With her heart racing as she went onstage, Kelly Bachman knew she had to speak up.
“I’m a comic,” the 27-year-old said to open her routine, in a video later shared on social media. “It’s our job to name the elephant in the room. Does anybody know what that is?”
A few people nodded and muttered in affirmation. Most of the crowd, a hodgepodge of 20- and 30-something performers at a basement bar in Manhattan, was dead silent.
“It’s a Freddy Krueger in the room, if you will,” she said. “I didn’t know we had to bring our own mace and rape whistles.” At that point, a handful of people in the back of the room started booing her. One yelled, “Shut up!”
But Bachman didn’t need to say more for the crowd to notice who she was talking about: Sitting in a green velvet booth was Harvey Weinstein, the Hollywood mogul accused of sexually abusing or harassing more than 80 women.
Video contains explicit language.
During intermission at the show, which was meant to raise funds for suicide prevention, Bachman and two other performers approached Weinstein’s table and started loudly confronting him, before the bar kicked them out.
“We have to make a choice whether to be implicit or not,” Bachman said in an interview with The Washington Post. “I want nothing to do with anyone that celebrates a monster. That doesn’t feel like it should be a very controversial opinion. That’s not a gray area.”
A spokesperson for Weinstein, meanwhile, blasted the comics.
“This scene was uncalled for, downright rude and an example of how due process today is being squashed by the public, trying to take it away in the courtroom too,” the representative said in a statement to the Hollywood Reporter. “Accusations are, in fact, not convictions.”
When Bachman and her friend Amber Rollo entered Downtime NYC, a dark basement speakeasy, they saw Weinstein and his posse almost immediately. The 67-year-old former producer was sitting at a VIP booth right by the entrance, as audience members piled in for the invite-only variety show.
Weinstein has made few recent public appearances in the two years since reports against him opened the floodgates of the #MeToo movement. Ahead of a criminal trial scheduled for January, he most recently pleaded not guilty to two charges of predatory sexual assault. He is facing five other felony charges, to which he has also pleaded not guilty.
So when Bachman saw him at the semiregular event, where she had been invited to perform, she was nearly paralyzed in shock.
“That’s him, right?” she remembers asking strangers next to her. “I have to say something. Am I imagining this?”
As the show began, she sat in a corner of the room, balled up in anxiety. She was supposed to film her new stand-up routine – a homily on two social media platforms she used as a kid – and she didn’t want to ruin the video. But Bachman, a rape survivor herself, remembered a nightmare she’d had about running into Weinstein. A year and a half ago, she had organized a night of “comedy and catharsis” performed by more than a dozen rape survivors.
“It felt like this cosmic challenge,” she said. “I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I was afraid I wasn’t going to be able to say anything at all.”
She posted on Facebook and Instagram: “Performing stand-up on a show and Harvey Weinstein is visibly watching. What do I talk about?”
She finally made up her mind with just a few minutes to spare, when she asked for advice from a stranger sitting next to her. “No, don’t say anything at all,” the woman told her, responding so seriously that the comic decided to do the opposite.
After calling out the producer, she went into her set as planned, recounting an episode of irritable bowel syndrome and a childhood bully who compared her to a character from “Shark Tales.” During a bit about getting rejected at a sex party, Bachman looked directly at Weinstein as she said, “Consent is important.”
Throughout her routine, she said, she kept feeling guilty, nervous, and out of breath.
“In my mind, I had failed,” Bachman told The Post. “I don’t usually get booed. I don’t usually get silence. I just meant to go a lot harder. I wanted to keep talking about it and not care whether they’re uncomfortable or not.”
After her set, there was little mention of Weinstein throughout the rest of the performances. The show’s emcee did not mention the disgraced producer, and another comic told BuzzFeed News that all performers had been told not to mention Weinstein’s presence.
During intermission, however, Zoe Stuckless, an actor in the audience, decided to say something.
The 21-year-old went up to his table and began asking him for his name, as a man at the table told Stuckless to stop. Weinstein was “out with friends enjoying the music,” a representative told the Hollywood Reporter, “and trying to find some solace in his life that has been turned upside down.”
Then, Stuckless was told to leave.
“Nobody’s really going to say anything?” Stuckless shouted, in a filmed exchange that has since gone viral. “I’ll get out of here. That’s fine,” before calling Weinstein an expletive and a “rapist.”
Bachman and Rollo, her friend, followed soon after, having already decided they were going to leave during the intermission – and confront the producer face-to-face while they were at it.
As they passed by Weinstein’s table, Rollo cursed at Weinstein, shouting: “You’re a monster! You should disappear.”
“The fact that people were supporting him made me feel sick to my stomach,” Rollo, 31, told The Post, pointing out that the event was meant to showcase young performers and actors – who made up the vast majority of Weinstein’s alleged victims.
“That they still cared more about his influence and power than the vulnerability that women were showing by sharing their art, and the fact that they prioritized him and his comfort over our safety is unconscionable,” she said. “It’s not his space to be in.”
But Weinstein barely responded. “He didn’t really say much of anything,” Rollo told The Post. “He just looked at me sort of dead-eyed.”
One of the men at the table called Rollo the c-word, she said, before a blond woman in a gold dress encouraged the two to leave. (A representative for Weinstein said that comment was “100 percent not anyone in [his employ] and not someone speaking on [his] behalf.”)
Downtime did not immediately answer messages, but the bar did post a statement to Facebook acknowledging that it had asked a “heckler” to leave after that person caused “a disturbance” and ignored requests to stop.
“Our goal at Downtime is to create an environment where everyone feels welcome,” the statement read. We “want to ensure that all guests are treated equally, with the same service and respect.”
Alexandra Laliberte, the evening’s organizer, told BuzzFeed that she felt the audience had room to directly address Weinstein, who had already attended another one of her events.
“I welcome all walks of life into my space,” the 26-year-old said, adding that she protected other young actors “by freedom of speech.”
Weinstein’s spokesperson also argued that he had every right to attend the show.
“Due process is still the foundation of each and every one of our civil rights in this country,” the representative told the Hollywood Reporter. “Anyone should be allowed to be there if they are acting in accordance with the norms of the space.”
But Rollo said that her comments had nothing to do with due process.
“This has to do with justice in general,” she told The Post. “This event was meant to support artists. The fact that he was there was predatory and disturbing. I don’t care if it made him uncomfortable… He should feel uncomfortable there. He does not belong.”
For her part, Bachman is taking one thing away.
“If Harvey Weinstein is calling me rude,” she quipped, “I’m putting that on my résumé.”