For once, this isn’t a laughing matter.
Golden Globe and Emmy award-winning actor Jeremy Piven is set to headline this weekend at Punch Line Philly for “An Intimate Evening with Jeremy Piven and Friends,” but some local comedians are outraged and say Piven shouldn’t have been booked because of lingering sexual misconduct allegations.
The 52-year-old, best known for his role in HBO’s Entourage, was accused by eight women of sexual misconduct but has denied any wrongdoing. Two women, Ariane Bellamar and Anastasia Taneie, claimed Piven groped them on the set of Entourage, while others said the actor forced himself on them. Piven’s lawyers have denied the allegations as “works of fiction,” and the actor has passed a polygraph test.
Piven’s first show in a series of three was to be held Friday, but since late last week, dozens of frustrated local comedians have attempted to get the two-year-old Fishtown comedy club, owned by Live Nation, to shut the show down.
Erin Dohony has sent three emails to the club, on a hunt for answers about who decided to book Piven.
In her third email to Punch Line sent Thursday, she told the club that its “indifference to this situation is shocking.”
“If [Piven] is allowed to make a comeback and convince the public that he didn’t do anything wrong, that opens the floodgates for other sexual predators to do the same,” she wrote. “You are setting a standard in Philadelphia, and it’s a bad one.”
The club hasn’t responded to her inquiries.
Dohony, 25, performed at Punch Line for the first time last year and said being ignored by the comedy club makes her feel “small … insignificant.” She described Piven’s appearances as a “public relations rebranding tour” where he’s using his star power and “stand-up as a vehicle to make people forget that he assaulted women.”
“We want to know why a predator is being welcomed into our city despite all of the complaints,” she said.
Emails to Live Nation and Punch Line Philly were not returned. A call to Piven’s lawyer, Patti Felker, was not returned.
For Libby Reindl, another Philadelphia comedian, Punch Line’s booking of Piven solidified her belief that the comedy scene “caters to these men, like their careers are more important than what they did.”
When she saw Piven was booked, she said, “it sucked.”
“That just sends the message, ‘We’re going to reward this guy with stage time even though several women have come forward,’ ” Reindl said.
The comedy scene, she said, is “very male-dominated,” and she hopes this situation opens a conversation about sexism in the comedy industry.
“The women work really hard and it’s almost like we have to work even harder just to be taken seriously as comics,” Reindl said. “We have to be extra funny just to be seen as funny.”
Other comedians and locals have taken to social media to express their outrage, with some calling for the show to be canceled.
Lol imagine fucking up soo badly that you book Jeremy Piven at a comedy club in the year of our lord 2018 https://t.co/cCsXgUTmtF
— Bill Reick (@billreick) July 15, 2018
Hey, everybody! Lots of the Philadelphia Comedy Community is getting blocked by Gruv Media for pointing out that Jeremy Piven is a scumbag and nobody should go to this show at Punch Line Philly.
Won’t you join us? (email, post, call, whatevs) Thanks! https://t.co/pVGmGN0W6S
— Jessica Snow (@SnowJessi) July 16, 2018
Hey @gruvmedia! Why are you blocking women that are speaking up about you bringing accused sexual predator Jeremy Piven to Philadelphia from commenting on your Facebook page? Are you okay being complicit in the silencing of women on matters of sexual misconduct?
— matt aukamp (@mattaukamp) July 16, 2018
Comedian Beth Eisenberg was shocked by Punch Line’s move to book Piven, because it seems contradictory to the usually inclusive space.
“Punch Line actually does a good job of creating spaces for women comics, queer comics, and all different identities,” Eisenberg said.
Eisenberg founded Philadelphia’s Bechdel Test Fest, a comedy festival for women, non-binary and trans comics of all genres.
“It’s just pathetic that they haven’t responded or … made a statement, at least,” she said. “There’s no other comic you could think to bring up?”