Four women accused actor and stand-up comedian Bryan Callen of sexual misconduct as far back as 1999 in a Los Angeles Times story published in July. This news came on top of revelations that Callen and his partner Brendan Schaub on their former podcast Fighter and the Kid tested positive for COVID-19 following an appearance at a San Antonio comedy club.
The reaction to the sexual misconduct allegations was swift and decisive on several levels. Callen, a MAD TV alum who also had a starring role on ABC's The Goldbergs, denied the allegations in a video on his YouTube channel. He also sued the husband of one of his accusers, Katherine Fiore Tigerman, for conducting "an ongoing campaign to destroy the livelihood of [Callen] through threats, harassment, and intimidation of third parties that dare contract with him," according to Callen's civil complaint.
Agents from Creative Artists Agency and Innovative Artists have dropped Callen from their rosters, and Callen stepped away from his popular podcast. Several comedy clubs also removed the comedian's scheduled appearances from their calendars, including the Bricktown Comedy Club in Oklahoma City and the Skyline Comedy Club in Appleton, Wiconsin, according to Callen's lawsuit complaint.
Other comedy clubs still honoring their commitment to Callen's scheduled performances include The FunnyBone in Cincinnati, Ohio; Off the Hook Comedy Club in Naples, Florida; and the Addison Improv. The local comedy club hosted three performances for Callen last Friday and Saturday, one of which was sold out, according to Callen's website.
The club dates and news of Callen's accusations echo similar recent incidents in Dallas's comedy and theater community. Last year, the Addison Improv hosted two weekday evening shows for comedian Louis C.K., who confirmed allegations about his sexual misconduct in 2017 toward several female comedians that led to cancellations of his tour, his FX sitcom Louie and his producer title on other FX shows including Better Things and Baskets.
Theater director Lee Trull was fired by the Dallas Theater Center and other venues where he worked after six women accused him of using his position in the theater community for sexual misconduct.
"I can't speak to an individual performer or claim that's out there," says Lindsay Goldapp, the founder and artistic director of the Stomping Ground Comedy Theater. "All that I can really advocate for is that a club or establishment have standards, have policies and procedures and enforce them. We have a very robust sexual harassment and discrimination and complaint or concern procedures that people can go through when they have any kind of concern regarding sexual harassment or discrimination or any harassment at all."
Goldapp says in the wake of Trull's firing, Stomping Ground and other Dallas comedy and theater venues worked together to develop a standard procedure for to reports of abusive behavior. The community chose to adopt the #NotInOurHouse standards developed by Chicago's theater community in 2015 following news of patterns of harassment toward performers and employees there. The standards aim to establish protocols to encourage communication, safety and accountability for theater venues and staff.
"For us, it made a lot of sense to adhere to adopt these standards," Goldapp says. "We, like the rest of the world and every other institution, have had issues arise and we adhere to our standards closely and conduct full investigations to make sure that everyone involved is dealt with fairly and safely."
Comedian and show producer Gretchen "GretchYo" Young says for the most part, the North Texas comedy scene has "a really strong female presence" and she says that "no matter what comedy club I was at, it was a safe place."
Despite this, Young also says she knows how it feels to be the target of abuse in her personal life and thinks that proof of guilt should be part of the equation when it comes to performers or anyone accused of abusive behavior.
"I have been on that end of being abused or in a compromising position with a guy I didn't think was very fair," Young says. "I also have a lot of wonderful men in my life who would never do something like that. When it comes to things like this, my stance is you've got to trust your gut but you also have innocence until proven guilty."
Reena Calm, a touring comedian who has performed in Dallas and across the country, says there are reasons to be concerned when comedians like Callen are still allowed to appear in front of audiences at public venues with multiple allegations hanging over them. She says it's "upsetting to see people put comedy above all that."
"What's more disturbing to me is the fandom of these people continuing," Calm says. "It's more like a protest of the #MeToo movement itself. It seems like they are staking a claim to sexually assault people without consequences, which may be an extreme view to hold but that's what it feels like."
Calm notes that dealing with accusations can be difficult in comedy where personal relationships can clash with enforcement, but she believes it's still necessary because "they leave people behind them with a trail of damage and people focus on the call out and not the damage."
"There are liars in the world but there aren't four liars who are putting themselves out there to welcome harassment they're going to face," Calm says. "When there's multiple people putting themselves out there, there shouldn't be any question of their guilt or innocence."
Goldapp says the goal of any artistic community should be focused on establishing and ensuring safety standards.
"It's going to take all of us getting on board and saying we're going to protect employees, performers and everyone involved," Goldapp says. "The more of us who can get on board with that, the better."
The Addison Improv declined to comment. Attempts to reach Callen through his publicist were not answered.
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.