Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

How a Female Comic Was Assaulted Onstage Last Night

Last night, standup comic Gaby Dunn was sexually harassed while performing at a small show in the East Village. She wrote about her experience here, and it's pretty horrifying:

When he first started talking, I had tried to do that thing women are taught to do where you’re distantly polite to a man who is attacking you in the hopes that things don’t escalate. “Just smile and make a joke so he doesn’t hurt you.”

Part of me is so sick of that line of thinking. Even though I’m still scared, I mock him a bit saying he hangs outside the CVS all day and telling him I know he’s just going to show me pictures of his dick on that camera, basically joking that he’s a crazy Internet creeper come to life. The audience laughs and is on my side, but it’s very, very uncomfortable and I am visibly unnerved. The more upset I get, the more he grins a disgusting, slimy grin at me. I wish I were braver.

It's gross and awful that there are people like this guy around making the comedy stage an unsafe place for women (or for anyone!). Good for Dunn for speaking out about what happened, and reminding the rest of us to support each other and keep talking.

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  • FubarGuy

    That is horribly unnerving, but having only gone to a handful of stand-up shows in my life I have to ask why the people running this place didn't throw the creep out before it escalated to such a point? I know heckling is part of the deal for many comics, but this sounds like something that could have been cut short if they were paying attention to what was happening.

    • A Good Question

      I'm thinking exactly that. Clubs need to have a plan for when hecklers cross the line of threatening the talent. Or anywhere near the line, really.

  • JSteph

    But how many times at a comedy show do you see the male comedian aggressively hitting on women from the stage? It's abhorrent that this woman was victimized by a sexist asswipe, but it just shows that comedians and audiences alike are way too OK with sexism.

  • Jason Farr@facebook

    Wow. That article is startling and a big eye-opener. We've had quite a few female comics come through our room here in Greenville, SC and maybe it's just because it's the south, but we've never experienced this in our room. But because she and you shared this I will be more prepared if it ever does happen. I pray it doesn't happen to another soul ever again. That must be terrifying. And I agree with FubarGuy, the people running the show should've done something WAY sooner. Also, it boggles my mind that none of the other comics offered to exit with her…but again, I live in the south where it is common to walk ladies to their destination in case some creeper is out. We've gotta do a better job of taking care of the men and women around us. There is no good reason Gaby's set should have escalated to what it did. He should've been thrown out of the whole bar, not just the room. In my room, that's what would have happened AND he would have been put on trespassing notice. We've gotta do better.

  • Tim Fuller@facebook

    Full Disclosure: Even my wife accuses me of being a drama queen, but I attribute that to the fact that I am 32.4% gay.

    Let's review this from ten thousand feet to get a little perspective. The mistake I see in retrospect (and the mistake I bet she won't make again), was engaging with Mr. Dickhead so deeply in the first place. Then, by moving him to a position WITHIN HER SET, I think she could have confused the house security-staff, who might (wild ass speculation) have been thinking of shutting him down but backed off because she assumed control.

    At no point in the process was there any real danger to her safety, that any individual walking down the street doesn't deal with on a regular basis, all without benefit of stage lights and security guards within shouting distance. So spare me the fainting spells in that regard. The establishment seems to have done their job in a professional manner, as she explains he was forcibly removed after-concurrent(?) with her abandoning the stage.

    If it had been me, regardless of the sex of the miscreant, I'd like to think I would have called security to remove him/her rather than relocate to position of prominence. Don't make me Google Youtube videos for examples of other comedians having hecklers removed, all the while mercilessly mocking the jerk to the wild applause of the audience. I know they exist.

    I have not heard Gaby Dunn comedy that I am aware of. I will rectify that soon, but I am aware of comics who elicit more than their fair share of overcharged heckling. Maybe there's a market niche for 'Scardy Cat" comedians? There seem to be quite a few weird comedy niches out there. How else to explain Doug Benson?

    By Everybody,


  • Tim Fuller@facebook

    Slightly different take posted on my blog.

  • guest

    Did he touch her at any point? I don't see the "assault".

    • SuperWittySmitty

      You're thinking of battery, assault  does not mean physical contact has taken place. Nice of you to play devil's advocate here, my friend. After hearing her story, you want to argue semantics? Nice.

    • Islandgirl

      Apparently she's "assaulted" by the very existence of men. She hides all that anger behind the title of "feminist." My grandmother marched for womens' rights..the right to vote and she did it without being foulmouthed and hate filled. She's no feminist. She's just embarrassing to those who are.