This breaks my heart because I love Sarah Silverman, but she may not have been totally honest about—or she may not have totally understood—what happened when she claims she was paid $10 to Todd Barry’s $60 for equal work on the same show.
A feminist source very close to the former owner of New York Comedy Club, Al Martin, explained that Silverman and Barry’s experience happened 16 years ago. Barry was paid $60 for a booked spot, while Silverman just dropped in unannounced and wasn’t actually booked on the show. As a comedian, it’s customary to do these unannounced spots for free or for a menial fee as a means to test out new material. If you’re not actually booked to perform a paid spot on a show, you rarely actually get paid—it’s not in the club’s budget for that night, which means if you’re getting paid, somewhere a waitress, bartender or bar-back is losing out.
As someone who’s both frequented and performed in a few of Martin’s establishments, I can say that all paid spots that I’ve witnessed, male or female, have been paid the same amount. It’s pretty effed up of Silverman to have left that information out of her video. That doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened elsewhere, but according to a feminist female very close to the situation, Silverman is either exaggerating or misunderstood the circumstances of the performance she gave.
That said, it’s unfortunate that this occurred, because the gender pay gap is something that needs to be spoken about and resolved. I just fear that scenarios like this will make it less likely that valid complaints are taken seriously.