Cinder Block Comedy Festival isn’t slotted to run until September 15, but it has already garnered attention because of its aim and somewhat controversial “wage gap pricing” application submission fee. Female comics, LGBTQIA comics, comics with disabilities of all types, and comedians of color who submit their act before March 31 will pay only 77 cents to the dollar of general admission fee, a riff on the gender wage disparity.
“It came out of complaining, to be honest,” festival director and Bayside Myself comedian Coree Spencer says. “I think some of the best ideas come from not liking how things are. And it got to a point where, I think a lot of women when we complain about something we hear a lot of, ‘if you don’t like it, make your own and run it the way you want.’ And that’s where Cinder Block came in.”
“It’s funny isn’t it?” Spencer continues. “It starts the conversation, and I think that’s the most exciting thing about it. We don’t care if anybody believes if the wage gap exists, that’s not what we’re here to do. We’re here to do comedy and the discount was going to happen regardless. It was just kind of a fun way to let the people [know] that we’re going to do things a little bit different. We’re going to highlight people who are underrepresented and [show them] they’re welcomed with us.”
According to the American Association of University Women, as of 2014, the median annual earnings of full-time workers ages 16 and older for white women was 78 percent compared to white men’s earnings; 63 percent for African American women; and 54 percent for Latina women. Those numbers don’t account for the minority men included in the study nor workers with disabilities nor the gay-straight wage gap, and yet, with systemic wage discrimination leaning in their favor every other instance, white straight men, those for whom the early bird submission fee doesn’t apply but who are still encouraged to enter during the general admissions period, have condemned the festival since it’s an obvious personal attack on their everyday privilege.
I’ll pay the whole sub fee to @CinderBlockFest if ppl will stfu about the $6 difference. I volunteer as tribute.
— Trilly Wonka (@Maggiemayehaha) February 24, 2016
People are upset that we want a diverse comedy festival. The bad news is we expected it. The good news is we don’t care.
— CinderBlockFestival (@CinderBlockFest) January 30, 2016
We want diversity!
white dudes on FB: OMG WHY ARE YOU EXCLUDING ME
— Coree Spencer (@coreespencer) January 29, 2016
But instead of buckling under the criticism, Spencer and Cinder Block team stood behind their “wage gap pricing” in a statement they posted on their website.
“Over the past few days, we have received an overwhelming amount of feedback concerning our decision to employ “wage gap pricing” in the application process for the Cinder Block Comedy Festival, charging women, people of color, and members of the LGBTQIA community 77 cents on the dollar, an acknowledgement of the pay disparity in the United States. We would like to publicly state that we stand by our decision and our commitment to creating a diverse comedy festival, showcasing talent from all backgrounds.”
While the festival does aim to feature the “diverse talents currently in the industry,” Cinder Block shouldn’t be dubbed a “diversity festival” but rather a comedy festival that attempts to show a more accurate picture of the industry because, while they might be the most common face of comedy, men—especially white men—aren’t the only ones that can be funny.