Let me just start by saying this is completely my opinion, and my feelings alone, and not representative of anything from any improv theater or performer involved. This is how I perceived that particular person who took center stage at a show I was attending.
The various legal loopholes and political decisions that led to the release of Dominic Strauss Kahn (DSK), whose charges of rape were dropped, have only had one positive effect: rape is now at the fore front of many interesting discussions. My friend Chrissie Gruebel published an excellent piece on her blog that I would recommend you read.
I wanted to talk about ASSSSCAT, the show that closed the Del Close Marathon, a huge improv festival. During the show, comedians on stage invited audience members to tell a true story from their lives, and then improvised a set around it.
At some point during the show, an audience member came to the microphone and started a story that left a weird taste in my mouth. It took me almost two weeks to be able to write about it, because I had a hard time figuring out how to approach this - so I am just going to write about how I experienced his story. Obviously, I can’t speak for anyone else, but I was shocked and uncertain about what to do. At some point, I was going to get up and leave, but I was sitting very close to the stage and didn’t want to disturb the performers.
He started his story by saying that he is a cook/host at Second City in Chicago (justification#1 – he is supposedly part of the community). One evening, a very drunk (justification #2) and older (justification #3) woman was hitting on one of the waiters at Second City. This woman, who was from out of town (justification#4), gave her number to the waiter and asked him to call her (justification#5). The waiter, not interested, shared the story with the rest of the staff and practically forced this cook/host to take the number, even giving him money for the cab (justification#6) to show up at her hotel.
The woman opens the door to her hotel room thinking it was the waiter, but SURPRISE it’s the cook/host. She immediately asks him to leave, but he finds some BS excuse to go get her cell phone so that he can call a friend to come pick him up since he doesn’t have money for the taxi back (another murky part of the story). She goes to get her cell phone, and makes a HUGE mistake: she leaves the hotel room door open.
He enters her room, closes and LOCKS (as his hand gesture suggested during his monologue) the door behind himself. When she comes back, she tells him to leave, again. Instead, he kisses her. Then she asks him to leave, again. Instead, he pushes her on the bed and says that she “straddled him” and was “much stronger than him” (justification#7). Still, she asks him to leave, again.
He said that he then took it to the next “level” WHILE SHE WAS ASKING HIM TO LEAVE. He fingered her violently (he shows that with a hand gesture - at this point everyone is the audience is booing and the performers are basically asking him to shut up, but he keeps talking). SHE ASKS HIM TO LEAVE. He tells her that he won’t until he gets some. I think that at that moment, she understood that she was going to be raped. She asks him if he has a condom (justification#8) and he says “of course” puts on the condom and rapes her.
He finished his story by saying “we didn’t do anything fancy; she just basically lied there and let me do my business.”
So, if you’re a female Second City customer from out of town, you’re a little older and a little drunk, and you are interested in one of the waiters, given all the justifications above, it’s OK that the cook/host shows up in your hotel room and rapes you.
To the performers that night, I don’t know how I would have reacted if I had been on that stage. That’s how professional you all are – it was obvious that you were shocked as we were, but you kept it together and - while siding with the audience - you managed to somehow control the situation as much as possible. I admire your poise and your professionalism.
Second City, I hope you are reading this story and if this guy really works in your establishment, you can identify him and do what’s right.
To the woman who got raped, you probably didn’t press charges because you felt that you had done something wrong and deserved this. You didn’t. You are the victim. Go press charges. Even if they’re dropped, like it was the case against DSK, at least you tried. And if we don’t try, we won’t know, and we won’t move forward and change mentalities.
(Updated at 8:31 pm on 08/25 with the link to the video posted by Stephanie Streisand 38 mns in - I hadn’t seen this and am not going to watch because I can almost recite the whole thing by heart and it was disturbing enough the first time)