Last week, in the midst of news that wheelchair-bound nonagenarian George H.W. Bush pats women on the rear and tells dirty jokes and that Brandeis University is canceling a play about Lenny Bruce because it’s offensive, came the announcement that the Chicago Comedy Film Festival has pulled its November 11 showing of a documentary about comedian Andy Dick.
This is a guy widely known to have built a three-decade show business career on outrageously living up to his name, which, as he points out in the very funny film in question, happens to be A. Dick.
On November 2, two days after published reports that Dick had been fired from a small role in an upcoming film for sexual harassment and misconduct on the set, CCFF artistic director Jessica Hardy issued a statement that the documentary Everybody Has an Andy Dick Story had been dropped from the festival, which runs this weekend. Hardy says this is the first time in CCFF’s seven-year history that it’s pulled a film for content.
The accusations against Dick—a former Chicagoan who during the 1980s studied at the University of Illinois, Columbia College, and Second City—included making inappropriate and offensive remarks, propositioning people on the set, kissing and licking them, and groping them, all of which occurred while he appeared to be intoxicated. It was subsequently reported that he’d been fired from another film a few weeks earlier.
Dick has denied the groping charge, but none of the many people interviewed in the documentary would be surprised by any of it; like the millions who’ve watched this pansexual free spirit with an admitted sobriety problem on television, film, and the Internet, they’ve been mostly laughing at it for years.
As Kevin Farley puts it in Everybody Has an Andy Dick Story, “Pulling your pants down is still funny, Andy knows that.” On Dick’s purported rap sheet, read by him in a clip in the film, “public urination” is followed by “creating a disturbance at a Marie Callender’s.”
Hardy told me last week that the documentary had been accepted in August and that CCFF got a few e-mails about Dick’s sexual misconduct in public settings as soon as it was announced. “We decided to keep it, because we didn’t have any firsthand experience,” she said, but after the recent news broke, “we really got pushback, and then we felt it was important for us to say, ‘We don’t think sexual harassment is funny.’ Until this is investigated and cleared, we don’t want to be a part of it.
“We’ve been talking about this kind of thing in the industry for a long time; at some point we have to draw a line. Our first priority is to have a safe environment where men and women can attend and not feel uncomfortable.”
The film’s director, Cathy Carlson, has known Dick since they met in an improv class at the U. of I. in the early 1980s. She reconnected with him years later in Los Angeles, where, like numerous other people, she wound up living for a time in his house. “He lived upstairs with his son and ex-wife, and I lived downstairs with his girlfriend, who had a baby on the way, and their two-year-old son. I know it sounds crazy, but it was a shockingly functional household.” More recently, Dick’s been living in a shed.
Carlson worked on the movie, which she calls a new style of documentary (because it includes the reaction of the subject to the film), for seven years, interviewing legions of smitten friends, including Ben Stiller, Kathy Griffin, Margaret Cho, Sherri Shepherd, and Dr. Drew Pinsky, without Dick’s knowledge. “Then I surprised him with it in a screening room and put his reactions in the film.”
CCFF “absolutely loved this movie,” she says. “They asked if it could be the Chicago premiere.” Until last week. Then, “I got an e-mail from them saying we pulled your film. They were worried about people feeling safe. I called them and said, ‘Hey, I can understand that you might not want Andy there [he was scheduled to appear], but I doubt if my film’s going to sexually assault anybody.
“There are plenty of people in my movie who say he did inappropriate things to them and they thought it was funny,” Carlson adds. “He is a mad genius, provocateur, class clown—a brilliant comedic artist. Sometimes that goes the wrong way. This is a full depiction of who this guy is, good or bad. And it’s America, so I can find another venue.”
And she did. Everybody Has an Andy Dick Story will screen at Liar’s Club on the same date, November 11. Dick will be there, and will also perform at Zanies the next night. v