Is this comedy’s MeToo moment? How Russell Brand’s alleged lewd behaviour was ‘open secret’ in the industry and female stand-ups ‘set up WhatsApp group to warn one another about sexual predators’ in showbusiness
- Blacklist of ‘sexual predator’ comedians drawn up and shared by female comics
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Claims Russell Brand was a sexual predator were an ‘open secret’ in the comedy world and today others were named as potential offenders as the industry’s MeToo moment appeared to have begun.
Brand – who denies any illegality – was this weekend accused of rape and sexual assault between 2006 and 2013.
Former colleagues who had worked with him have also made lurid claims about his behaviour, including acting as ‘his pimps’ to pass messages to attractive audience members.
But while details of the allegations may have come as a shock to many of his fans, within the industry and particularly female comics they not have been entirely unexpected.
In fact Brand’s name is chillingly just one of many on a ‘blacklist’ shared by women working in comedy warning each other about possible sexual predators.
MailOnline can disclose at least five more comedians have been named in the conversations.
Russell Brand leaves the Troubabour Wembley Park theatre in north-west London on Saturday
Katherine Ryan appeared with Brand on an episode of Comedy Central TV show Roast Battle
The number include famous stars who have appeared on television, radio and stage.
Some are still performing at the top level within the industry, while others have disappeared from view in the past ten years.
Russell Brand’s father, 80, furiously defends his son against rape and sex assault allegations claims he abused women and suggests the BBC are pursuing a ‘vendetta’ against the comedian
Allegations made against them vary from stalking up to violence against women and sexually preying upon them.
MailOnline have not named them because it has not yet been possible to verify the claims.
In the Dispatches documentary that first revealed the allegations against Brand comedian Daniel Sloss claimed women would warn each other about him.
He told the show there were ‘many stories with varying degrees of severity’ about Brand that came from a number of different people in the comedy circuit.
Mr Sloss said he was often spoken about in public, with many people in the comedy circuit aware of his alleged abusive and coercive behaviour.
He added that female comedians even spoke of him in WhatsApp groups which they used to warn each other which comedians to avoid.
He said: ‘For many, many years women have been warning each other about Russell.’
Comedian Stevie Martin first disclosed the existence of the Whatsapp group which discussed predatory male comics and promoters as long ago as 2020.
She had been invited to the group in 2018, which was called the Home Safe Collective and was originally set up to help women get home safely from the Edinburgh Fringe.
Daniel Sloss has been praised for his Dispatches appearance amid Russell Brand allegations
But it became much more in the wake of the MeToo movement that heralded the exposure of Harvey Weinstein as sexual abuser and rapist.
She told the Telegraph in 2020: ‘From rape to unwanted green room fondling to using alcohol to coerce without consent, women started sharing their stories – and a Whatsapp-based blacklist began circulating of predatory male comics and promoters. It’s growing every day.
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‘The path to said primetime entertainment TV shows appears to be littered with, at worst, sexual abuse, and at best, a corrosive environment.’
‘I recently found out about a male comic who paid other male comics (performing at a comedy night he ran) with phone numbers of female comedians, rather than cash. How are we supposed to feel respected, and even a part of, a community that appears to view us as sport?’
Complaints about comedians never gained the momentum of Hollywood and many of those accused either returned to work or were never identified.
But in recent months the tide has changed thanks largely to the efforts of female comedians and their shining a spotlight on the appalling problem.
Katherine Ryan previously claimed to have told a comedian ‘to his face’ that he was a sexual predator and that accusations against this person were an ‘open secret’.
The Canadian comic and writer told Louis Theroux that she had confronted the unnamed man while they worked together on a TV show in front of the audience ‘again and again’.
Speaking in 2022, the 40-year-old said she had no qualms with doing so as she had decided to handle it ‘like a man’ – although the confrontation itself was later cut from the broadcast.
Katherine Ryan previously claimed to have told a comedian ‘to his face’ that he was a sexual predator and that accusations against this person were an ‘open secret’
Sara Pascoe also told in 2022 how she reported a celebrity to television bosses after a fan told her that he had raped her after seeing them on a show together
In her chat with Theroux, Ms Ryan claimed she had received criticism afterwards for not naming the person in question in public, but said just talking about him was a ‘litigious minefield’ as he had ‘very good lawyers’.
‘We were basically pimps’: TV staff who worked with Russell Brand tell Channel 4 Dispatches about culture of sex around the comedian
The comedian added that it was ‘not my story to tell’ but that she believed the accusations as the sources were ‘very credible’.
Her friend Sara Pascoe also told in 2022 how she reported a celebrity to television bosses after a fan told her that he had raped her after seeing them on a show together.
The writer and comic disclosed she had been given the tip-off after the alleged victim clocked them appearing on the same programme.
Miss Pascoe said she was contacted with the information, which she passed on to bosses.
Speaking on the new Amazon Prime series Backstage With Katherine Ryan, she said: ‘Have you ever done a job and then someone’s contacted you and said: “That’s my rapist”?
‘I had it on a job recently where I’ve had to go to the channel, and it’s that whole thing because you feel such a sense of responsibility but you also want it to be dealt with well… it’s so complicated.’
More recently Pascoe warned there was more than one prominent sexual predator in showbusiness and they were terrified of being exposed.
But she says they are not thriving. They are all ‘terrified. It’s a matter of time,’ she says.
‘They haven’t been named outright yet because no one wants it to happen like that. It’s not good for the victims and survivors or for the industry. But they’re not thriving. They’re scared.’
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