Samantha Bee, iOWest give voice and take action to women in comedy against sexual harassment and assault

In case you missed it, the past couple of weeks have borne witness to some significant strides forward toward shining a light on the plight of women in comedy. Particularly when it comes to harassment and sexual abuse.

First and foremost, Charna Halpern confirmed that she had fired an artistic director at iO West who’d been accused by multiple women of sexual harassment. Halpern told BuzzFeed that she would be hiring a female artistic director soon, and praised the women who had come forward with allegations and concerns. Halpern had very active Facebook message threads going over the past couple of months — most of them since deleted.

BuzzFeed also reported that Halpern sent a letter 10 days ago to the iO (improv Olympic) community — which includes theaters and classes in both Chicago and Los Angeles — assuring them that she was updating the community’s official code of conduct. “iO is committed to providing a safe and respectful place for comedy to be made and appreciated,” she wrote, adding: “In the upcoming weeks, we will be distributing an employee manual, which will establish our expectations of iO’s employees, students, instructors and performers.”

Women in comedy have rallied in multiple cities (including Chicago, New York and Los Angeles) to empower, connect and advocate for each other via the site, Women In Comedy.

Their efforts already have garnered notice, not only by Halpern at iO, but also by Samantha Bee, who devoted a segment of last week’s episode of Full Frontal with Samantha Bee on TBS to the mistreatment of women in the workforce. Bee began her report with sexual abuse of women who serve on cruise ships, before seguing into comedy.

“People are always like, ‘I wonder why there aren’t more female comedians?'” Bee said. “Maybe it’s because every time a woman opens her mouth to tell a joke, someone tries to put their dick in it.”

For more on the KCRW Press Play report with Madeleine Brand referenced in Bee’s segment, press play here on “Yes, Stop, L.A. Comedy.”

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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