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Comedians Flock to OnlyFans as the Comedy World Clutches Pearls

As the pandemic shutters comedy venues nationwide, female comics are trying out the NSFW subscription site. But can stand-up culture handle the change?

This year, we’re swapping out the typical 12 days of Christmas for something even better: 12 days of sex workers who should absolutely be on your radar. Whether they’re breaking new ground on OnlyFans, using their platform to call attention to issues like racism and immigration or shattering our ideas of who’s “allowed” to make porn, sex workers are both reimagining what sex work can be and changing the world — one swingin’, phalloplastic dick at a time.

Before COVID-19, 26-year-old Jaime Lee Comedy was a self-described “up-and-coming Boston stand-up comedian.” She’d performed mostly at open mics, but was just beginning to book paid gigs at clubs. She hoped for more progress in her career this year; however, quarantine put all that on hold. 

But with so many people about to shutter themselves at home, she figured it was the perfect time to start an OnlyFans. “It ended up kind of blowing up,” she says of her page. “I ended up making $20,000 in April on OnlyFans, so I said, ‘Screw this,’ and I decided it was time to take a leap of faith and quit my corporate job.”

Nine months after launching her OnlyFans, she says she’s consistently ranked in the top one percent of the platform’s creators. In total, her profile — which features topless photos, twerking videos and a menu of custom content options like dick ratings and masturbation instruction — has earned her more than $130,000. With the shedding of her marketing job, OnlyFans has also awarded her more time than ever to write stand-up material when inspiration strikes.

Jaime Lee Comedy might be OnlyFans’ most flush stand-up comic, but she’s far from the only one to join the platform’s ranks. The pandemic forced comedy clubs to close, and decimated the service industry, which many performers relied on for supplemental income. So a pivot to OnlyFans has been an easy, safe and viable option for comics to find more financially stable ground, and perhaps grow their following. 

In fact, there’s been such an exodus of comics from the stage to OnlyFans that podcasters Courtney Kocak and Sofiya Alexandra produced an upcoming series of interviews with six of them for their show, Private Parts Unknown. OnlyFans itself even picked up on the trend, writing on its blog that comedians were “descending” upon the site in droves. Some were doing so not just for lolz, but to get a little naughty, too.

Samm Severin, a 30-year-old Atlanta-based comic and musician with scattered tattoos and a chameleonic pixie cut, offers lingerie photo shoots, steamy shower footage and kink-flavored masturbation clips through the platform on a pay-per-view basis. L.A. comic and cannabis dispensary proprietor Adrienne Airhart posts topless pics and also makes extra dough on OnlyFans PPV films that co-star her boyfriend, whom she blows and tittyfucks for the camera. Kocak herself, who also lives in L.A. and joined OnlyFans earlier this year, offers playful, professionally shot lingerie and topless photos that look more like a thoughtfully curated Instagram feed than they do an X-rated venture. “Most of my fans are there for the nudity, but it feels like I’m building fans for life,” Kocak says. “Many of them are fans of the podcast, and I think they like having access to this additional layer of me and my sexuality.”

Courtney Kocak (courtesy of Filthy Mouth Creative)

For many of these comics, the platform also has fringe benefits that go beyond boosted brand awareness and supplemental income. OnlyFans allows Kocak to explore her exhibitionist side, she says, while Severin explains how the platform allows her to express herself sexually in ways she never could in stand-up. Meanwhile, Jaime Lee Comedy tells me that in addition to the money she’s made on OnlyFans, she’s beefed up her Instagram presence by adding nearly 20,000 followers — something that won’t hurt when she eventually has a club date to promote.

Still, some comics question whether female comedians who’ve posted sexually explicit content on OnlyFans will be taken seriously by the comedy community. As comedian Crystal Powell speculated on a recent podcast, post-pandemic audiences might spare no mercy on them. “They are gonna be like, ‘Fuck them jokes, show me them titties!’” she said. 

Being judged by how they look, however, is nothing new to female comedians; OnlyFans is simply a way to monetize it. “I’m glad that the women comics are doing this because they don’t get respected enough [in comedy] anyway,” says Keanu Thompson, a female comedian and co-host of the hybrid comedy-sex podcast The Week in Sex. Across the industry, she says, “They’re paid less, and there are fewer women on shows, so, good. It’s payback.”

Margo Reiss, a 34-year-old trans comic based in New York who’s also cashed in on OnlyFans with nudes of her own, offers a similar take. “If no one [at a stand-up show] knows me, they’re going to be judging me based on my appearance anyway, period,” she says. “That’s happened to me multiple times after I transitioned.” She adds that if anything, with OnlyFans, she’ll “get more respect,” and imagines other comedians will cheer her on with an outlook of “get that dollar where you can!” 

After all, in comedy today, cash doesn’t come just from performing in clubs. “YouTubers are now comedy royalty,” says Allan Fuks, an NYC comedian and Thompson’s podcast co-host. “Social media stars are now comedy royalty. Tables have turned.” He applauds comedian Lindsey Jennings, who’s been posting to OnlyFans for years, long before the pandemic, and whom Thompson also praises as a comic. Fuks says Jennings is “playing the online game, which is the game to play now,” and adds that “it’s way more important than playing the clubs.”

A few male comics have made the jump to OnlyFans too, but it’s unlikely they’ll face the same skepticism. One male comic who asked to be called by his first name, Billy, sells custom photos and videos where he poses nude, masturbates or engages in sexual acts with his girlfriend. He made the jump to OnlyFans after the pandemic began partly for financial reasons, and says the platform covers his rent and utilities every month. But the move was also a natural fit for him, because he’s openly discussed his sexuality for years on his program The Manwhore Podcast. “I happened to have this audience that has wanted to see me naked,” he says. “Some of them have been like, ‘Let’s see what this manwhore slut boy has to offer.’”

There are other male comedians viewing OnlyFans as a potential extra-cash stream as well, but they’re mainly utilizing the tips function, as opposed to charging for monthly subscriptions. Feeds from notable comics like Big Jay Oakerson, Donnell Rawlings and Joe List and Mark Normand are free to follow and don’t include sexually explicit material. It appears, for them, OnlyFans is more about building brand awareness than financial survival in a pandemic. 

Perhaps comedians are best positioned to thrive on OnlyFans — they’re used to putting themselves out there, fine-tuning new material in front of crowds of people and delivering it in a way that gets laughs. Kocak goes so far as to say that for her, the stand-up stage remains an even more vulnerable place than OnlyFans. After all, at least online, she’s in control of her content and image.

That isn’t nearly as scary as standing in front of a room full of drunk people trying to get laughs.