On Wednesday, March 21, Cohoes City Council member Randy Koniowka called on Music Hall Arts Alliance, the management organization of Cohoes Music Hall, to cancel the March 24 stand-up comedy performance by Nick Di Paolo, citing the comedian’s use of “hateful speech on a daily basis.”
“We own the building…that requires taxpayer dollars. We pay Holly Brown’s company to manage the venue and booking, that requires taxpayer dollars. Every performance [at Cohoes Music Hall] is essentially funded by taxpayer dollars,” Koniowka told The Alt. “The community needs to set a standard.”
Koniowka’s Wednesday morning tweet called the comedian’s content “garbage” and included a screenshot of an April 2011 tweet by Di Paolo as an example of hateful rhetoric, in which the comedian repeatedly uses the word ‘faggot’ and addresses “Gay people” saying, “get the fuck over yourselves! It’s called freedom of speech!”
Koniowka also issued a statement against the comedian via Facebook: “…While I support Mr. DiPaolo’s [sic] right to say whatever he chooses under the 1st Amendment, I don’t believe that taxpayers should have to sponsor this type of rhetoric on a public stage.”
Di Paolo hosts a self-titled nightly radio show on SiriusXM as well as a self-titled podcast. He has also had acting roles on Louie, Inside Amy Schumer, The Sopranos, Cop Show and Louie CK’s comedy-drama web series Horace and Pete.
The comedian was interviewed for the Olean Times Herald on Wednesday, ahead of his Friday night show in the area. When asked how he responds to being called racist or sexist, Di Paolo replied, “I wear it like a badge of honor… If I’m called racist, I’ve won the argument. And then I’ll say something really filthy to them.”
“What this man has put out crosses over into hate speech,” Koniowka told The Alt. “A man that uses the ‘N’ word and make jokes about rape, about Jews and calls people ‘faggot’ … I don’t think Cohoes Music Hall is an appropriate venue for. It’s not satire, it’s really beyond the pale. It’s not the kind of art that taxpayers should be on the hook for.”
In an email to The Alt, Cohoes Music Hall executive director and owner of MHAA Holly Brown called Koniowka’s understanding of the Hall’s management agreement “inaccurate,” explaining that the artist is paid by the promoter who is “renting the hall,” not the venue.
As reported in the Times Union in December 2017, the management agreement between the city of Cohoes and Brown called for the executive director to set up an independent company (MHAA) to manage the hall operations, setting her up as “an independent contractor through her company, not a city employee.”
“Nick Di Paolo is presented by the Comedy Works, and is back by popular demand after playing to a full house at the Music Hall last year,” Brown wrote. “Even if Mr. Koniowka’s implication was accurate, that tax-payer dollars are funding Nick Di Paolo’s show (which they are not), public funding for the arts still does not permit city government to act as censor.”
A request for comment to Di Paolo’s representatives was forwarded to Tommy Nicchi, owner of Comedy Works and promoter of Di Paolo’s show. In a phone call, Nicchi confirmed with The Alt that Comedy Works is paying to rent out the venue and pay the talent, as well as run advertising for the event.
In response to the Common Council member’s social media grievances mentioned above, Nicchi called the seven-year-old tweet screenshot “selective.”
“I’m very familiar with Nick and his comedy, I’ve promoted his shows for years and something like this has never come up,” he said.
Koniowka has suggested that another comedy club or “basement” that is not connected with the city could host Di Paolo instead. “I’m sure people would buy tickets,” he said.
According to Brown, Cohoes Music Hall has no plans to cancel the show.
In response, Koniowka took to Facebook again saying, “Can’t say i’m surprised. I plan to raise the issue of basic standards for programming at OUR music hall at the next Common Council meeting which is scheduled for March 27th. I would encourage anyone who has a strong feeling on this either way to come out and be heard.”