Did you hear the one about the comedy festival that is charging straight, white dudes more to apply?
There is no punchline — just the set-up of a new Williamsburg gala, whose organizers are hoping the gimmick will attract a more diverse lineup of performers than the average bro-median heavy bill.
“The discount is a tongue-in-cheek way of inviting people who may have been previously booked as the token comic to have a spotlight on them as well,” said Coree Spencer of the Cinder Block Comedy Festival, which will run across several yet-to-be-determined venues from Sept. 15–18.
Stand-ups and sketch troupes who are women, people of color, disabled, transgender, or queer can pay $19.25 to apply for a slot in the fest through the end of March. Starting in April, straight, white able-bodied guys can apply as well — but they’ll have to shell out for the “regular” sticker price of $25.
The small markdown — a nod to the 77-cents-on-the-dollar nationwide pay gap between men and women — is mostly for laughs, Spencer said. And Cinder Block applicants won’t actually have to offer any proof of their minority cred — although they will have to submit headshots with their submission.
“This isn’t Trump’s America,” she said. “We don’t need to know everything about you.”
But Spencer does think the stunt will have a serious impact on the final festival by catching the attention of comedians who wouldn’t otherwise apply.
“You need to go out of your way to attract diverse comics,” she said. “Women, people of color, and everybody we’re offering the discount to — those people don’t apply to festivals, and we’re giving them a reason to.”
Spencer isn’t the first borough joker to proffer facetious mark-downs for minority groups. Mo Fathelbab, the owner of Williamsburg’s Experiment Comedy Gallery, famously offers free admission to fellow Muslims who can recite the opening verse of the Koran — though it is mostly a middle-finger to presidential candidate Donald Trump and his views on Islam than an actual policy.
But Fathelbab — who will host a few of the Cinder Block shows at his club — says he hopes Spencer’s shtick helps break down real barriers in the comedy scene.
“There’s some sort of wall that’s being built around people that are not the norm right now,” he said. “People are regressing, so it’s good she’s doing this.”
Comics can apply to the Cinder Block Comedy festival at www.cinde