The Negative Impact Leaks and Bootlegs Has On Art
On Dec. 31, 2018, Tiffany Haddish was scheduled to perform at James L. Knight Center in Miami to a sold-out audience. She posted a video earlier that morning urging people to show up for her performance, but she couldn’t recollect the venue where she was set to perform. She joked, that the “Cîroc is still in my system,” and then she somehow found the name of the theater and called people to turn up for the “party.” She promised people that they were going to have a good time.
The performance did not go as expected. Twitter user @AndrewChestnut1 posted a video on his Twitter page with Haddish in action. Haddish can be seen in the background trying to talk to him, and posted in an accompanying tweet that although it was a “horrible show,” Haddish was having a “rough night.” According to the tweet, Haddish invited him to come up on stage and tell jokes. Many audience members walked out, and Haddish chose to have some drinks with the ones who stayed.
Haddish did not deny this account. She went on her Twitter and accepted the anger against her and tweeted that she wished it “was better.” Haddish also added a link about her performance by a website called The Root with the headline “Tiffany Haddish Bombs, Drinks with Fans Instead.” Soon, other comics, like Patton Oswalt and Kathy Griffin backed Haddish, tweeting that comics had bad sets from time to time.
For Louis CK, it wasn’t the same. His performance at Governer’s Comedy Club in Long Island on Dec. 6, 2018, was leaked onto the internet by an audience member. In what was another surprise set for the audiences, (a trend that CK seems to be doing regularly since making his “comeback” to stand-up since his sexually inappropriate behavior allegations), CK set included topics like Parkland Shooting survivors and non-binary people.
Reactions to the set were almost all negative, with even some comics like Judd Apatow and Jim Carrey criticizing CK for his act. In his criticism, Apatow mentioned that the routine was “hacky, unfunny, shallow” and that it was just a symptom of “how people are afraid to feel empathy.” Carrey, for his part, tweeted a painting he did of activist, advocate for gun control, and Parkland Shooting survivor Emma Gonzalez, and wrote: “Louie can’t C. K?”
It doesn’t happen so often that stand-up comics criticize their fellow comedians. The circumstances around CK’s set are unusual, considering the fact that his actions off the stage have come under rightful scrutiny. By his own admission to his wrongdoings, he has tarnished his reputation. It remains to be seen if it has been tarnished beyond measure or not. However, the bootlegged set coming into public record poses an important question: does the artist have a right to their work and to be able to release it at the right time to the world? Or can an audience interfere?
An important aspect of the art of stand-up comedy is the process of a comedian working through their set. Some comics do it at open mics, which are usually not publicized. The more established comedians go to comedy clubs to work through their sets, where there are audiences of about a hundred or more members. The comedy clubs offer comedians an intimate setting of sorts, from where a comedian feels confident enough to test material, which is often a work-in-progress.
The very nature of a work-in-progress, be it a book or comedy, is its flaws. These flaws are to be worked upon, which is why it is tested with a sample readership, in the case of a book, or a story. The public nature of stand-up brings it under public scrutiny far too soon at times, as in the case of CK. Would the incendiary comments that the comedian, who has made his career as a contrarian, have made the final cut? Would he have put it in the final version that he might have recorded and released in the form of a stand-up special? We won’t know that now.
It has happened in the case of movies too. In early August 2014, footage from the movie Deadpool leaked online. The footage showed a CGI action sequence with the lead character of the movie, Deadpool. For the movie though, this worked in their favor. Urged in part by the excitement for the movie online, the film studio Fox greenlit the project, which was in limbo since 2011. However, it is an anomaly in several others that were leaked, which led to adverse effects. The Sony Pictures Hack in 2014 affected the business of a lot of films that were unreleased. If the studio had had the liberty to take the time to promote the films properly, maybe they would have been able to get the right audiences to watch the film.
Any form of art has a sort of gestation period, where the artist takes their time to tinker with the material that they have created. It ensures that artists present that version of their artwork that they think is ready for consumption, and criticism. Leaks interfere in this important process. It robs the artist of their right to put their best foot forward. Technology has made everything accessible for the audience, even works-in-progress. But works-in-progress should be allowed to reach their rightful end. It would only mean better quality for the artist and for the audience.