A comedian has been accused of sexual assault — and women are speaking out
Last weekend, New York City's comedy scene was sent into a tailspin amid accusations that an alleged serial rapist had been uncovered within its ranks.
On Saturday, Aug. 13, a woman in the New York City comedy community posted a warning about prominent comedian Aaron Glaser in a private Facebook group for female comedians. Glaser hosted a monthly stand-up showcase at the Upright Citizens Brigade theater, a theater and training center for aspiring comedians. His showcase featured comedy writers from popular programs like Last Week Tonight and The Tonight Show.
"Posting this on behalf on a woman in the community, who would like to remain anonymous, but wants to warn other women, and let other women who may have raped by this man know that they're not alone," the post begins.
It further explained that "multiple women came forward" to UCB with allegations of sexual assault and harassment. After an investigation, Glaser was "permanently banned from UCB this week for raping women in the comedy community for years."
The message ended by asking any other women who had been victimized by the accused and "want to confirm that it is true" to contact UCB's counselor on staff and Director of Student Affairs, Marissa Tunis. (Mic has reached out to both Glaser and Tunis for comment, and we will update if we hear back.)
Glaser has denied the allegations on his Facebook page, stating in several posts that he was indeed banned by UCB after more than one woman accused him of rape. In one post, he referred to the subsequent social media fallout as the "result of internet vigilantes taking a third rail issue into their own hands" and lamented being the subject of a "witch hunt."
Although Glaser's posts have since been deleted, many female comedians have taken screenshots and shared them on social media.
Known as the launching pad for stars like Aziz Ansari and Aubrey Plaza, UCB has long been considered a beacon for aspiring comedians in New York and Los Angeles. (Disclosure: The author is involved with the New York City improv community, but has not performed at UCB.)
Although the warning against Glaser was originally posted in a private Facebook group for women in comedy, comedians soon started sharing screenshots of the message with the original poster's identity redacted.
A female comedian who asked to stay anonymous also told Revelist that she too had been assaulted by Glaser after a night of heavy drinking with the comedian.
"I wasn't able to give consent; I couldn't speak. it was like my body was too heavy," she told Revelist. "By the same token, I couldn't say no. In my snapshots, I am trying to move away but again, my body was too heavy to move. As soon as I was physically able I got the hell out."
"I couldn't speak, it was like my body was too heavy."
New York City comedian Alison Klemp, 29, who also tweeted in support of the victim, said that the response to the allegations in the comedy community has been "mostly positive."
"A lot of people have been posting supportive messages, their own experiences with sexual assault, in addition to many women posting great jokes and insights about assault," she told Mic in a Facebook message.
Klemp, who has come across Glaser on occasion, added that the allegations weren't surprising. "He's had a history of being aggressive and misogynistic towards women, and just generally kind of an asshole," she said.
That said, some prominent male comedians have come to Glaser's defense. One-time Inside Amy Schumer writer Kurt Metzger, who has openly criticized female comedians who criticize rape jokes, went to the mat for Glaser, mocking women who spoke out against the comedian.
"ALL women are as reliable as my bible!," Metzger wrote, mocking Glaser's accusers. "A book that, much like [women], is incapable of lying!"
Comedian Michael Che, one of Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update co-anchors, also attacked the UCB's decision to ban Glaser.
"Three different people messaged me about a comic that got banned from comedy clubs for raping girls. Messaged me! CALL THE FUCKING POLICE. So the penalty for mass rape is not getting to do comedy in a bar for free? Way to make a stand! What fucking planet am I on?" he wrote.
Amy Schumer — one of the most prominent female comedians in the country — has also stayed silent on the Glaser controversy. According to several female comedians on Twitter, Schumer, who employed Metzger as a writer on her show Inside Amy Schumer, has blocked women who have criticized Metzger's response or commented on the Glaser accusations.
It's unclear whether Metzger is still employed as a writer at Inside Amy Schumer, although his IMDB page lists him as a writer for an episode that was released earlier this year. (Neither Schumer nor Metzger has respond to Mic's request for comment.)
The allegations about Glaser are hardly the first to surface in the traditionally male-dominated comedy scene. Last year, comedian Beth Stelling wrote an Instagram post detailing her abuse at the hands of her ex-boyfriend, also a comedian in Los Angeles.
"I am not alone; unfortunately I'm in a line of smart, funny women who experienced this from the same man in our L.A. comedy community," she wrote at the end of the post, which later went viral and prompted a slew of similar confessions from other women in the comedy community.
The fact that UCB banned Glaser reflects the changing approach leaders and others in the community have started to take towards sexual assault and harassment allegations.
In January, the Chicago Reader profiled the newly created Women in Comedy group, a nonprofit organization aimed at giving women a supportive and anonymous place to vent their frustrations about sexual harassment in the comedy world. Women comedians have also created private Facebook groups to give women safe spaces to share their stories.
"It is heartbreaking, brave and inspiring," Klemp said about women sharing their experiences in these groups. "The silver lining to all of this is that it has bonded the female comedians quite a bit."
In New York and Los Angeles, it seems that a growing number of harassed and assaulted women comedians are done whispering about their experiences behind closed doors. The question then becomes what the male-driven comedy community should do with that knowledge.
"Everybody doesn't always get justice," Klemp said. "But if women felt more encouraged to come forward, without fear of being laughed out of the police station. which many of my friends have experienced, that would be a huge step forward."
Klemp added, "It would be great if more men just believed women."
Aug. 17, 2016, 2:31 p.m.: Schumer has responded to the controversy surrounding Metzger's comments on Twitter.