An important detail to remember from the New York Times report about Louis C.K.’s sexual misconduct is the behavior of C.K.’s manager Dave Becky, a powerful Hollywood figure who represents many big-name comedians and produces some of the most well-known comedy series currently on TV and streaming networks. C.K.’s behavior with the women comedians he hurt is bad enough, but equally reprehensible was the way Becky intimidated the victims into silence. From NYT:
Soon after, they said they understood from their managers that Mr. Becky, Louis C.K’s manager, wanted them to stop telling people about their encounter with Louis C.K. Lee Kernis, one of the women’s managers at the time, confirmed on Thursday that he had a conversation in which he told Mr. Becky that Louis C.K.’s behavior toward the women had been offensive. Mr. Kernis also said that Mr. Becky was upset that the women were talking openly about the incident. Mr. Becky denied making any threats toward the women. “I don’t recall the exact specifics of the conversation, but know I never threatened anyone,” he wrote by email on Thursday. Ms. Halpern and Robert Schroeder — Ms. Goodman and Ms. Wolov’s agent at the time — said that the pair told them that they felt they had been warned to stop talking.
Not only was Becky instrumental in preventing these women from coming forward with their stories, but his power and influence in the comedy world (he’s a producer on many projects including Difficult People, Broad City, Master of None, Baskets, and Insecure, to name just a few) meant that these women’s comedy careers were also negatively affected:
In the years since, Ms. Goodman and Ms. Wolov have found some success, but they remained concerned about Mr. Becky and took themselves out of the running for the many projects he was involved in. Though their humor is in line with what he produces, “we know immediately that we can never even submit our material,” Ms. Wolov said.
After the C.K. news broke last week, his longtime collaborator Pamela Adlon released a statement saying she was “devastated and in shock after the admission of abhorrent behavior by my friend and partner” and that she needed time “processing and grieving” the situation, and yesterday Deadline reported that Adlon had taken action by firing Becky over the weekend. Becky released a lengthy “apology” yesterday admitting his behavior was wrong, but he largely chalked it up to being a misunderstanding of the situation and claimed that he was completely unaware of the majority of the rumors prior to the NYT report. He also didn’t take responsibility for covering it up, instead saying his response was “perceived” as a cover-up.
Given that Pamela Adlon, who is one of C.K.’s most consistent, long-running collaborators, ultimately decided to fire Becky, why aren’t the other comedians he represents – including Aziz Ansari (who has refused to answer questions regarding the allegations), Amy Poehler, John Mulaney, Kevin Hart, Nasim Pedrad, and Natasha Lyonne, to name a few – following suit? The Huffington Post recently reached out to 20 comedians repped by Becky for a response, but so far, all of them have been completely silent. (Mulaney did tweet out his support for C.K.’s victims but has not announced any changes regarding his relationship with Becky.)
It should be obvious why comedians must do more than just send out a tweet in situations like this, particularly when they do business with men who have not only enabled predatory behavior for years but fostered an environment where up-and-coming writers and performers no longer feel safe pursuing a career in comedy or projects involving enablers like Becky. Adam Conover is among the comedians speaking out about this (and, it should be noted, one of the few men to do so) and did a good job articulating why it’s hypocritical to denounce C.K. while continuing to work with Becky:
What Dave Becky did was unconscionable. If my manager covered up another client’s abuse, I’d fire him. (When I told him this, he replied that if I ever did what Louie did, he’d fire me as a client.) https://t.co/nlCX1eFDox— Adam Conover (@adamconover) November 14, 2017
If we want a comedy industry free from abuse, the organizations and industry figures that knowingly enabled and protected Louis CK while he abused fellow comedians must be held to account. Those of us who possess influence have the ability and responsibility to see that they are. — Adam Conover (@adamconover) November 14, 2017
Hopefully Adlon’s decision will make it easier for other comedians to follow suit and sever ties with Becky as well. For now, though, the silence – and more importantly, the inaction – is deafening.
In his statement yesterday, Becky said he was taking time “to reflect on this” and that he wants to “create an environment that is a better, safer and fairer place.” That’s not going to happen for women in comedy, however, as long as people like Becky are in gatekeeper positions. A great first step would be to shift Becky’s power and influence to someone who doesn’t need time to “reflect” on whether or not masturbating in front of less powerful women in comedy, then intimidating them into silence for years, is right or wrong. Another great first step would be for the comedians who have stayed silent to start speaking up.