics told jokes there.

It’s debatable, of course.

The woke mob is intimidating, but its power is often inflated. Would enough club patrons truly refuse to attend future shows because the Seattle comedy club hired one comic who didn’t toe the woke line, let alone four?


Anderson explained why she booked the four in the first place, saying she was a “fan” of Metzger from his days on “Chelsea Lately.” Plus, Metzger’s management had ties to the other three performers. Only when the club’s “investors” told her about their “problematic” jokes did she regret the decision.

Dworman pressed the owners again and again to share what the four comedians had said to warrant their cancellation. What joke, what routine was so hurtful that her progressive fans couldn’t be exposed to it?

They couldn’t.

Live from the Table: The Seattle Comedy Club Bookers Explain Their Decision to Cancel Shows

Dworman discussed why edgy comedians are important to the culture, and how difficult conversations can often lead to progressive victories.

Think gay marriage, for starters.

He also brought up a ’70s-era advertisement for Richard Pryor, noting how the comedy legend was billed as “harsh, vulgar, shocking, offensive” at the time.

“This was how things were marketed to liberal people,” Dworman said. Would Capitol Hill Comedy Bar turn Pryor away?

Dworman suggested it would.

He also challenged them on part of the letter they sent to Metzger’s agent upon canceling his gig.

We truly value the art of comedy and the diverse perspectives it brings to our lives.

They couldn’t offer a cogent explanation.

The podcaster then highlighted a key problem with today’s woke warriors. The purity tests are insufferable.

“[Progressives] feel they have a say in not just what they see but what you should be doing when they’re not there,” Dworman said. “It’s like the personal is political, like Communism. The way you live has to be pristine, the way you book, the way you speak … it’s your whole way of life that you’re gonna judge.”

The owners partially played the victim. The podcast played angry voice messages left on their business phone tied to the cancellations to back up their claims.

Imagine the hate that would have erupted had the four comedians played the club as intended.

Seattle Comedy … An Oxymoron?

They also complained that Metzger targeted Anderson on “The Jimmy Dore Show” and said she should be ridiculed for making the cancelations.

The duo made a few smart points in the conversation.

“There’s a big difference between saying a book should be banned and I don’t want a book in my home,” Hesseldahl said. “We’re scared. We got a bomb threat yesterday.”

Dworman showed sympathy for the duo, but he couldn’t let them go without sharing his thoughts on the responsibilities that come with comedy club ownership.

“You’re obviously nice people, well-intentioned people. You’re in an industry that is about free expression. You’re in an industry that has a history of having landmark incidents regarding free expression that affect the culture. So you chose that industry. You don’t have to live up to that calling … but it’s not like you opened a deli and you found yourself in this.

“You’re becoming a cousin, and you’re nice people and you don’t wanna be, of the people smashing the windows,” Dworman said, noting a recent incident at Berkeley where violent protesters raged against Jewish speakers.

“They started smashing the place up. This is a close cousin of the sentiment that you’re buckling to,” he said. “I can’t sign off on it because it’s wrong. It’s leading the country down a terrible direction with everybody fueled by their certainty that their position is the right one, so right that no one else should even be platformed. And I will smash up Berkeley, and I will riot outside the Comedy Cellar and I will put this comedy club out of business if they should have the nerve, not to endorse a view I do not like, but simply allow that view to be heard.”


  1. At the beginning of this interview, two of the most unfunny people you could ever meet described themselves as “comedians ourselves.” True comedy without potentially offending someone, somewhere is impossible, (or am I wrong?) Regardless, if I’m looking for laughs, I’ll take a hard pass on them AND their sh___y club.

  2. I’m very confused isn’t this the same as the gay couple who wanted to buy a cake from a bakery who refused to provide services to them because of what they believed and how they thought it would impact their business and the people who purchased from their business and their customers.

    These people are all about diversity and inclusion, yet they’re telling these comedians that they can’t work in their facility because of how they feel, a safe space, and the way that their customers and patrons may respond. and let’s not forget that they mentioned investors a half a dozen times. Shouldn’t these comedians be able to sue this comedy show the same way the gay couple sued the bakery? It’s not about free speech it’s about speech that they agree with works for them at this time. The funny thing is it could literally change by the week and they would be making another argument to suit their needs and to reform free speech liking and situation. He hit the nail on the head, they believe in free speech when it works for them and only then.

  3. Well…it’s Seattle, so it ain’t news around here that the arts scene (or pretty much every public activity) is dominated by woke-aligned thugs. I go to comedy shows so rarely that my opinion doesn’t really matter, but I figure if a comedian doesn’t offend me at least a little at some point during their show, they probably aren’t very good at their job. But I’m kinda old school that way.

      1. So the solution to being scared is to shut up (log out) and let thugs win? No surprise that you’re ageist too.

  4. “this is our safe space, bitches”
    -ace carolla defending ‘offensive’ comedy @ the CC alec baldwin roast

  5. I believe as long as the jokes there are anti USA, anti Trump, anti religion (except islam), anti white males, then all is good.

      1. Is “Rightwing reactionary emotion mind?” your word for realism? Can you name an example of a comedy club being targeted with bomb threats for, quoting the first poster, “anti USA, anti Trump, anti religion (except islam), anti white males” jokes?

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