dan nainan's reputation crisis

How One Comic Bounced Back from Assaulting a Reporter

Can you punch a reporter in the face — and then be invited to perform for the First Lady? If you’re comedian Dan Nainan, you can. We interviewed Nainan to find out how he moved from trending Twitter topic to a fully booked performance schedule. Read on to learn from his reputation crisis story.

Dan Nainan’s Giant Mistake

Last September, comedian Dan Nainan was performing at the Funniest Celebrity Competition in Washington D.C., a charity event where journalists performed to donate to great causes, including a charity for Haiti.

The trouble started when Daily Beast reporter Josh Rogin tweeted negative remarks about Nainan and other performers. Nainan says he didn’t really have a problem with the comments directed at him: as a stand up comic, heckling is just a part of the job. But he did take issue with the remarks Rogin made about some of the journalists who had gone to great lengths in order to perform, including Candi Crowley, who was sick with the flu and could barely speak.

“Another reporter who did some musical comedy had never played the guitar and wasn’t very good, but he had only had time to take two lessons,” explains Nainan. “And yet this reporter was sitting there taking potshots at these people who had never done comedy before.”

Nainan became really upset at the comments — so upset that he confronted, and then assaulted the reporter. He admits that he wasn’t thinking about his reputation at all in that moment and calls it a giant mistake.

Reputation Backlash After the Assault

The response to Nainan’s assault was swift, and just as bad as you might imagine. For a while, he was one of the top trending topics on Twitter, and seemingly endless news reports popped up about the incident. Many assumed his career was over, and for a while, it looked like that might be true. Even following the initial Twitter explosion, most of the first results for Nainan’s name were about the assault (and some of them still remain).

Nainan attempted to reach out to the reporter to apologize, but never heard back. He apologized publicly in the press, however, and this public apology seems to have not only saved his career, but given his bookings a shot in the arm.

Bouncing Back Following the Incident

In addition to the negative backlash, Nainan received hundreds of messages of support, including one from Steve Wozniak who told him, “Good for you!”

Nainan also received a booking he might not have gotten otherwise: almost immediately, he was invited to perform at a Kennedy Center event by the ambassador of India, who had read about the incident in the Washington Post. That event, says Nainan, led to an invitation to the Diwali event at the White House with Michelle Obama. His bookings have continued to take off from there, allowing him to travel to exotic locations for shows and even raise his rates significantly.

For Nainan, it sounds like the old saying that “any press is good press” rings true.

How Nainan Repaired His Reputation

Nainan looked into hiring a firm to help fix his reputation, but deemed it too expensive and time consuming. Since then, Nainan has simply ignored the incident and enjoyed his increased bookings. Though in Nainan’s view, he’s done nothing to repair the damage done to his reputation, he did in fact help make a difference.

Perhaps the most important thing Nainan did was clarify the incident and apologize. Though many felt he was in the wrong for throwing a punch, there were still plenty that sympathized with his situation and understood the mistake.

Embracing his new bookings has also helped to improve Nainan’s online reputation. He now has profiles on the Kennedy Center website and the Indo-American Arts Council. You can also see a video testimonial from President Obama expressing support for Nainan. Additionally, Nainan is working on a new book, which should help to attract more positive press in the future.

Also, by realizing where he went wrong and avoiding further embarrassing incidents, Nainan has kept a low profile. This has made his mistake more understandable: a one time lapse in judgement, rather than an indication of a serious problem with his temper.

Learning from Nainan’s Reputation Mistake

Nainan says that if faced with a similar situation in the future, he’d definitely handle it differently, letting the comments go and avoiding getting into a physical confrontation — though he might ask whether the reporter has ever tried to do comedy himself.

By simply letting the incident die down and avoiding further confrontation, Nainan has successfully ducked out of major reputational trouble surrounding the assault. But there are a few things he (and others in a similar situation) can do:

  • Apologize quickly and genuinely: Nainan did the right thing by apologizing to Rogin publicly. It allowed him to work proactively with the press and share his side of the story. It’s likely to have won him some sympathy as well.
  • Create a frequently updated blog or website: By constantly developing new content, Nainan may be able to eventually push down the news reports that continue to plague his online reputation. Sharing notes like upcoming bookings, favorite jokes, and observations from the road are interesting to fans and helpful to search results.
  • Share press about upcoming performances: Performing at the Kennedy Center or for the First Lady is a major accomplishment, one that’s certainly worthy of press. Creating a press release can help spread the word about positive events like these, and even outrank negative search results.
  • Continue to develop professionally: Nainan has clearly moved on from the incident, and it shows. Instead of new links explaining trouble he’s gotten into, you can find out about past performances, upcoming shows, and the new book he is writing. Time won’t get rid of all of the bad links, but continuing to create a positive, professional reputation offline is helping Nainan’s online reputation as well.
  • Stay out of trouble: Again, Nainan’s one time lapse in judgement may be understandable because it was just that: one time. Another hot-headed incident is likely to call his long-term reputation into question.