This past Sunday in Chicago, comedian and long suit enthusiast Steve Harvey held a taping for a two-hour special of his eponymous daytime program. The theme of the show was “What Men Really Think,” and to that end, Harvey packed 2,000 dudes into a theatre downtown. And those men, according to several attendees, did their jobs, calling female guests bitches, hounding them with catcalls, howls, and whistles, and lobbing homophobic slurs at one man in the audience.
On Facebook, one Chicago comedian named Tim Dunn described what he saw during the 10-hour, two-part taping. The show was apparently spun to the men in attendance as a sort of male-only summit on dating and relationships. (Before coming, the audience members were asked to answer a 53-question survey via email.) But when the taping started, Harvey revealed to the audience that there would actually be hundreds of women onstage, too. This turned out to be a bad idea. From Dunn’s Facebook post:
- Over a hundred women were seated onstage, and when they got up to speak they were catcalled. This resulted in the warm-up comic asking the men to stop catcalling, as the vibe in the room had become “too rapey.”
- When women skyped in to ask Steve for advice, their image was displayed on large screens, which men would either catcall or groan at based on the women’s looks. And like, if you looked at the guys groaning, spending a night with any of these women would be the absolute best night of their lives.
- During a segment about how often men want sex, a young man got up and mentioned that he is sometimes too tired from work to have sex with his girlfriend. He was immediately booed and had homophobic epithets yelled at him.
- During the same segment, a woman got up and described a time when she didn’t want to have sex because she had just finished a tiring road trip. In that time, she was first catcalled, then booed, ending with a man yelling “you haven’t done your duty!” in response to her story.
- To end that segment, Steve said it should be the woman’s decision whether or not to have sex. Only the women onstage, the comedians in our row, and a few other men throughout the theater applauded that statement.
All of these stories were echoed on a podcast composed of other local comedians in Chicago, hosted by one named Sammy Tamimi, who tipped me off to this story. On Tamimi’s podcast, Bryan Duff and Tyler Samples describe men in the audience essentially claiming some of the women on-stage—“I call the one in yellow!”—screaming things like “you bitch,” describing a woman who appeared via Skype as a “pump it and dump it,” and yelling “pussy” and homophobic slurs at the aforementioned man who said he was sometimes too tired to have sex.
To be clear, Duff and Samples aren’t exactly heroes here. During the podcast, Duff talks about going to the taping as a character called “Rape Culture” and—as he tells it, unintentionally—inciting the crowd by acting out misogyny while “in character.” In imitating the men in the crowd, they also slip into voices in which they are obviously referring to black men. (That said, photos from the taping make the crowd look relatively diverse.) They also argue that a male member of the on-stage panel was actually in the closet, and went on to parody his effeminate voice.
Nonetheless, both the Facebook and podcast accounts seem to argue that Steve Harvey, in his quest to show “what men really think,” got a little more truth than he might have wanted. Duff and Samples also noted that warm-up comic Rubin Ervin told the crowd it was getting too “rapey,” and say that they saw one woman on-stage try and tug the bottom of her skirt down in response to the catcalls.
Harvey, they say, did not exactly help matters. Per Duff and Samples, Harvey at one point threatened to fight someone in the audience who was complaining that the crowd hadn’t been fed. As far as his on-topic moderating went, they say Harvey frequently returned to the concept of men as hunters and women as prey, as well as the idea that women can be “meat” or “traps.” None of that is exactly especially regressive amongst the general population of straight men, except Harvey is a New York Times best-selling relationship author several times over. His book Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man: What Men Really Think About Love, Relationships, Intimacy and Commitment was used as the fulcrum of the 2012 film Think Like a Man, as well as its sequel Think Like a Man Too, both of which have been criticized previously for turning back the clock on feminism.
It’s not clear yet when the two-part special will air, or if the show’s editors will choose to, or be able to, edit out audience members yelling “bitch” at female speakers or audibly and loudly groaning at women who they didn’t collectively find attractive. Steve Harvey is a syndicated show distributed by NBC Universal.
UPDATE (3:45 p.m.) According to an emailer, the special will air on September 8 and 9.
If you were at the taping and would like to relay your experience, feel free to email me.