(CNN)Several weeks ago, I received a call from a journalist asking if I had any information about recent sexual misconduct allegations against Louis C.K. My response was, “Come on! I’m a 6’2″ lesbian.”
Being a comic, jokes are my default setting and my armor. I’ve been asked the same question many times over the past 48 hours. “Did you know?” Did I know? Well, I didn’t know, but like most people in the comedy community, I had heard — but never directly from the victims. A better question might be, “Are you surprised?” Not one bit.
Most, if not all, women have been fending off unwanted and deplorable behavior most of their lives. I have a job where for decades I’ve had to be able to shut someone up on the spur of the moment, so I’m one of the lucky ones. I’m armed and ready.
I cannot tell you how many “powerful” guys have told me that they could “change” me, or that I “just haven’t slept with the right guy.” I know that all I need to stop it from going any further is a zinger like, “Actually, you are the reason I’m a lesbian.”
A comic’s workplace knows no boundaries. There’s no HR department. We can’t work from home. Alcohol and drugs abound, and after the show, we either drive hours and hours together or we stay at the same hotel and sometimes even share a condo provided by the club.
When I hear questions like, “So, why did she go to the guy’s hotel room?” — referring to the women who said that Louis C.K. masturbated in front of them when they didn’t want him to (he admits it’s true) — it’s usually from people who don’t live on the road.
I’ve spent tons of hours in other comics’ hotel rooms hanging out, watching movies, talking, writing, and just being homesick. Why is that so hard for people to understand? I hate when people say, “Well, what do you expect? He’s a guy.” Being a “guy” is not an excuse for sh–tty behavior — especially when that guy can make or break your career.
There’s nothing classically “feminine” about being a stand-up comedian. When we get on stage, we are handed a mic, and with that, complete (hopefully) control of a room. We are in power, yet vulnerable — one misstep, one bad joke, one drunk heckler can immediately turn that room against you, or at least make your job a lot harder.
But we’re also vulnerable in a different way because we tend to bare our souls on stage. We confess secrets and tell intimate stories about ourselves, our families and our lives, and for some reason, this makes people think that they really know us.
When more than 50 women have accused Bill Cosby of engaging in sexual misconduct with them, and, in some cases, allegedly drugging them first (yes, I had heard), I had a limo driver tell me he didn’t believe it. I told him that Dr. Clifford Huxtable didn’t do it. Bill Cosby (allegedly) did it. Bill Cosby has denied the allegations.
As much as you thought you knew Mr. Cosby, you didn’t. And as much as you think you know Louie, you don’t. Their stand-up and TV shows gave a voice to our anxieties, concerns, pet peeves, and in turn validated our feelings and view of the world. We quoted them. We idolized them for making our sordid lives funny.
Why does it take some beloved celebrity to start this conversation we have so desperately needed to have? Why is it so shocking when it’s someone you had idolized from afar? The only difference between these predators, and the a–hole manager at the insurance company who tried to touch your boobs, is that they are famous.
I guess Louie wasn’t so lucky after all.