Neil LaBute and the Triumph of the Insult Comments Section

Esther Zuckerman
June 12, 2013
Neil LaBute and the Triumph of the Insult Comments Section

Neil LaBute is not known as a particularly nice playwright—his vitriol is like a reflex. So when a critic wrote a callous review of his latest Reasons to Be Happy, LaBute jumped straight into the online comments section to chastise him. 

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Time Out New York's David Cote gave LaBute a two-star review in which he wrote

If Neil LaBute were to teach a course on playwriting, I bet his lesson plan would look something like this: “Week 1: Dumbing down characters to pad out dialogue and pump up conflict.” “Week 2: “Stringing together two-person scenes, no matter how monotonous it gets.” “Week 3: Embracing flat, shallow protagonists whose poor life choices are both predictable and banal.” And finally, “Week 12: Blasting tracks by Nirvana during changes to simulate tension and edginess.” Luckily, there is no Professor LaBute, so we’re not overrun with relationship clunkers such as Reasons to Be Happy.

Just 15 minutes after the review went live on the Time Out site, according to TONY's Twitter account, LaBute responded in the comment section: 

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LaBute—assuming as we are that it is him, though he's been known to do this before—has both his supporters and detractors in the comments. Someone calling him or herself SM wrote, in part: "As someone who has also been scorned by Cote, I've got to applaud Neil for the balls it took to post that comment. Cote is unnecessarily mean on a regular basis, and has warped the art of critique into something it was never supposed to be." But a commenter called Darnell said: "Neil, I think we all know whose shadow is portly here, and it isn't David Cote's. Many, MANY people find your writing shrill and one dimensional, the queasy rantings of a hack provocateur for the boulevard set." 

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So who's in the right here? We, as people who believe in criticism (and not calling people fat), are inclined to think LaBute's response seems awfully mean. But then again we haven't seen the play. Ben Brantley rather liked it. Regardless, Twitter is having fun with this: 

Neil LaBute just left a REALLY nasty comment on a Weight Watchers forum in regards to how many activity POINTS beard-trimming should be.

— Julie Klausner (@julieklausner) June 12, 2013

lol x 2: lazy theater review in time out new york; lazy reviewer taken seriously by neil labute in comment section timeout.com/newyork/theate…

— Fern Diaz (@ferndiaz) June 12, 2013

.@krisvire Was there an apology w/ that confirmation? Now whenever I see an Internet troll, I'm going to wonder if it's Neil LaBute

— Diep Tran (@diepthought) June 12, 2013