CBS is parting ways with writer-producer Rick Najera, following an investigation into allegations that he made inappropriate comments to performers while serving as director of the network’s annual Diversity Sketch Comedy showcase, Variety has learned exclusively.
Najera has helmed the showcase for the past 13 years. CBS’ investigation focused on allegations that surfaced during the past few years. The last showcase was held in January 2017.
In a statement to Variety, a spokesman for CBS said, “In March 2017, CBS became aware of inappropriate comments made during the production of the Diversity Comedy Showcase, and remedial action was taken at that time, which the company felt was appropriate to the matter. Subsequent information has recently emerged. After looking into these reports and a discussion with Mr. Najera, he has resigned from his role with the Diversity Comedy Showcase.”
The first complaint arose last February; the network investigated the incident and disciplinary action was taken, sources close to the situation tell Variety.
CBS received new information in the last week, which triggered a fresh investigation. Among the complaints were a 2009 incident in which he allegedly said he and his wife were in an open relationship, implying to the performer that he was interested in pursuing a relationship, as well as a 2014 incident in which he was accused of making lewd comments to a second performer.
Rachel Bloom, the star of The CW’s “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” was not a participant in the showcase, but sent an email to the participants warning them and asking them to come forward, based on what she’d heard about his behavior. “She was so upset at the way the actors/writers were being treated,” says a source.
Bloom confirmed this to Variety, saying, “I can confirm this account, and that I wrote this email.”
As a result of the recent investigation, Najera is leaving CBS immediately. A replacement has not yet been named.
The CBS Diversity Sketch Comedy Showcase highlights the talents of underrepresented ethnic groups with extensive sketch comedy experience. Additionally, actors with disabilities or LGBT actors of any ethnicity are cast and given the opportunity to participate.
Najera is just the latest executive to lose his role given the swirl of allegations of sexual harassment that has engulfed Hollywood since the Harvey Weinstein scandal first broke.
His writing credits include the TV series “East Los High,” “MADtv,” and “In Living Color,” as well as the feature film “Nothing Like the Holidays.”
A rep for Najera declined to comment.