I never stop being surprised at how often the topic of comedy and comedians makes it on our pages. Between strange concepts like comedians claiming copyright on stand-up jokes and a more violent war sometimes waged on the technology audience members carry around in their pockets, it really does feel like those in comedy should have, you know, a better sense of humor about all of this.
But to really see the combination of entitlement and disdain for the public at work in the world of comedy, you have to turn to SNL's Pete Davidson. Davidson apparently tries to smuggle in a non-disclosure agreement to anyone that buys tickets to his stand-up shows, with penalties of up to a million dollars for violations of that agreement.
Whatever you do, never tweet at a Pete Davidson comedy show. The “Saturday Night Live” cast member has recently been doling out non-disclosure agreements before each of his recent comedy shows.
Most recently, fans attending Davidson’s standup at the Sydney Goldstein Theater in San Francisco were asked to sign a lengthy contract that forbade them from tweeting or instagramming any opinions about the performance.
I find it hard to believe that such an NDA would stand up in court. Regardless, it takes a special kind of audacity to make your living in comedy, an industry completely reliant on free speech principles and social commentary, and then insist that paying customers sign away their ability to do likewise. It's enough, seriously, that you have to wonder if this is some new kind of experimental comedy that Davidson is trying out.
Except that customers who have refused to sign the NDA have reported getting full refunds of their purchases without further explanation. If this is comedy, the public appears to be waiting for the punchline.
One attendee, Stacy Young, originally discovered by Consequence of Sound, posted the alleged NDA on her Facebook. It stated: “the individual shall not give any interviews, offer any opinions or critiques, or otherwise participate by any means or in any form whatsoever (including but not limited to blogs, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, or any other social networking or other websites whether now existing or hereafter created).”
The document posted on Facebook also states “Individual is or will be a guest of the Company at a performance event for the purpose of viewing ‘works in progress’ creative content ...”.
The fine for breaking said NDA was a whopping $1 million. "In the event of breach of this agreement, individual shall pay company, upon demand, as liquidated damages, the sum of one million dollars, plus any out of pocket expense."
As we've said, comedians have, for some time, been wary of technology within the walls of any given performance. Cell phone bans have become somewhat common. The stated concerns for that sort of thing have typically revolved around the fear that audiences will record and distribute contents of the show to the public, or that they will record jokes out of context to make comedians sound more offensive than they intend to be. Those fears, while ultimately lame, are at least understandable.
But forcing paying customers to not have a public opinion about a show? That's purely crazy.
"I understand that comedians are protective of their material," Young added. "But to not be allowed to express an opinion, whether I liked it or not, is off-putting in an Orwellian thought police way."
Someone might want to sit Pete Davidson down and explain to him that 1984 wasn't a comedy.
Filed Under: comedy, contracts, free speech, nda, opinions, pete davidson