Comedian Rebecca Corry on Why the Louis C.K. Sexual Harassment Story is Finally Becoming Part of Her Act

"This bullshit about the predators being the ones who get canceled is a cute idea, but not true," says the comic, whose story has come back into focus in light of C.K.'s shocking Grammy win

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Josh Feeney

After the Grammys earlier this month, comedian Rebecca Corry got hit with a flood of press requests, and not for any part she’d played in the proceedings. Everyone wanted to know what she thought of Louis C.K. somewhat shockingly being awarded the Grammy for best comedy album, when it was assumed by many who don’t pay much attention to the comedy community that he remained in some kind of industry exile after being accused of, and admitting to, serial sexual misconduct. Corry, who had been among multiple women in the entertainment business to speak up in a 2017 New York Times investigative story about being harassed by C.K., made it clear on Twitter that she was not up for talking about it: “Dear media, I’m happy to speak with you about my 30 years in comedy, my national life-saving nonprofit, [or] what I’m working on now and will further accomplish. Perhaps reach out to his girlfriends for comment. And Daily Beast, you spelled my name wrong.”

In other words, for a “silence breaker,” Corry has stayed pretty quiet, declining to talk to the press about the sordid encounter and its aftermath since she wrote a 2018 Vulture essay about it … and not addressing it in her stand-up. But even before this month’s Grammy win refocused attention on the C.K. scandal (along with raising new questions like “What was the Recording Academy thinking?”), Corry had already been coming to a conclusion that it was something to process into her act after all. In a set at L.A.’s UnCabaret alternative comedy night in March, she was trying out some material about it that could ultimately come into play in a touring act — or a special, if she gets one. It’s clear Corry has some doubts about whether that’s possible, since she believes cancel culture is mostly running one way in this case, and she’s been a real recipient.

With no little initial reluctance, Corry agreed to talk with Variety for her first interview in years about how the situation has shaken out and continues to shake out for her. She says she doesn’t regret speaking up in 2017, and that the damage didn’t begin with the New York Times expose — it began in 2005, she says, when she turned down C.K.’s on-set request to masturbate in front of her. Unlike some of the women in the article who assented, Corry had some real agency on that set, as the co-writer, co-producer and co-star of a Fox pilot C.K. was hired for as an actor. She’s still exercising that agency today, looking at finding a way to reclaim narratives so that a victimizer is not the main character in her story. And all these years later, she may finally be coming to terms with how to make an ordeal into the stuff of comedy, even comedy that’s at least half-serious.

You’ve turned down requests to talk about the Louis C.K. thing since 2018, and when he won his Grammy a couple of weeks ago, you basically tweeted to the media that they — we — should go away. It’s not a surprise that people are curious to hear from you on this, though.

Why am I constantly being asked to speak on cancel culture, the joke that is the #metoo movement and C.K. every time he’s in the news cycle? I don’t care what that guy does, and of course cancel culture is real. I’m living proof. The moment I was sexually harassed at my job, I was canceled. That’s how it works, kids. And referring to me as a “victim,” “accuser,” “silence breaker” or “one of five women” has grown tiresome and is now intolerable. My name is Rebecca Corry — take note, Daily Beast, fix it.

I am an actress, writer and comedian and have been for 31 years. I have a career, credits and talent. I didn’t run away and hide for a decade when things got hard like (Dave) Chappelle did. I stayed and have never stopped doing stand-up comedy and creating and never will. I’ve done my time and paid my dues and then some. So let’s talk about what I’m doing and when my Netflix special is happening. There are people who have been doing stand-up for five minutes with comedy specials and others with multiple specials who suck. So when’s mine? I’m ready when you are, Ted (Sarandos, Netflix co-CEO).

Do you think Netflix might take you up on it?

No. I will never get a Netflix special, ever. [Laughs.] I’m gonna be canceled again when this comes out. I wish being canceled caused weight loss. I’d be so cute.

So you do feel you got blacklisted?

Is a frog’s ass water-tight?… That line would kill on a Netflix special. Listen, I can’t prove I’m blacklisted, but I feel and see it. Being on the “one of five women” list absolutely affects potential opportunities and makes the Hollywood lemmings want to distance themselves from me. I’m currently pitching two shows, and while I know how hard it is to sell a show, being on the “list” is not helping. Certain people won’t touch it because of their past or current affiliations. I also won’t work with assholes, so the playing field is narrow. But I’m lucky to have the best agent on the planet and we aren’t giving up.

Do you think you got “canceled” because of the 2017 New York Times article?

No, I was canceled in 2005, the day it [the encounter with C.K.] happened. This bullshit about the predators being the ones who get canceled is a cute idea but not true. They don’t get canceled, they just get an adult “time out.” Their behavior is interrupted momentarily, but fear not, they have hardcore fans, millions of dollars and will always hold the power. The people who get canceled are the ones whose lives and careers have been fucked with, and mine has. [With C.K. apparently operating mostly independently right now, Variety has been unable to reach reps for comment.]

You have had a charitable organization for years, Stand Up for Pits, and you do annual fundraising events in different cities. How has that been going?

It’s absolutely amazing. We have one coming up April 24 at Gotham Comedy Club in New York City. Pit bull-type dogs are discriminated against, they’re abused, victimized, wrongly vilified and murdered every single day in this country. And so my organization is dedicated to educating, advocating and saving the lives of these voiceless victims. And one thing I want to address right now is how incredibly generous, kind and amazing comedians have been. I’m grateful to every comic that has and continues to perform at Stand Up for Pits events over the past 12 years. These events have and continue to save millions of lives through comedy. There are so many good-hearted comics and so much about the comedy community I love — one bad apple doesn’t spoil the bunch.

Have there been any repercussions because of you being in the public eye for these other reasons that have affected the charity?

Yeah, a few. One worth mentioning is a club owner who didn’t allow my charity events for dogs back at his clubs — which I sold out all of but one — because he said I “threw my dirty tampons all over the green room.” He also said one of his club managers said I was “difficult because I wanted everything to be perfect.” That’s true; I do want everything to be perfect and when a club manager is apathetic and careless I will voice how I feel about it because I want whatever is going wrong to be fixed. That’s my job as a producer. If that makes me difficult, so be it. As for the being accused of throwing used tampons all over a green room… [Laughs.] I said, ”I’m sorry, what are you saying?” And he repeated it. I said, “I’m not sure my brain can handle what you’re saying.” And he was like, “Yeah. I mean, I don’t know if it’s true or not.” I was livid and later sent him an email that said, “Please let whatever manager who said the tampon thing about me to stop. If I find out from anyone that kind of defamation is being said about me, it will be a problem.” To which he replied, “You can count on my sealing this up, but I would expect the same in return.” … Think about that. This club owner actually told me that he expected the same (silence) in return, which is grotesque and mind-numbing, to say the least.

You riffed on that the other week in your UnCabaret set, where you said you were talking about any of this for the first time in years — painting the picture of thrashing a comedy-club green room, like an out-of-control rock star, but with used tampons. It’s fair to say it was a highlight of the set.

It sure was. It’s turning out to be a hilarious bit. It’d be great on Netflix.

So, after keeping things related to this out of your act for the five years since you went public, you are ready to include some of it, and do it in a special, if anyone steps up?

A hundred percent. Yes. I’m absolutely going to be talking about this. It’s part of my story and it’s my story to tell.

Are you building an entire set around this?

Hell no. My life and experiences are so much more than this gross debacle.

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Comedian Rebecca Corry Mike Ruiz

You were back on stage in 2017 within two weeks of the New York Times article coming out. What was that like, coming back out but not wanting to talk about it in your act at the time?

I walked out on stage and it was so quiet. It was packed and everyone was just staring at me, and I was just like, “So anyways, how’s everyone?” … I still get nervous when I go on stage that someone’s going to hurt me, because of the death threats and dick pics I got sent, and because of how some of his fans come for me. I’ve gotten some really scary and mean emails and still do whenever he’s in the news cycle. So there’s still this lingering feeling of like, am I in danger? It’s really fucked up when you have to hire security while performing stand-up but I have to.

Do you feel like the one who put you in this position has come out on top, in the public eye? A lot of people who don’t follow comedy closely were surprised by the Grammy win. There was an assumption maybe he had gone away. But the people who vote on the Grammys in that division are largely members of the comedy community, the way the voting rules have been reconfigured. If it’s comedy-world people largely responsible for that voting, does it feel as if the stuff of five years ago never happened?

The thing is, I don’t care. I also don’t care who voted or who likes or dislikes him. I don’t care what people assume or think they know. I simply don’t care about any of it.

He named his special “Sorry,” and that blatantly sarcastic album title is what won the Grammy. 

It’s a cute title. Has a real ring to it. Something only a comedic genius would think up.

If it seems like all is forgiven and forgotten in some parts of the comedy community, that’s puzzling to some people. Is there maybe an aspect where, because comics and people who love comedy have it ingrained in them that irreverence is king… maybe behavior that seems sexually assaultive to one person gets written off as just the most extreme example of  irreverence to someone steeped in shock value?

I wasn’t sexually assaulted, so I would never speak to that. In fact, if I could make this a glass-half-full moment: I, unlike some of the others, was lucky enough that I never had to see him ejaculate. But can you imagine if Dr. Fauci did this to someone at his work? Would it be brushed off as “aaahhh… it’s just his thing”? I know Fauci won’t be reading this, but just in case he does, I want to congratulate him and the millions of men all over the world who go to work every single day with women and don’t harass them. One of the easiest things to do is not masturbate at someone, and you guys are living proof. Keep up the great work.

Why are you willing to address all these things in your act coming up, when you weren’t at the time or since?

It takes time to process it. And so much about it was so unbelievably painful and disappointing and sad and hurtful, and many times I feared for my safety, as I said earlier. I’m now able to process it and find some of the funny in what is a disgusting and absurd circumstance. I think it just takes time to process trauma into humor.

Is that a key part of being a comedian?

I have no idea, but I’ve been processing trauma into humor my entire life. Even when I was a kid. It just took me five years to be able to find the humor in this specific situation.

But to be very clear, him wanting to pull his little peen in front of me did not traumatize me. It was more pathetic, shameful and infuriating, but not traumatizing. It’s being on this list, his call sheet: losing opportunities, the comedy community not being supportive and all the other shit that comes with this. That stuff is traumatizing.

Have you felt sorry for speaking up?

Nope. “Not Sorry.” Great title for a Netflix special, Ted.

You talk about the negative reactions, but there have been positive, too  — some have regarded you as heroic for being a whistle blower.

No, no, no. That makes me uncomfortable. All of that has felt ridiculous from day one — hashtag “MeToo,” or [as Time magazine said in a cover story] “silence breakers.” I’m no whistle blower or silence breaker. I didn’t uncover some dark secret. All I did was tell the truth about something that was well known for years by most everyone in my industry. I am no hero and to suggest that is absurd. When he called me in 2015 on what we like to call his fake apology phone tour, I was like, “Fuck… I’m on the call sheet. I’m still on the list.” I spoke out [two years later] because of how I was treated at an event in 2017 by someone in his circle. It was clear I had no option. You know, that whole lose-lose thing. I’d had enough.

And finding some humor in it, this many years later…

I’m a comedian. That’s what I do.

Like the alleged tampon tantrum incident?

Did you just say “tampon tantrum”? [Laughs.] Yes, no matter how you look at it, it’s absurd. So is how many times I’ve used the word “masturbate” in my adult life.

Maybe you don’t think of yourself as a role model, but in thinking of other people who might be in comparable positions, do you have anything you’d say to them?

I’m a role model for eating carbs and then laying down, but not this crap. I would say that I would never tell anybody how to handle anything like this or comparable to it in any way. You handle it however you feel is best for you. If that means staying silent, so be it. If it means screaming it from the mountaintops, so be it. No one else has a right to judge how someone handles being put in a lose-lose situation. Oh, and spay and neuter your pets. Adopt, never shop.