British comedy stars are accused of sexual harassment and degrading women with ‘rape jokes’ as industry faces its own #MeToo scandal
- Women have come forward with stories of unwanted advances and touching
- Hardeep Singh Kohli is accused by several woman of making such advances
- Tez Ilyas has stepped down from a role after admitting ‘unacceptable behaviour’
- Campaigners have said there is a ‘culture of abuse’ and vowed to weed it out
Britain’s comedy circuit is under the spotlight amid accusations of endemic sexual harassment and a ‘culture of abuse’.
Several women have come forward with stories of unwanted advances, inappropriate touching and even degrading rape jokes.
Hardeep Singh Kohli, the funnyman, chef and presenter, has made advances according to several women who have contacted the Times.
In an echo of the Me Too scandal that sent shockwaves through Hollywood, he is accused of offering to boost their careers while simultaneously suggesting sex.
Meanwhile some male performers have publicly confessed to past misconduct towards women in recent weeks.
BBC and Channel 4 comedian Tez Ilyas has quit his role on an industry body after admitting past ‘unacceptable behaviour’.
Campaigners claim the problem is widespread and in a moment of reckoning have vowed to weed out sexual harassment in every corner of the UK comedy scene.
BBC and Channel 4 comedian Tez Ilyas has quit his role on an industry body after admitting past ‘unacceptable behaviour’
Hardeep Singh Kohli, the funnyman, chef and presenter, has made advances according to several women including fellow comedian Lulu Popplewell
The Live Comedy Association (LCA) has acknowledged a ‘culture of abuse, misconduct and harassment’ within British comedy.
It has assembled a taskforce to draw up a code of conduct to help stamp out the ‘systemic misconduct’ blighting the UK’s comedy scene.
The LCA, which aims struggling performers during lockdown, had counted left-wing comedian Ilyas, 37, among its steering group members.
But he has since stepped down after he revealed ‘past behaviour’ in a display of ‘personal accountability’.
In a public statement, Ilyas, who denies sexual abuse, wrote: ‘The past few years have been a time of real learning for me – but I can’t say that’s all behind me if I don’t do the work to understand the impact my behaviour had.
‘And this includes things I genuinely didn’t realise were problematic at the time, but with greater understanding of these issues now, realise how they were.
Leading female comedian Shappi Khorsandi has painted a grim picture of the UK comedy circuit, detailing degrading comments made to her by male counterpart
‘This isn’t just “being a lad”. The way I sometimes used women for my own personal gratification is just not ok.’
His statement was followed by a call from the LCA for UK comedy to embrace a cultural shift to root out harassment which exists ‘in every corner of our industry’.
Lifting the rock, it said misconduct was endemic ‘from open mic nights to professional comedy venues and festivals’.
Facing allegations, stand-up George Rigden also last week admitted to previously being ‘an abusive, manipulative boyfriend and a lecherous, harassing creep’.
And Kohli, 51, has been named by several woman, according to the Times, including fellow comedian Lulu Popplewell, Coronation Street actress Nicola Thorp, burlesque artist Ivy Paige and singer Sophie Armstrong.
Stand-up George Rigden last week admitted ‘abusive’ behaviour in the past
Popplewell, 29, said former Celebrity Big Brother contestant Kohli told her he could propel her career, while simultaneously suggesting they spend the night together.
Venues have quickly moved to distance themselves from Kohli, with the Gilded Balloon banning him for life and the National Theatre of Scotland also cutting ties.
Kholi has refused to comment to the Times and his representative has not replied to MailOnline’s request.
Leading female comedian Shappi Khorsandi has painted a grim picture of the UK comedy circuit, detailing degrading comments made to her by male counterparts.
She claimed to have had her ‘arse grabbed’ backstage, called a ‘stripper’ and once even left horrified after arriving at her manager’s funeral where one person said: ‘Shappi’s here. You get the duct tape, I’ll open the boot.’
In her comments to the Beyond the Joke website, she made clear even stars of the industry were guilty of sexual harassment.
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