On Sunday, a group of male Chicago comedians attended the season premiere taping of The Steve Harvey Show in Chicago. These ten men were part of an audience of roughly 2,000 at the Ford Oriental Theatre downtown, who were all there for “What Men Really Think - The Event!” What Men Really Think, according to accounts, is that it is acceptable for thousands of them to catcall and harass 150 women onstage.
Advertised as an event intended “for gentlemen of all backgrounds and ages,” the taping appears to be a more elaborate version of a segment that was part of an episode that aired in July during It’s Raining Men Week, also entitled “What Men Really Think.” That segment had featured a regular-sized studio audience of women, with men onstage who’d been quizzed on questions like “Which is more important, a pretty face or a great body?” (Answer: A pretty face!)
“What Men Really Think - The Event!” was more complicated, however—to The Steve Harvey Show’s detriment. Attendees were also polled beforehand, in a beautifully sexist survey you can still read online. Highlights included:
Men often say women are ‘crazy’. What do they REALLY mean?
a. Women get too emotional about stuff that doesn’t matter
b. It’s our way of putting you down when you try to control us
c. It just means we don’t understand you.
Why are so many men uncomfortable spending time with their woman’s friends?
a. There’s always at least one friend we can’t stand
b. You gang up on us
c. Women act crazier in groups
d. We don’t care about what you all talk about
A lot of successful, independent women say they struggle to find good men. For this group, what is MOST OFTEN the reason?
a. They are too intimidating.
b. They are too strong-willed.
c. They don’t prioritize relationships
d. They have unrealistic standards
For women who are hopelessly single, the MOST COMMON reason is…
a. Their attitude/personality
b. Their age
c. Their level of attractiveness
d. They act desperate/thirsty
The taping of “What Men Really Think - The Event!” reportedly went on for 10 hours, about double the time the men were told they would be there for. (“I’m hungry, man,” one individual apparently yelled out towards the end, as things started to get rough. “Get us a sandwich!”)
The aforementioned group of comedians stayed quieter. As attendee Tim Dunn told Jezebel, they’d heard about the taping through a peer in the comedy world who said that “if he was able to get ten men there, he would receive a gift, like an MP3 player or something.”
After a group had rallied together to attend, they started getting emails “detailing dress code, schedule, etc,” Dunn reports. It was standard stuff, except for the fact that they got around 15 of those emails in one month, one of which included the survey above, which gave the men pause, given the premise of many of questions being asked.
The day after the taping, Dunn outlined his version of the events in a Facebook post. “I’m going to post a few things we saw and heard, but I want to clarify that I don’t think the show, or anyone on staff was to blame,” he wrote. “This is just the result of gathering 2000 men in one place, which is, of course, a terrible idea.”
- 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.
- Finally, the one good part of this day was my friend Bryan Duff spending the whole time pretending to be a caricature of these types of men. Instead of applauding, he would beat his chest. He growled at the camera. Whenever we tried to ask Bryan’s character about his feelings, he would tear up and quietly mention his strained relationship with his dad, but then go right back to being gross. It was incredible. And what happened to Bryan’s disgusting, sexist character? He got a job offer from one of the men around us. Not making this shit up.
Participants Bryan Duff (who, full disclosure, I went to college with) and Tyler Samples went on Sammy Tamimi’s Popfury Podcast this week to discuss the event as well. You can listen to them thoroughly recount their experience at the jump; during the conversation, they back Dunn’s retelling of several of those more upsetting instances, explaining that they didn’t realize there were going to be women present at the taping beforehand, let alone that those women would be on stage with an audience of men staring at them.
There was one woman in yellow, [and] people were just going crazy for this woman. ‘I call the yellow one.’ ‘Marry me yellow.’ ‘I love you yellow, you’re mine.’
There was one question where a woman asked, ‘Why do men want to have sex all the time?’ and they were shouting out, ‘You bitch! It’s your duty!’
Someone in the audience screamed ‘Fix your weave’ and it was just so toxic and so mean, so that Reuben [the hype man] had to keep coming back on and say, ‘Let them say what they want to say, it’s sounding like you don’t like them... we’re sounding a little bit rapey.’
I saw a woman start tugging on her dress because she was so uncomfortable.
Duff and Samples also described a second segment, in which a panel of men that included Geraldo Rivera discussed the rash of men in Hollywood cheating on their wives with their nannies. Apparently, during this segment, Rivera said that there is “an epidemic of predatory nannies” in Hollywood—and another panelist made an analogy that compared not keeping cupcakes in your house if you’re going to be tempted by them to wives not hiring hot nannies that their husbands might want to sleep with.
At one point, the women onstage reportedly pushed back on that idea, explaining that—in Duff and Samples’ retelling: “‘This is ridiculous, you guys are telling us we can’t have the best care for our children because you can’t keep it in your pants?’ And the response was like, ‘Yeah, you have to make compromises.’”
“As the day went on, the women, to their credit, got increasingly like, ‘I’m not going to put up with this bullshit anymore,’ and would be like, ‘You’re promoting a double standard,’” Samples said.
“The whole show was based on, ‘Hey women, I’m Steve Harvey, I’m going to tell you what men are really thinking,’” Duff said, explaining that Harvey’s attitude seemed to be that it’s always going to be a struggle to be in a relationship, and that men and women are always going to be at odds. At no point did Harvey tell the audience to settle down; instead, he told the women that this is just what happens when a group of men gets together, that he knows what it’s like to be a dude, comforting them with the news that none of these men would actually hurt any of them.
Much of the majority of the men in the audience’s behavior has been attributed to how poorly run the taping was; comedian Mike Strickler wrote about all the ways it was badly handled on both Facebook and the website Comedy of Chicago. But some of the surprise also seems to have stemmed from how unfamiliar the men were with Harvey’s current brand before heading the event. As anyone who has taken a glance at Harvey’s current talk show, or his book Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, or the movie adapted from that book knows, Harvey is all about preaching to women about what they’re doing wrong, and believes in such archaic ideas about the difference between the sexes that there are practically cobwebs dripping off his words.
Despite the fact (or because of it) that he has been married three times and has admitted to cheating multiple times, Harvey regularly uses his show to dole out relationship advice like he knows what the fuck he’s talking about when it comes to having a healthy relationship—or what “men” and “women” are like.
The blatantly unsavory nature of his message aside, it’s difficult to write Harvey’s success off as anomalous; ratings for The Steve Harvey Show are solid, he has won a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Talk Show Informative two years in a row, and, as he reportedly told the audience numerous times, he is very wealthy.
This premiere episode will air September 8th as part of Harvey’s “Season of Surprises”; in his original email to Jezebel, Dunn wrote, “The episode itself will likely be edited to look like any other daytime talk show, but something really disgusting happened that day. I think myself, and my male friends had heard of this treatment toward women many times before, but never witnessed it up close like this.”
Jezebel has contacted The Steve Harvey Show for comment and will update if we hear back.
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Images via The Steve Harvey Show/Facebook