Groundbreaking comedian and 2012 presidential hopeful Roseanne Barr says Bill Cosby is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to exposing comedy’s abusers. “It’s not just Bill Cosby,” she told The Daily Beast. “Some of the biggest comics, males, are doing some terrible things. And they’re about to get busted.”
Barr, speaking with The Daily Beast for a forthcoming interview about her documentary Roseanne for President!, addressed the Cosby rape scandal that’s rocked the comedy world. She says rampant misogyny is nothing new to female stand-ups who perform at male-dominated clubs, as she first did over 30 years ago when she made her name on the comedy and late night circuit.
“I know several women who went through that with Bill [Cosby],” Barr said, adding that these alleged Cosby victims are not among the nearly 60 women who have already come forward to accuse the comedian of sexual assaults dating back to 1965. “Yeah. I know them,” she said. “No, they didn’t ever come forward. I understand why they don’t. But I’ve known for a long, long time. Everyone knows.
“I was kind of lucky because when I came up there were hardly any women comics, so all you had to deal with was grotesque sexism,” she deadpanned, describing the latent misogyny that grew out of comedy clubs where female comics would be thrown into atmospheres primed to scrutinize them for their gender.
“When they would introduce me and other women, they’d do a stinky pussy joke,” she remembered. “We all talked about it, like, ‘It’s unbelievable!’ They’d always do a ‘woman’s vagina stinks bad’ joke, and they’d say, ‘Tonight, the next act is a woman…’ It’s like they didn’t even know they were doing it.”
Barr theorizes that as that kind of hostile behavior was increasingly frowned upon, sexism in the comedy clubs was sublimated elsewhere but never really left: “Because they couldn’t do that anymore onstage,” she said, “it got really mutated off.”
And Cosby might not be alone. Another high-profile male comic, she predicted, is “about to get busted.”
“I’ve been speaking up,” she said, pausing briefly before naming names. “It’s Louis C.K., locking the door and masturbating in front of women comics and writers. I can’t tell you—I’ve heard so many stories. Not just him, but a lot of them. And it’s just par for the course. It’s just shit women have to put up with.” (Louis C.K.’s rep did not respond to a request for comment.)
In a follow-up email to The Daily Beast, Barr added, “These allegations [against Louis C.K.] have been leveled and talked about for years. I do not have first hand knowledge, though have heard women make these allegations.”
It’s not the first time Roseanne has publicly addressed the rumors of Louis C.K.’s alleged misconduct. In April, she tweeted a 2015 Death and Taxes Magazine article entitled “Did Jen Kirkman out Louis CK’s gross behavior on her podcast last month?” in which comedian Jen Kirkman, on her I Seem Fun podcast, leveled undisclosed accusations against a “Cosby level” “famous comic” and “known perv.” Kirkman said the unnamed comedian “didn’t rape me, but he made a certain difficult decision to go on tour with him really hard.”
A few weeks later, the gossip site Defamer posted emails from an anonymous tipster confronting C.K. for a 2014 incident in which he allegedly “[took] his penis out in front of uninterested and frightened girls.” The same article claimed C.K. was the subject of a similar blind item from 2012 about a male comic who allegedly forced two female comedians to watch him masturbate at the Aspen Comedy Festival.
Kirkman later deleted the podcast. Guesting on Nerdist to promote her Netflix special later that summer, she explained, “It’s kind of obvious who I was talking about,” while backpedaling on the degree of creepiness that said male comic allegedly displayed during the inciting incident. “Here’s what it’s really like to be a woman in comedy: you have friends, and sometimes they’re creepy, and they’re really successful,” she said.
Last July, Roseanne again tweeted about the Louis C.K. accusations, this time using her own words, calling upon C.K.—and his powerful friends in comedy, like Judd Apatow—to answer the allegations. “I have 0 idea if Louie #CK is a sexual offender or not,” she wrote. “but there R MULTIPLE accusations in Hollywood’s working woman circles. He shld answer.”
“Ignoring the many women writers who claim Louis #CK is a sexual offender, the Emmy Awards nominated him 4 3 awards. #JuddApatow”
“It’s just part of it, like rock ‘n’ roll,” said Barr, who says she started getting the itch to do stand-up again following her 2012 presidential campaign and will go on tour in September, in Canada and the U.S., for the first time in 10 years. “That’s why I always talk to my friends.”
The comedy icon says comedy’s ongoing hostility towards women has given her the idea to create a forum for female comedians out of her own L.A. facility.
“I kind of owe it to women to have a safe space for women comics,” she said. “I do own my own studio over here [in Los Angeles], and I’m always thinking, ‘I should help with a safe space for women comics.’ I should. I kind of owe that.”
C.K. himself has remained relatively quiet on the subject, but addressed it when queried in a June interview by New York Magazine: “I don’t care about that. That’s nothing to me. That’s not real,” he said of the Gawker reports.
Pressed on why he hasn’t responded publicly, C.K. answered, “Well, you can’t touch stuff like that. There’s one more thing I want to say about this, and it’s important: If you need your public profile to be all positive, you’re sick in the head. I do the work I do, and what happens next I can’t look after. So my thing is that I try to speak to the work whenever I can. Just to the work and not to my life.”