Monday, December 04, 2017

Breaking my silence

Readers have been asking me to share my views on all the recent Sexual Harassment Scandals and wondering why I’ve been relatively silent so far.

Here’s the reason: I don’t need the aggravation.

First: to be clear – I absolutely condemn those who commit these acts. And it’s not even a matter of misuse of power. These predators are sick fucks.

But when I write anything that is even mildly controversial I leave myself open to a blizzard of angry comments. I’m called a racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. And that could be over “what’s the best hamburger?”

I was actually in the middle of writing a post about sexual harassment and how it related to the writing room from an insider’s perspective when yesterday’s Woody Allen post went up. And the amount of shit I took for it was unbelievable. As if I’m condoning rape by showing a YouTube video of an AFI Tribute.  

So I said the hell with it and scrapped the writers room post. Life’s too short. The subject matter is too charged to have a civil conversation today. People are way less willing to consider viewpoints that might not be 100% consistent with their own.

So why bother?

No one’s paying me to write this blog. I’m not beholden to any sponsors to produce ratings.

So I’m saving myself the trouble. There are plenty of other writers discussing this topic. You’re welcome to read and denounce them.

Photo from ABC News

58 comments :

Sean Robbins said...

It pretty much sucks that we seem to have moved beyond civil discourse as a society. Sorry that your getting blasted.

Angry Gamer said...

Dare I say "NOW" you know a little of what it's like to be a Conservative doing business with the industry?

Your little taste of "Aggravation" is pretty small potatoes to my experiences.

I think it's safe to say that perhaps people are a bit too sensitive lately. And I believe a few people like yourself are waking up to that.


Still Angry

Angry Gamer

Tom Scarlett said...


Bravo, Ken! Whatever one thinks of Woody Allen as a man (I think he's disgusting), he's also one of the very greatest comedians ever. Thanks for posting the AFI video. When things cool down, I'd be very interested to hear your perspective on how to write comedy in the politically charged world of today.

Honest Ed said...

Now I want to read that post!

sumerlad said...

Just one note concerning yesterday's comments since I saw them late.
I think he said theatrics when he listed her abilities.

tavm said...

All I'm wondering is: Will enough people have enough of the allegations to not vote for Roy Moore or not give The Donald a second term?

Steve said...


Rightly said Ken.

An aside: In all your blogs, you never give credit or mention the picture source. But here you have mentioned "Photo from ABC News". Why now?

Wendy M. Grossman said...

I'm really sorry to hear you scrapped the writers' room post. I think I asked a question relating to that, and regret I won't get to read the answer. (Although I'm easily emailed should you care to share the draft privately.)

wg
(wendyg at my website domain)

Andrew said...

Ken, first of all, thank you for your blog. Not only is it well written, and very funny, but I appreciate the energy and passion you expend upon it.

But I do have a question. I ask it honestly and in good faith. If Bill Cosby were to do a routine somewhere, and it was genuinely funny, would you a post a video of it? Would you compliment his comedic skills? If not, why not? What is the distinction?

Mike said...

It could have been worse. You could have chosen Benny Hill. Although if, at the end, Keaton had chased Allen around the theatre, waving the award over his head, sped up & playing Yakkety Sax...

Annie C said...

This makes me sad. I was really interested in the writers room perspective since it is world so foreign to me.

I understand, but I'm still sad.

Mark--> said...

Well-said. Thank you.

Pizzagod said...

Ah Ken-you really are a good example to the entire internet.

Your piece would have been your opinion, and you rightly recognize that people would latch on to it and get to climb up on their soapboxes. I agree, life is too short for that kind of crap. If you were the arbiter in this matter I'd say you were obligated to voice an opinion, but as you recognize, there are a lot of people out there who seem to jump on and defend the indefensible. I'm a fan of yours and really think that you made a good choice.

Come inside soaking wet and mention that it's raining outside and some Bozo will tell you that you're wrong.

Please don't stop writing about good hamburgers, and yeah, I thought the Woody Allen jokes were very well crafted, and his delivery flawless.

Peace.

Arthur Mee said...

That's a shame -- I would have liked to have seen the writers' room post. Even if I didn't agree with all of it. Ah, well.

Personally, I believe a lot of people can still have a civil conversation ... but it's harder now that there are popular, easy-to-access tools that allow idiots to do 'hit-and-run' style commentaries without even the pretense of listening to, let alone understanding, other viewpoints.

Anyway, you're the one who has to deal with the ugliness, Ken, so I understand your decision. Just sorry that it means that you feel compelled to censor your own writing.

VP81955 said...

I'm sorry you have to refrain from giving your (almost certainly cogent) comments in today's charged environment, especially how it concerns the creative process.

Mike Barer said...

I agree with you. This is not a muckraker blog and you generally avoid politics. I think you should continue doing what you are doing. Keep this a fun blog with an occasional rant.

The Minstrel Boy said...

totally agree with you

blinky said...

As a delicate snowflake I am offended by your reasonable argument.

blinky said...

You know Ken, instead of getting political, why don't you just share your views on which is the one true religion. Nobody would get offended with that post.

Karan G. said...

I will completely stay out of the argument at hand...but am curious as to which silly vegan insulted your hamburger post? We appreciate your smart and insightful point of view on a variety of topics. Hope you keep blogging.

iain said...

I'm sorry we won't get to read what sounds like a very intriguing story, but, your blog, your rules.

Have you considered suspending comments for posts where you'd just not rather hear what the rest of us think? Is that even possible?

Jay said...

Hey Ken,
Maybe when the heat on this sexual misconduct stuff dies down a bit you could still write that post about harassment in relation to sitcom writers' rooms? Those rooms and the culture within them have often come to my mind whenever I hear about another person getting accused of misconduct, so I think an insider's view on that subject would be a fascinating read.

Thanks

MikeN said...

I think Ken has already written about the writers' room and sexual harassment at this blog.

I don't see how being silenced by the mob is helpful. Bill Burr pointed out that the solution is to stop apologizing to people on Twitter.

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

I agree and feel the same way about a different subject: critical thinking in general. The nerd that I occasionally am, I carry in my wallet Carl Sagan's Baloney Detection Principles as a reminder of how to think clearly.

Over the years, I have initiated and produced skeptically-based projects for the SETI Institute, Harvard Humanists, the real CSI and other groups. I even had a meeting with one of America's best comedy writers and a leading expert in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, hoping to create a tv sitcom about SETI science & comedy. Alas, none of those projects produced much revenue or even came to pass.

In light of today's ubiquitous technology where ignorance trumps truth, I have decided to withdraw from that effort, keep my ideals personal and, as Mel Brooks said, "Hope for the best; expect the worst."

-Sigh-

Anthony Hoffman said...

So the terrorists win?

Anonymous said...

Allen's jokes were good. He was funny.
But another measure of the descent of society is that it was an AFI Award, supposedly one of the most prestigious awards in the industry, and he does a bunch of roast jokes.
And the fellatio stuff was tasteless in that setting.

Frederick Herman "Freddy" Jones said...

Ken;

I read your post with great interest.

There is a big distinction, I believe, between having experience regarding a specific topic to comment upon and randomly throwing your opinion about politics, religion or something else into a totally unrelated post just to take an unnecessary swipe at someone or some group.

That being said, this is your blog and no matter what, the content will reflect your opinion on each specific topic you blog about. You have the right to respond or not respond. We have the ability (not the right) to comment on your blog posts and you use your judgement to moderate those comments (hopefully in moderation).

Here is my (total outsider) opinion on what impact all of these scandals may be having in a writers room:

- It's forcing a more stable environment and a better workplace for those who may have been abused in some way or may have been the target for future sexual abuse.

- It's also having a possible side-effect (especially in a comedy room) where jokes and discussions that could be misinterpreted by some are probably not being said, and that could mean some fantastic joke is left without being heard.

- It may cause fewer people to want to even spitball a funny idea with others because in a free-flowing brainstorming session, comedic ideas and premises are thrown out there that ARE offensive. The writers don't mean them personally, but humor is subjective, and pushing the line (in a writers room) is sometimes the best way to establish the line and make it clear for all.

- Casual conversation between co-workers may become muted.

- Partnerships between two or more writers holding any kind of opposing thought will become more problematic and nuanced.

- Comedy will run the risk of being unable to explore and, in its own way, expose cultural and societal issues due to the polarization of society.

Are the tradeoffs worth the possible protection offered to targets of abuse? As always, it will be society that determines it. This may, fortunately or unfortunately, become the "new normal" for at least a while.

I'm certainly glad that predators and others who used their power for sexual aggression are being exposed. I do fear that the actions of a true minority are causing the pendulum to swing much too hard in the other direction.

I find it hard to believe that the majority of Hollywood is a cesspool of deviants. Yes, it's funny to joke about it (for some), but it's simply not true. Most that I've ever dealt with have been honest and upstanding.

Most showrunners I've known are much too busy taking care of business, and most writer rooms are professional. Yes, they are hectic and pressure-packed. Yes, jokes and discussions can get out of hand, but it's the context and real meaning that's important.

Comedy writers are a strange group. I'd bet that, in general, most are going for the laugh and not going for or worrying about sexually assaulting someone or creating a toxic environment. They just want to be validated through their work and see an actor recite a funny line that hits just the right chord.

Again, I say most are professional. Those that are not now have something to worry about, and that's not such a bad problem for them to have.

Anyway, thanks for letting me rant!

Your thoughts, Ken? (See how I pulled you back into the conversation?!?!)


Diode to Joy said...

Ken,

This is my first time posting a comment. I greatly enjoy reading the blog and getting your perspective on things.

I can respect a choice not to tackle a subject because you aren't interested in writing about it. What I can't respect is when you clearly want to write about something (such as the post you scrapped) and then let criticism prevent you from doing it. You're right you aren't getting paid, so you can write about whatever you want. So why not do it? Otherwise you're just as beholden to negative comments here as you were to any meddling sponsors and network executives. Did you give up when some of your television audience didn't understand a joke, or they wrote angry letters to the studio? In every age there are people who can't or won't participate in a conversation. That doesn't mean a conversation is impossible.

It's easy for me to sit here and lecture when I'm not the one under fire. But I think you get strong reactions to posts because you put quality work into the blog and people care about what you have to say. I'm one of those people, and I wonder what to expect in the future if you can get fed up enough to take your ball and go home.

Thanks for writing, I'm a fan.

p.s.
On the Woody Allen video: I understand the point of your previous post, but read the room. You posted a video of Woody Allen and said "damn, the guy's still got it" without addressing anything about his personal history. Considering what a polarizing figure he is, how is that in any way non-controversial in the present climate? If you don't address that aspect of his character you can expect your audience to bring it up for you in the comments. For better or worse it's impossible to escape when talking about the man.

Oliver Pepper said...

Ken, unfortunately for us, you make a level headed decision here. Bummer.

Tom said...

Of the people referenced in this post, the ones I'd like to denounce don't include Ken or any other writers motivated merely by the desire to express a civil opinion.

It's sad that so many people, including some above, now see all conversation as merely a sequence of opportunities for partisan squawking. What's wrong with the world today isn't the left or the right, it's the people who think it's the left or the right.

Peter said...

Whilst I don't consider myself right wing at all and loathe Trump, I have to be honest and say that this trend towards volcanic eruptions of fury over any expression of opinion is predominantly from the left, both in the States and here in the UK. The biggest joke are the self-proclaimed anti-fascists who behave more fascistically than the people they go after.

Twitter and college campuses have become the battleground for these social justice warriors who scream abuse at anyone who doesn't share their opinions. Their specialty is violence, threats and ad hominem abuse.

Even the likes of Stephen Fry on Twitter has been subjected to the self-satisfied screeches of these keyboard snowflakes.

I'm glad Airplane, Trading Places, Blazing Saddles and True Lies were made when they were. It would be impossible to make any of those films now thanks to the disease that is political correctness and SJW indignation.

I now expect a torrent of fury about my use of the terms "social justice warriors" and "snowflakes" which will prove my point entirely.

Mister Charlie said...

Sorry the mindless trolls are making your blogging experience less than ideal. This country really IS polarized to an unbelievable degree. There is no point in you taking on topics which are guaranteed to produce bile tossed your way. Stay upbeat and fun and informative, let the rest of the pundits blather on about today's problems...you're doing a great job keeping fans entertained and educated about the business we all call Show.

therealshell said...

I would like to see the term "snowflake" retired from the dictionary unless referencing the ACTUAL definition https://encrypted.google.com/search?q=Dictionary#dobs=snowflake

Dr Loser said...

From time to time, I despair about intelligent Americans. For some incomprehensible reason, they seem to cling to nominalism as a shibboleth.

Let's be honest about this. "Fellatrix" is just a word. And apparently it's not a word in common usage, otherwise the audience would have laughed, or gasped, or booed, when they heard it. (They did not.) And it was, if I may say so, and as at least one commenter pointed out yesterday, expertly interposed into a list that contained four other (supposed, for the sake of the roast) accomplishments of Ms Keaton. It wouldn't have worked as number five. It did work at number four.

And to hell with nominalism, because it wasn't intended as a match for the other four accomplishments. It was intended as a joke. it wasn't even intended as an insinuation.

I'll try this out in a different context. Assume some prior catastrophe at the bar as a set-up:

Diane: You don't see me as a professional at all, do you Sam?

Sam: After that? You're nothing much more than a fellatrix!

Diane: That's a horrible thing to say. And you don't even know what it means, do you?

Sam: Yes I do. Yes I do. It ends with "tricks." So it's some sort of magic to do with "fellahs." Cliff had a crossword clue with it the other day. Isn't that right, Cliff?

Cliff: I did, Sammy, I did. But I got it wrong. The answer was "Fidelio." I don't know why they insist on clues where you need to know modern music.

Coach: That reminds me, Sam. I had a call from a Mr Fellatio this afternoon. He was looking for a job as a bartender. He was really complimentary about your work as a Red Sox pitcher.

Sam: What did you tell him?

Coach: I told him we don't need no suck-ups around here.

OK, that was rough, but you see my point. It is quite possible to make a joke around a word without wasting what little time you have left in life by drilling down to the meaning of the word and making some totally spurious connection to the person who is using that word.

Sign me annoyed and dispirited.

YEKIMI said...

@ Steve: An aside: In all your blogs, you never give credit or mention the picture source. But here you have mentioned "Photo from ABC News". Why now?

Chances are that it's a copyrighted photo. That's why the acknowledgement so Ken doesn't get sued. [Maybe.]

Sexual harassment works both ways. Unless it's unwanted guy-on-guy contact [Terry Crews, Anthony Rapp, etc.] you may not hear a male griping about some female molesting him. They probably wouldn't want to be called a "pussy", etc.

Many decades ago, when I was fresh out of high school, I took a job at a grocery store. I was basically built like a brick shit-house from being a wrestler and working out all the time. Most of the girls [and a couple of guys] in the damn store were hitting on me like crazy and one even cornered me in a walk-in cooler and she was a pastor's daughter to boot!. I have a "thing" about being touched [yeah,I know, wrestling involves touching but that was a sport so I could deal with it.] The attention was unwanted and 40+ years ago there was no HR or other person to go to. Said something about it to male friends years ago and the grief I took was unbelievable. I was called queer, fag, etc. and all the guys would say if that was them they'd be getting laid everyday. So I shut up about it and just dealt with it. Now I'm old and flabby so I the only ones checking me out nowadays are undertakers who are wondering how long it is before I croak. I'm sure one day a slew of other male actors will come forward. But right now it's to the point where I think everyone's afraid to even compliment someone about how nice they look because they'll be accused of sexual harassment. I'm not famous, but even if I have to talk to a female employee I will ALWAYS have a second person in the room just so I won't be accused of something inappropriate. It wasn't that way even 10 years ago. I grew up in the south where I was taught to treat girls with respect but that doesn't seem to apply today. I've had a couple of girls dump me because they said I was "Too nice." I just can't understand that line of reasoning.

As for the douchebags [Matt Lauer, Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Donald Trump, etc.] I hope there's a special level of hell waiting for them when they expire.

Also, I'd write your post on the writer's room. I believe you can disable comments for that post alone if you don't want to deal with the sanctimonious bullshit that people seem to think they're entitled to spew.

Bruce P. said...

I have two major problems with the current climate 1) You're guilty until proven innocent and because of that 2) the definition of "harassment" has become way too broad. For example there was one state representative here that is has a "harassment" claim against him because he asked a woman out on a date.

Cowboy Surfer said...

Lately, I've noticed that I'm becoming more likely to self censor my comedy remarks.

Then again, I've noticed that I'm just not that funny.

Oh yeah, except when I do my impression of the...oh wait, never mind

Jason said...


So many comments.

Ken, just post a blog and then decide if you want to hear any comments on it. Then disable just like in YouTube videos. Do it and you will enjoy that experience. Just you and your opinion and no one can troll you. Try it!!!

Now regarding yesterday's post - surprised that no one asked this question or any comment as to whether Diane Keaton deserved that award.

I don't.

Does anyone else think so too?

What do you think Ken? Do you regard this award highly or just another hand-out. That can be a fun post. Surely all your readers would love to chime in as to who deserved it till now when considered from 1973, and who should have got, but haven't.

That's an idea for a separate post.

Michael in Salish Sea said...

There are lessons in this thread and the previous thread for writers interested in the psychology of character What we see all over the place, and what makes any attempt at conversation so unpleasant, is not what these individuals are said to have done that have made them guilty in the public eye, but rather, it is how people project their psychological baggage all over the place.

In regards to Woody, there is more evidence there that nothing happened than there is that he committed the heinous act that everybody just assumes he did. Have you read Bob Weide's open letter? If that name sounds familiar he's a writer/director/producer of CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM, among others. He directed a documentary a few years ago on Woody for PBS. If you read his letter you will see, complete with citations, that two separate investigations by police agencies in Connecticut and New York say the alleged victim was not abused. The oldest child in the house at the time, Moses, now estranged from Mia, says nothing happened. This isn't a case like Cosby or Weinstein or anybody else where there are a bunch of accusers who never got their day in court. This time there was an investigation and they say it did not happen. Why does he have to continue to be guilty? He is the target for the projection of pain and hurt.

And a lot of this reaction is also based on how Woody was such an asshole to Mia for how he took up with Soon Yi. That doesn't make him a criminal. But while we're on the subject of who's an asshole, Mia was known to have been palling around with her ex-husband, Frank Sinatra, back in the 1980s. You tell me, who does Ronan look more like? Woody or Frank? If Woody's lawyer got him on the stand, I bet the first question would be, who's your father? Produce a DNA test before you call Woody your father. Now, looking at the full picture of what might have happened, who's the asshole, who did wrong to whom? What, there's no evidence? Neither is there any to convict Woody.

To those angry right now, you were hurt? You carry pain for others that were hurt? I'm sorry. I appreciate your empathy. Do something about it. Get help. Write a story. Paint a painting. It's not Ken's fault, nor my fault, nor Woody's that you were hurt or that you carry that pain.

Mike Bloodworth said...

This is why I don't have a blog of my own. Its not like I don't have interesting or humorous things to say. And I think my opinion is as valid as anyone else. But I must agree with Ken. If one has cogent arguments that are germane to the topic, I'd say bring 'em on. I don't have a problem with people disagreeing with me. I admit I don't know everything. But its the knee-jerk, emotional reactions that I wouldn't be able to deal with. It doesn't just happen here on Ken's blog. If anyone is on NEXTDOOR you know that even an opossum sighting can stir up a visceral response. So, until I can grow enough balls to start my own blog I'll continue to "troll" here on Ken's. Keep up the good work my man.

Johnny Walker said...

@Michael in Salish Sea

You really should familiarise yourself with the facts before you quote someone's biased documentary as undeniable proof of anything. There were not "two separate investigations by police agencies in Connecticut and New York say the alleged victim was not abused". That's an absolute and total lie. If you're going to share your opinion on this matter publicly, I think you owe it to the parties involved to at least familiarize yourself with the facts.

Here's the bare minimum you should read (court documents, and external analysis of them and Weide's claims): http://bit.ly/2ApHgUu

Earl Boebert said...

I'm with you. Don't give up, don't give in. It's your blog, including the decision to run a comment or not. I respect you for the times you have run comments critical of yourself. You bring pleasure to a lot of people every single day. Keep it up.

BobinVT said...

I don't have a blog, but have seen plenty of crazy overreactions to comments I've posted on various articles. The change of racism is thrown around so flippantly that it's pretty much become a bad joke. But since you now pre-screen comments before they are posted, you get to wield the ultimate weapon. You can see that the crazy comments never get posted. You can consign them to oblivion. That would seem to me to be very satisfying. Sure you still have to read their idiotic comments, but then you get to deny them the attention they crave.

Charles H. Bryan said...

Ken, I always enjoy your blog and the passion for writing, creatvity, humanity and quality that you bring to it. Thank you for doing it. I check in pretty much daily. It shouldn't be a source of aggravation to you, and I feel badly when that happens. As always, I hope all is well with you and yours.

Andrew said...

@Jason,
Yes, I think Keaton deserved the lifetime achievement award. I just watched Godfather I and II again. She plays her role perfectly. That's not even to mention her comedies.

Andy Rose said...

On another topic entirely: radio! I just noticed today that Cumulus -- the second-largest owner of radio stations in the country and an erstwhile employer of mine -- declared bankruptcy last week. I still keep tabs on the business, so it tells you something about the industry when a massive player that I used to work for files for Chapter 11, and I don't even hear about it for five days.

Anonymous said...

Woody Allen guilty or not?
Who knows? Who will ever know?
But that's legal.
In the context of what he was accused of, his marriage to Soon-Yi does look a little dicey. Especially how unapologetic he was about it.
Then some of his movies, like Manhattan, seem to glorify underage relationships.
Just last night Annie Hall was on and there are one or two now creepy moments ("Twins, Alvy. 16 year-old twins, imagine the possibilities).
The whole thing does make you go Hmmmmm.
Just saying.

Mike Moody said...

This post makes me sad on so many levels.

We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

Lyn said...

Ken:

good for you!

LES

bruce said...

Ken -- To change the subject. What were your thoughts on the Carol Burnett special on Sunday night?
There were several mentions of "the writers" who created one of the classic comedy variety shows for
11 years, but tragically, they didn't seem to have names, either during the show or during the credits.
Much more emphasis was presented on the ad-libbing of the cast. -- Bruce

E. Yarber said...

This is not a situation validating either right or left wing, if that is the nature of the conflict here. I'm afraid virtually any position is going to receive a violent response these days. Anthony Rapp has been sharing the hateful comments he's gotten from people more outraged by House of Cards suspending production than his experience with a sexual predator.

My own take is that weak people find it easy to feel superior to someone who expresses ANYTHING they can attack. Their approach is one of reaction, not expression.

I don't agree with everything I hear here, but I'm used to dealing with people who don't understand my perspective. My paycheck depends on them.

MikeN said...

Bruce P, that is sexual harassment- if the woman finds you very unattractive.

Ellen Davies said...

This makes me sad, because I would really like to know what you have to say about it. I hope you change your mind.

Roger Owen Green said...

It's the curse of fame, I suppose. I write whatever the heck I want, but only a few hundred people see it each day.
I also ostensibly have a blog on the local newspaper, and boy, do the trolls come out on what would be non-controversial topics, such as rating burger joints. It wasn't worth it, so I post there monthly at most.

Anthony Adams said...

I want to second Bruce's question. Surely someone from that writing team is still around, and if not, how long would it have taken to just run an honor roll across the screen, with or without pictures.

VincentS said...

Sorry to hear you went through such a hassle, Ken. Would have loved to read the harassment piece.

Barry Traylor said...

Ken, mainly it makes me sad that so many men that I either admired (in the case of Charley Rose) or liked as an actor (Kevin Spacey). could do such despicable things. I guess very few of us are perfect so I am glad I have never been in a position of wealth or power.

McAlvie said...

Let's here it for Time Magazine!

Ken, you are correct that people today seem to view the world in black and white with no room for discussion. With us or against us seems to be the prevailing mood. Except, really, it's just a particular group that has trouble and it's mostly because they just don't want to have to think that hard. Getting your wisdom from bumper stickers is easier.

I agree that you have no obligation to put up with that, but I do so enjoy your very well written pieces (and 'well written' is sadly rare) so I hope you will exercise your option to delete the nasties instead of depriving the rest of us of fodder for the give and take that is good conversation.