Could Baby Reindeer spell the end of comedy’s ‘open secret’ culture?

The exposé was heralded in some quarters as potentially being the first crack in the dam that would cause the floodgates to open but, so far, that has not come to pass.

Which is not to say that these things are not discussed privately. When journalists investigating the Brand story told potential sources that they were working on a #MeToo story about a leading comedy figure, they were told of allegations about another famous comic altogether. It underlines how rife stories of bad behaviour are in the industry.

Katherine Ryan, the Canadian stand-up, told Louis Theroux that the misconduct allegations against a certain male entertainer were an “open secret” in the comedy world. “It’s very dangerous for us to have this conversation,” she said on a 2022 podcast. “I’m happy to have it, but it’s a litigious minefield because lots of people have tried to nail this person down for their alleged crimes and this person has very good lawyers, so am I going to put my mortgage on the line by saying who this person is or entering into any conversations like that? We’ve seen what happens to people who talk about alleged predators.”

Ryan had admitted that she had called a fellow performer “a predator to his face and in front of everyone” while filming a TV programme. It later emerged that she was referring to Brand, during the Comedy Central series Roast Battle, which was filmed in 2017.

When she appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs last year, after the Brand investigation was published, Ryan said that she had got “a lot of pushback” for not naming him at the time.

Ryan told Lauren Laverne: “[I got] a lot of: ‘Why won’t you say who it is?’ It’s because everyone knows who it is, what they want is the women’s names, and that’s what I won’t give and that’s why I’m reluctant. No one’s asking for his name. It’s funny how people go straight to accusing: ‘You’re the problem, you won’t give his name.’

“We’re not the problem. I had a choice – I could go to work with someone who I believe to be a perpetrator of sexual assault or I could turn down the job. Those were my options.”

There are structural factors behind why comedy has these issues. There is no structure or regulation to speak of in the industry, while most of the work is done at night by freelancers — the vast majority of whom are men — who enjoy a drink.

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