Pittsburgh comedian says he cancelled Pittsburgh Improv gig in protest of Louis CK booking

By January 23, 2019 71 Comments

Pittsburgh Comedian John Dick Winters, right, writes that he cancelled his Feb. 14 gig at the Pittsburgh Improv after the club booked comedian Louis CK for this weekend. The show was not posted on the club’s website until earlier this week.

By John Dick Winters
Special to the Pittsburgh Current

UPDATE: After Winters’ op/ed, Comedian Tig Notaro, who had her own experiences with CK, offered the comedian a spot opening for her in Harrisburg in March.

January 24 2019, is my seven-year stand-a-versary. After months of lurking around the Tuesday open mic at the Smiling Moose on the South Side of Pittsburgh, I decided I was ready. I was brought up to the stage by then stranger, now business partner in the Burning Bridges Comedy Club, Derek Minto. I was incredibly fortunate with a very welcoming crowd that evening, rarely the case for this particular open mic. I told predominantly mean-spirited jokes at the expense of my twin daughters, very Louis CK-esque.

The past seven years have been an interesting, and at times, thoroughly fulfilling journey. I’ve opened for famous comics, comics whom I deeply respect (not always the same thing), won contests, traveled the country, done comedy festivals, made some of my closest friends, produced countless shows, started my own festival and at some point became a pretty good comedian. But ultimately, and most importantly, I’ve become a better person through standup.

What I considered funny seven years ago compared to today, is worlds apart. When I started I was crude, foul, aggressive and most importantly, not very funny. I’d say the F-word freely. I’m not talking about “fuck,” BTW. I did a number of problematic things. I honestly don’t recall if I ever wrote a rape joke but I 100% defended those who did under the guise of “anything can be joked about.” That was then. Much has changed in me since January 24 2012.

I traveled the country meeting countless talented jokesters. These people wrote honest, deep and deeply silly bits. They ran shows that cultivated non-P.C., but thoughtful humor; comedy full of empathy and understanding from a progressive point of view. And little by little, every time I met one of these humans, they rubbed off on me. They made me want to be funnier. To be smarter. To be more than I was.

Maybe two or three years in I was getting very serious about stand up. I had started doing some DIY touring in bars, garages, the occasional living room, basically wherever I could book a show. I had gotten better on stage but still had a long way to go (still do in fact). I was at this point I started looking into getting club work — working at real comedy clubs as an emcee or a feature (middle) act. A full weekend at a club is typically six shows between Thursday and Sunday and pay was typically between $300-1000 depending. I was chatting with a local comic here in Pittsburgh who had been doing this for years, and he very nonchalantly told me that I’d never work clubs. Not because I wasn’t funny enough but because I was too “alt” or I was too “punk”. I forget the way he worded it but basically he was saying I was too outside the mainstream of stand up comedy to ever get any club work. And for awhile, I believed him.

I kinda gave up on the idea that I could ever work clubs. Another year or two passed and now I’m getting pretty good. I’m opening for a lot of big name comics here in town at the independent venues: The Rex, Club Cafe, Mr. Smalls, Altar Bar(RIP), etc. And I’m producing my own shows fairly successfully as well as producing the Burning Bridges Festival. I don’t need to work at clubs, but man did I still want to. Not just because the money is good, but cause fuck that guy who told me I couldn’t and fuck me for believing him.

Now, let me get to the real reason I’m writing this. About two weeks ago, I booked not one, but two clubs for paid emcee and feature work. Go Bananas in Cincinnati and the Improv right here in Pittsburgh. It took dang near seven years but hey, I’m just happy for the opportunity. An opportunity which I feel I’ve earned. I was going to emcee for comedian Pete Lee from Feb.14-17.

I was elated … for about a week.

Just a few days after being booked at the Pittsburgh Improv they announced that Louis CK would be there Jan 24-25th! What a great stand-a-versary present! I assume the sarcasm is obvious. But for the uninformed, CK was on the top of the comedy awards when multiple accusations surfaced in the past few years that CK masturbated in front of several women comics over the years. He eventually confirmed the allegations and his comedy career came to an abrupt stop. However in the past year or so, he began performing again in clubs around the country.

One thing I take incredibly seriously as someone who books upwards of 200 shows a year at my own venue and comedy festival, is not working with people who are fucking creeps. And there are a lot of them out there, lemme tell ya, at all levels of comedy. It’s one thing to have these progressive, liberal beliefs but they mean literally zero if you won’t act on them when needed. As a straight white guy who has some power in my field, I take my role as an ally seriously. I want my shows to be a comfortable place for women, PoC, LGBTQ, and anyone else to perform. In the past, I’ve shut down shows, banned comedians and stood my ground as far as drawing a line in the sand concerning who I will and will not work with.

I’m not bragging. I’m really not. It’s a common complaint I hear on the independent comedy community, especially from women, about these folks who produce and book shows that let fucking creeps perform. These producers talk a big progressive game, saying all the right things and knowing all the buzz words, and then let scumbags do their show because they don’t want to create any waves. I talked to other comedians about my situation and every one of them told me  that i shouldn’t let Louie being at the Improv disrupt something I’ve worked hard for years to get. 

Well, fuck that. I’m definitely not a perfect person, I have my own demands and have been called out, rightfully so for my own mistakes. But I won’t let that hinder me from doing whatever I can to stop this bullshit whenever possible.

So I’m backing out of my weekend at the Pittsburgh Improv. Not that they’ll care. Not that really anyone besides me will care. $300 isn’t worth it to me to be a hypocrite. I’ve worked really hard at both the comedy and the business side of stand up. And I’ve become, albeit a small one, a gatekeeper of our little Pittsburgh comedy scene. And I don’t want to work with anyone that will work with Louis CK or anyone like Louis CK.

I hope other comedians out there will do the same.



  • Sue says:

    I don’t even go to hear comedy any longer, but I will seek you out the next time I have free time. Because, thank you for being an ally, for standing solid on your beliefs. You won’t regret it. Thank you, thank you, thank you,

    • Louis CK says:

      Spoiler alert: if you go see this pissy little moralist’s show you still won’t hear any comedy.

    • Bliz says:

      So youll go see his “comedy” because of him cancelling a show and his values rather than his actual “comedy”? You know this guy has gotten more attention from him cancelling a show no one cared about and using the louis ck controversy to play white knight and generate attention…more than his career as a stand up…this guy is a nobody and this cancelling faux protest will be the height of his fame–not his material, ability, or anything remotely involving doing comedy….

  • Dan Weber says:

    Well done sir. We have never met but I applaud your choice and hope I would make the same choice in the same circumstances.

    In the grand scheme of your career this will just be a blip in a long line of some successes and probably a great many failures.

    Good luck man,

    Hopefully we will meet someday.

    • Bliz says:

      Good luck indeed…his cancellation of a comedy show will be the most fame and attention he will ever get….his one cancellation will be more known than his lifetime of attendances

  • Anonymous says:

    Good on you for standing up for your beliefs and being an ally, John.

    – Emily

  • Anonymous says:

    It’s not that you wont ever work clubs because you’re too alternative or punk…you’ll never work clubs because you openly shoot down other comics for their material. Comedians stand up for each other, support each others acts and have an unspoken rule that nothing is off limits. Yeah C.K. jacked off in front of women (with their consent), but he’s apologized to them directly and to the public. Louis lost $35 million and half of the world hates him. Obviously what he did was wrong but for fucks sake, he’s not rapist. Everyone makes mistakes, at what point do you forgive them? The truth is it doesn’t matter because it never involved you. It’s up to the victims to forgive him. Let the man work and get over yourself.

    • Cassidy says:

      Hard to feel like you can really stand by that shitty apologist viewpoint when you hide behind anonymity. Fuck off with some “comic’s code” shit when you’re too afraid to put your name out there “in support”.

      You’re defending CK pulling his dick out at any woman in a 10 foot radius and you can’t even pull your balls out of your back pocket and own up to your bullshit.

      • Ted says:

        Cassidy…you can’t distort and hyperbolize both C.K.’s actual crimes (making several women feel uncomfortable by requesting that they watch him jerk off) and the above comment and then whine about bullshit. It’s hypocritical and disgusting.

        Over a decade ago, C.K. made several women feel uncomfortable with inappropriate requests. Over a decade ago, he stopped that behavior, personally apologized for the behavior, and put a significant portion of his clout behind supporting female comedians and discussing women’s issues. Of course, none of this matters to you, just like none of the other facts matter to you, just like the actual text of the comment above matters to you. You merely want to rationalize outrage and ramp it up to the highest levels possible while pretending that it’s somehow out of principle rather than self-service.

        Own up to your own bullshit. Stop being an aprincipled outrage junkie. And stop falling for posturing grandstanders like Dick Winters. His goal is as obvious as that of bakers who publicize their refusal to bake cakes for gay people – the only principle he’s espousing is that of self-promotion.

        • Cassidy says:

          None of that means anything to me. The words of rape and assault apologists are useless. You’re wasting your time with that shit.

          Keep crying because harassment has consequences. The only person whose outrage is absurd here is you.

          No one wants to work with creeps, I’m sure they’ll get to cutting you out as well. Don’t worry. You’ll get that attentiom you’re dying for, briefly.

          You fucking coward.

          • CK's Balls says:

            “The words of rape and assault apologists are useless”

            I don’t think you know what words mean.

          • Ted says:

            He didn’t rape anyone and he didn’t assault anyone. I’m not apologizing for it because it never happened, no matter how much you pretend otherwise.

            Harrassment does indeed have consequences. What I mind is not that his harrassment had consequences or even that it still does, but that crazy people like you refuse to base those consequences on his actual harrassment, just like you refuse to acknowledge any of the repentance, consequences, and changed behavior that occurred long, long before you ever got involved. It’s really all about narcissism for people like you – you don’t care about his actual transgressions just like you don’t care about the actual effects, just like you don’t care about the massive consequences he already suffered. All you care about is justifying rage in a quest to make him grovel and hopefully kill himself so that you can take credit for it.

            I’m not a coward, you are just crazy and wholly without principle. As far as dying for attention, stop projecting.

      • Riley says:

        Ree! put your name out there so I can dox you and get you fired and ruin your life for having a differing opinion. Because I’m a rat fuck pussy and that’s how I get off.

      • Bliz says:

        Something tells me this “john dick winters” is going places. He will go down as one of the best most accomplished stand up comedians of all time. While louis ck will be remembered for just jerking off.

        • Tomas says:

          Haha, that was a good one. We both know it is bullshit. CK has got 4 recorded stand ups and 6 series of succesful TV show, while nobody will remember this guy next year. So pathetic. 🙂

    • Bill says:

      Hey anonymous, comedians stick up for each other? What does that even mean? Is that how you rationalize turning off your brains’s ability to decipher reality and recognize a predator when you see one? A guy who pulls out his dick in front of women and then instructs his manager to intimidate these women and mangle their careers if they speak up and then jokes about doing it because he “doesn’t like jerking off alone” passes through your weak ass filter as just a joke? Oh my bad he said sorry and took a break living off his millions, has shown no sign that he regrets any of it and instead taunts his victims and that’s all good by you because he’s a comedian?

      Do us all a favor and keep your terrible opinions to yourself and let the adults deal with this. If you think telling jokes makes you special and gives you a pass to get away with abuse you and any comedian out there who shares that belief is going to find out such passes do not exist and you are going to find out the hard way.

    • Dom says:

      Anonymous: I couldn’t agree with you more. This asshole just did it to try and boost his career. A simple, dirty publicity stunt as it seems.

  • Lara says:

    Thank you for being an ally.

  • CK's Balls says:

    Your self important grandstanding is one thing, but your explicit threat to fuck over comedians who make a different decision than you is troubling.
    If you don’t want to work a gig at a club on a separate weekend from CK’s , that’s your business and yours alone.
    But it’s absolutely none of your concern if somebody else chooses to take a gig at the Pittsburgh Improv, even if CK is the headliner that night.
    It’s amazing how much fuck sticks like you get off on controlling others.
    I feel sorry for you.

  • Anon says:

    Masterful self-promo. Write about what a stand you took in doing the right thing conveniently within about 6 months of opening your own comedy club. Write how hard you worked and how good you got in a way that screams you are the only man who can save comedy from itself. Talk about how you used to be a piece of shit–very much from the Louis CK playbook, by the way. “Hey, guys, I dont say ‘f*****’ anymore! Women, I am your beacon of hope.”

    Look at me, just your average white man pulling himself by his bootstraps, only to get even more opportunities by another famous woman. Because women are so tired, they are literally grasping at scraps of integrity from men.

    And you sent this to a paper to let everyone know your heroism. You crafted the narrative about yourself you wanted people to see. And you benefited from it. That is creepy.

    Where’s the part where you stop congratulating yourself and talk about the steps you’re taking to create a larger team of people to make a movement for a culture instead of a rogue comedy superhero? There is none because this is all about you.

  • Louis CK says:

    Will you be apologizing for this?


    Jews are a very marginalized community in the entertainment industry. It’s not OK!

    • Donna says:

      If you would take a minute from your busy morning of lionizing sexual harassers you could read this piece and know the issue is not C,K,s comedy but his behavior. Winter does say he changed his attitude about non-pc “jokes” but that’s not why he refuses to work with C,K.

      • Anonymous says:

        He refuses to work with C.K. because it doesn’t match his political agenda, and it’s an easy way to promote himself for something barely even related to comedy. He can dress it up in all sorts of bullshit rhetoric but it’s plain as day to anyone who can look past the smug self-righteousness of an article someone write about themselves.

    • Dom says:


  • Rhydian says:

    This whole thing is a CV for a certain type of booker, it even starts with a bio.
    If you had just let the club know why you were cancelling and told no-one you could actually claim this as a moral act, but no. It’s all about you, self promotion, your part in the downfall of CK. Making people aware of it barely impacts him but promotes you (because he’s very famous)
    Enjoy your gig with Tig. I genuinely mean that. I’m not saying it publically so people can see how great I am by wishing you well even though I think you’re a dick, I’m saying it so I can point out that that is what I’m doing. See how that nullifies any sentiment? (also it rhymes)

    • Jon says:

      What’s the point of taking a stand if nobody knows about it? Nobody should protest anything because it’s attention seeking? If Winters was sincere about his conviction he would not,,,tell,,,,,anyone what they are. Call in sick!

  • Fez Twatley says:

    Taking a $300 pay cut for that week should be fine. This guy doesn’t look like he is starving… well, for food anyways. Attention on the other hand…

  • Anonymous says:

    This is gross. John Dick Winters is a rapist. It’s deplorable that he is trying to get attention for being a supposive ally.

    • Ana Derla says:

      If this allegation is true and it happened to you, I implore you to contact his business partners and people who book him directly. As well as authorities and an attorney. If it didn’t happen to you, please have the victim do so. Otherwise, this is liable.

  • Andy says:

    I hope you didn’t strain something patting yourself on the back. Jesus.

  • Anonymous says:

    John, i gotta call you out. You’ve done way worse than just slinging homophobic slurs (which is ancient history and doesn’t matter, rite?) and you’ve never acknowledged any of it or tried making amends.

    The women you’ve been inappropriate with are real and it’s disturbing. You bank on deflecting from your own shit and silencing anyone who challenges you. Playing gatekeeper and tearing people down because you can is one thing, but biting people’s real beliefs for your own gain is grotesque.

    You’re about as punk as fuckin Green Day, bud, and way more predatory. If you put one tenth the energy into effecting real change as you put into crafting your image, then maybe you wouldn’t come across like a spineless opportunist when you throw around phrases like “non-P.C., but thoughtful humor.” What does that even mean? Schrodinger’s edgelord??

    The Improv has always been a problem. Men in comedy have always been problematic. Real allies have been speaking up for years, not just when it’s fashionable. What have you actually ever done to challenge the system you work in? Granting token slots to females and POC–at least the ones who fall in line–is super transparent. You have the power. We get it. As a straight white guy, the best support you could give right now is stepping the fuck aside.

    Instead, you book yourself on shows whenever you sniff out a national act. How are you or Burning Bridges taking allyship seriously? Who are you helping with your boycott? Taking gigs for exposure is one thing, but this is a new approach.

    So, congrats on exploiting a flogged-dead news story and the people it actually affected for personal gain. And congrats on the Tig spot. Sure, it could’ve gone to a female or queer comic, but you’re a true ally with a little bit of power trying your best, so you deserve it. You haven’t become a better person. People just don’t know better yet.

  • Anonymous says:

    When Louie triggered Conservatives he was celebrated, now he’s stepping on liberal toes and he’s getting crucified. Comedy shouldn’t serve politics, and small stunts like this are just for self promotion.

    Anyone who is buying this crap is ignorant to the nature of society and the fact that Comedy, which used to be form of free expression, is now just a giant platform to push political ideology, and disparage anyone who doesn’t offend people the way they want them to.

    Also, anyone who’s actually seen this guys style of comedy knows how much of a hypocritical joke this stunt actually is. He’s just another activist gone comedian going around pushing his agenda of, “That’s crude, don’t say that! Say this instead!”

    Disgusting. I hope people realize you’re not an ally. Just another leech.

  • Anonymous says:

    Wait, you wrote the article and co-own the club that booked Louis CK in the first place?

  • Anonymous says:

    “Most of the men… of course, turned out to be sexual predators, or at least creeps, of varying degrees. None of them are feminists, and never were; they just became very adept at mimicking what it might sound like to be a male feminist. It was a personal brand, developed to fit a particular market niche, and to satisfy a particular hunger for feminist, diverse, and inclusive art in which everybody can participate. It’s the men, of course, and often enough the white men, who are more likely to be crowned Kings of Woke, and granted TV shows and movies and well-paid comedy specials. There’s good money to be made in pretending to be a decent person, if you know how to leverage it. But how are we supposed to react, and to think, if we fell for the act? How do we determine the difference, going forward, between shitty people who are performing shittiness as a cover, and a genuine ironic critique?” https://www.currentaffairs.org/2019/01/people-who-pretend-to-be-shitty-are-frequently-just-shitty?fbclid=IwAR1xJNDe_T77EXRSUL0vpcX6ahNaJDAJB9NA6PublIUcGnlNidmpmrsJrPY

  • Tig Not Aro says:

    This article is as self loving as the guy you’re canceling. That’s alot of tattoos on you, can you tattoo your lips to your backside? Because you obviously like to kiss your own ass and you might get less butt hurt in the future.

  • Anonymous says:

    Literally the only reason anyone gives a shit about this is because you are honking your own horn all over social media about it.

    You’re pretty much whipping out your dick and jerking off in front of anyone reading this.

  • Lisa says:

    John Dick Rape Allegations Winters is now the hero of women? Wow, it was almost too easy to fool some of them but not me. You know what you did.

    • Ana Derla says:

      If this allegation is true and it happened to you, I implore you to contact his business partners and people who book him directly. As well as authorities and an attorney. If it didn’t happen to you, please have the victim do so. Otherwise, this is liable.

      • Ana Derla says:

        *Libel – (autocorrect)

        • Lisa says:

          Believe women, Ana

          • Ana Derla says:

            I believe survivors. I am a survivor. No scene; art, music, or comedy, should support perpetrators of these acts. But, if no one comes forward how do we know these monsters exist in plain sight? I want survivors to reach out and contact business partners instead of just screaming into the void of the internet. If no one speaks out, how can progress truly be made?

          • Anonymous says:

            Sorry, Ana. No one gets to tell a survivor how to handle assault. Not even another survivor.

  • David says:

    If you were truly an ally, instead of taking the Tig gig, you would give it to a woman, trans, or PoC performer. But why be the good guy when you can just look like one…

  • norm says:

    this is all too rich. rape allegations against john dick winters? proven antisemitic remarks and homophobic ones too? agreeing to take a gig from tig ” I faked cancer for fame” Notaro. I wish this story went viral so dick winters could be widely canceled. comedy is a cesspool and this proves it.

    • Stephen says:

      Pretty sure she actually had cancer.,. her tits are gone… I have more tits and nipple then she does… but Louis CK did get her on the map and supported her and promoted her specials and got her more noticed

      • norm says:

        pretty sure it was all a publicity stunt when so many didn’t believe her cause she kept lying about the story. she might have had her breast removed cause she is transitioning into being a male. If I see a pic where she has no nipples I guess she just lied about the story for affet and some of it is true.

  • Sam says:

    Most female comics in Pittsburgh have received unsolicited back rubs from John Dick Winters. He is a sexual assaulter. Not the flashing kind, but the gripping firmly with both hands kind.

  • scott says:

    Looks like the show improved as a result.

  • insider knowledge says:

    Sue won’t seek this clown out. All John DICK Winters accomplished is being a pawn in Tig Notaro’s vendetta against the guy who made her rich and famous. He looks like a fool and I bet his “comedy” is pure shit.

  • Anonymous says:

    Self promoting himself so blatantly over social media is probably the funniest thing he’s actually ever done. It truly takes the balls of a social justice warrior to stomach writing an article about yourself.

    “One thing I take incredibly seriously as someone who books upwards of 200 shows a year at my own venue and comedy festival,”

    “I’m not bragging. I’m really not.”

    Well done John, you’ve actually managed to entertain me.
    Put this in your next act and someone might actually come to watch you for the comedy.

  • Alang says:

    At least Louis owned up. If Clinton gets to be an elder statesman ( and he is), Louis gets a second chance too… Holding someone forever hostage to the past isn’t progressive. It’s just mean.

  • Anonymous says:

    This article is disgusting….writing an article about yourself and painting your self as hero …yikes…..you should work more on your comedy rather then trying to be part of a thing that will fade in time….at one point the extreme of this movement will seem ridicules and what Louie did will be viewed as just a bad thing that does not mean he is a monster.But you my friend will be left with all the circus crew you are trying to get in on.

  • Sloover says:

    “I don’t want to work with anyone that will work with Louis CK or anyone like Louis CK.”

    3 weeks later… Robert Kelly who played Louis CK’s brother on Louie plays at Burning Bridges https://burningbridgescomedyclub.com/calendar/2019/2/16/robert-kelly-at-burning-bridges-early-show-8pm

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