Just For Laughs Founder Gilbert Rozon Steps Down After Sexual Misconduct Allegations
Thanks to the Harvey Weinstein scandal and the women who decided to go public with sexual harassment, assault, and rape allegations against him, there’s been a snowball effect, thanks in part to the #MeToo hashtag, of more and more women – both famous and non-famous – coming forward with sexual misconduct experiences of their own. It’s Garry Shandling’s Show writer Janis Hirsch wrote a piece for The Hollywood Reporter earlier this week detailing a pretty horrific writer’s room experience there that’s well worth the read if you haven’t checked it out yet:
The guys started excluding me from meetings: “Oh, we couldn’t find you”…at my desk. Then they started excluding me from the table, instead assigning me “the slit scenes” to write. Even though these scenes were the ones that featured the only female castmember, it didn’t occur to me exactly what slit they were referring to until one day in the ladies room.
My mantra became, “I won’t cry until I get home.” It was amended to “I won’t cry until I get into the parking lot,” which became “I won’t cry until I get into the stairwell,” which morphed into “Fuck, I’m crying.’
One day, I was sitting in Garry’s office across the desk from him. A few of the writers and one of the actors were in the room, too. I felt a tap on my shoulder, I turned, and there was that actor’s flaccid penis draped on it like a pirate’s dead parrot. Riotous laughter ensued from all but one of us.
A day or so later, Brad Grey, one of the show’s producers, called me into his office. “I understand we have a problem,” he said. He knew! I was so relieved. “So I think you should quit.” Wait, what? This was my problem? Shouldn’t he at least fire me so I could get paid? Nope. I was to do the smart thing and quit. Today.
Now the issue has reached Montreal’s famed Just For Laughs comedy festival. According to The Toronto Star, Just For Laughs founder Gilbert Rozon has stepped down from his positions as the head of JFL, president of the Montreal Chamber of Commerce, and commissioner of the organizing committee for Montreal’s 375th anniversary celebration after nine women came forward with sexual harassment, abuse, and assault allegations against him in French-language paper Le Devoir, with the allegations spanning from the 1980s to recent JFL festivals:
The network also reported that another young woman, aged 20 when she worked for the Just for Laughs festival in 2010, had her backside slapped by Rozon as a means of congratulations and was told on another occasion: “Your breasts look great in that dress.”
Another woman, Marlène Bolduc, wrote on Twitter Wednesday that she worked for Rozon’s festival in the summer of 2016 as a rickshaw driver and ended up one night pulling Rozon home along with a group of his friends.
Rozon allegedly commented during the ride on her “beautiful arched back” and remarked: “Those thighs have got to be pretty firm.” She said he also used his scarf to whip her as if he was riding a horse-drawn carriage.
“It’s not insignificant. It’s sexual harassment. Gilbert Rozon, my body belongs to me. You cannot take ownership of it, sexualize me and humiliate me,” Bolduc wrote. “You reduced me to an object. You terrified me to the point that I was frozen.
After the allegations were published yesterday, Rozon posted the below statement to Facebook, announcing his departure from JFL:
As The Toronto Star notes, in 1998 Rozon was found guilty of sexually assaulting a 19-year-old woman, which resulted in a $1,100 fine, one year of probation, and an unconditional discharge the following year “after a judge ruled that having a criminal record for sexual assault might prevent Rozon from travelling internationally, affect his business and hamper Montreal’s economy.”
Rozon did not confirm or deny the allegations in his statement, but he said he’s “shaken” by them: “I want to dedicate all my time to review the matter. To all those who I may have offended in my life, I’m sincerely sorry.”