After allegations of sexual misconduct against Ex Fest founder Matthew Payne swept through the Chicago comedy community this week, Payne announced Friday afternoon that he had decided to cancel the festival. As I wrote in this week’s Reader cover story, Ex Fest had been conceived as an alternative to Stage 773’s SketchFest for performers who didn’t want to work with Brian Posen, its former executive producer who had been accused of harassment by multiple women.
Payne posted news of the cancellation on Facebook:
To my community,
This all happened very fast. We all have unanswered questions and we were supposed to come together to celebrate safety.
All of this was about feeling safe. It has been made clear to me that the performers in EX Fest do not feel safe. This is not the time to come together to celebrate. We should end the celebrations before they begin.
I am aware of the recent allegations made against me, but no one has been able to give me more information than that at this time. I am not guilty of sexual misconduct. I wish there were more information available, but with so much uncertainty and so little time, I think it is best to cancel this year’s Chicago EX Fest.
Thanks to my friends and brilliant performers for helping me make this very difficult and very correct decision. I still can’t wait to see what our generation does.
Refunds will be issued, of course! Please contact ChicagoEXFest@gmail.com for assistance.
The allegations began circulating earlier this week. On Thursday evening, Becca Brown, one of the performers slated to appear, announced on Facebook that she had dropped out, but gave no further explanation.