Kaytlin Bailey, 32, a former sex worker, current stand-up and communications director for Decriminalize Sex Work, said that sex workers and comedians occupy a similar role: “You’re allowed to do things that normal citizens cannot. You’re like a celebrated rule breaker.”
Even so, many sex workers told me that like Daniels, when they first entered comedy clubs, they weren’t particularly welcome.
“I had people tell me that I wasn’t a real comic,” said Silvia Saige, 35, a comedian and adult film actress. “A lot of clubs wouldn’t book me, a lot of female performers still won’t work with me. They think that I’m selling a bad image of what women should be and not empowering to women. And I think it’s completely the opposite.”
Stand-ups advance to bigger stages by honing their material night after night, and criticism of sex workers who enter comedy usually focuses on whether they’ve paid their dues, as Daniels learned. Actors and musicians who try to make the transition to comedy can face similar critiques, but the backlash seems to vary based on gender and background.
Jeremy Piven’s foray into stand-up didn’t generate the same level of outrage as Daniels’s gigs, argued Alia Janine, 40, a former adult-film actress who is now a comedian. She added, “Because Stormy was a woman and a sex worker, a lot of people were like, ‘She shouldn’t be doing this.’”
Actresses who go into stand-up also sometimes face skepticism. Mary Lynn Rajskub, 47, said that when she was performing stand-up while her hit show “24” was on the air, she heard “there were some comedians at the comedy club that were like, ‘Oh, she’s going to come take our spots now because of her name.’” Rajskub had been doing stand-up for more than a decade at that point.