Jen Kirkman has built a successful, sustained career in comedy. The Needham native and Emerson College grad known for her appearances on “Drunk History” and “Chelsea Lately” has a pair of Netflix standup specials to her name, and served as a consultant on the Emmy-nominated Amazon series “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”
And yet, Kirkman said in a series of tweets early Wednesday morning, she often finds herself unable to speak about her career without also being prompted to discuss comedian Louis C.K.
C.K. reentered headlines this week by performing an unannounced standup set at the Comedy Cellar in New York City on Sunday. It was the Newton native’s first show since he admitted to sexual misconduct in November 2017. After his reappearance, Kirkman began tweeting about her complex history with the comedian.
In a 2015 episode of her “I Seem Fun” podcast, Kirkman talked about “weird treatment” she’d received from an unnamed famous comic that made her think twice about going on tour with him. When a number of media outlets speculated that Kirkman was talking about C.K., who had been the subject of sexual misconduct rumors for years, Kirkman deleted the episode. More than two years later, in a September 2017 interview with the Village Voice, Kirkman said that while she had heard rumors about C.K., he had never exposed himself to her.
“Sometimes there’s nothing there. I think this might be a case of there’s nothing there,” Kirkman told the publication. “If I’m wrong, I’m wrong, and if any women want to come forward and say what he’s done, I’ll totally back them, because I believe women. But I just don’t know any.”
With the Newton native now back in the news, Kirkman has been taking to Twitter to discuss why she initially chose not to expose C.K., and how she has continued to feel harassed after the fact.
“I didn’t have proof he did any of this masturbation stuff,” Kirkman tweeted early Wednesday morning. “Only rumors. He verbally did some sick stuff to me. I got harassed so bad for speaking on it with no one in my community to back me up I stopped. He apologized. And lied to me about the others. This is the mess of it all.”
Kirkman wrote that after years of being contacted by media outlets only interested in asking her about C.K. and not about her comedy career, she tried to put the issue to rest with the 2017 Village Voice interview.
“So I decided to say publicly that I can’t prove rumors,” Kirkman tweeted. “Maybe there isn’t a thing. I don’t know. He’s my friend in comedy. He apologized. What else can I do. Then a month later The NY Times piece came out. I realize he’d lied to me.”
Kirkman already discussed these issues in a series of since-deleted tweets following the New York Times article. She said she knew the cycle of online harassment would begin anew as soon as C.K. resurfaced; and yet, she tweeted, she won’t be silent.
“I knew the second he hopped on stage again that if I tweeted my distaste for how he’s handling his return that I would be harassed all over again,” Kirkman wrote on Wednesday morning. “But I didn’t stay quiet because this time finally my peers see what’s up and while they mostly stay quiet they know I’m not nuts.”
“And it feels safer because women on here are speaking up en masse,” Kirkman continued in another tweet. “I no longer feel like a lone wacko who is – as many of my male peers used to accuse me of- ‘getting into twitter fights.’ As though I were debating my favorite movie and not being harassed for being a woman.”