HBO Max removed James Veitch’s stand-up special Straight to VHS after multiple women from Sarah Lawrence College, his alma mater, accused the comedian of rape and sexual assault, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Veitch, 40, declined to comment on the accusations, but a source close to the British-born comedian told THR that he has denied all allegations.
Straight to VHS premiered on HBO Max on August 20, 2020 — a major occasion for the rising star. While not a household name, Veitch burst onto the comedy scene after his 2016 TED Talk, “The is What Happens When You Respond to Spam E-mail,” went viral. It has since been viewed over 55 million times.
Veitch’s appearance on Conan in 2017, during which he did a comedy bit about being a terrible roommate, also went viral with over 27 million views. The talk show’s host, Conan O’Brien, then served as an executive producer on Veitch’s HBO Max stand-up special.
In August, two Sarah Lawrence alumni, Meghan Klien and Jael Simonson-Tunic, sent letters to HBO Max, Team Coco — O’Brien’s production company — and WME detailing Veitch’s alleged sexual misconduct while he was a graduate student. They said they were sharing his victims’ accusations with The Hollywood Reporter.
WME has since dropped Veitch as a client. An HBO Max spokesperson said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, “We were deeply disturbed to learn of these allegations of unacceptable behavior by James Veitch and will be removing the special from our platform for now.”
A spokesperson for O’Brien’s production company said, “Team Coco takes these allegations very seriously and supports HBO Max’s decision.” Veitch has not yet publicly commented on the sudden removal of his HBO Max special.
Quibi, the streaming network which tapped Veitch in February to host their talk show Q Talks, declined to comment, but a source told The Hollywood Reporter that Veitch would be edited out of the series.
More Than a Dozen Women Have Come Forward to Accuse Veitch of Sexual Assault Since 2018
After seeing Veitch appear on Conan, Comedian Kristen Gull started a Facebook group entitled, “James Veitch is a Piece of S***,” which allowed other Sarah Lawrence alumni to come forward and leave comments if they also experienced sexual misconduct with him. While the Facebook group didn’t initially take off, after Veitch’s HBO Max special was announced, Klien and Simonson-Tunic got the page active once more. Women started sharing their text messages and Facebook messages with Veitch on the page.
Simonson-Tunic told The Hollywood Reporter, “Our little network started bringing in stories left and right. In just that first couple of days, I think I got three stories of rape and two of assault. What kept me going was my connection to these women — every woman that I talked to that first day I knew personally.”
Julia Tackett wrote on the Facebook page that she was raped by Veitch in May 2008. At age 20, while having dinner at the comedian’s apartment, she described being willing to have a sexual encounter with Veitch but wasn’t prepared for him to shove her onto the bed and force himself on her anally.
“I remember rushing to the bathroom: the dress was white, and I didn’t want the blood to stain it on the train ride home,” Tackett wrote, describing how she tried to convince herself it was all just a misunderstanding afterward. Maybe “I had flirted too much. I had had too much to drink with dinner. I had said something I couldn’t remember, which must have been the secret handshake that invited rape.”
Hannah, who asked THR to withhold her last name, described an incident in 2009 during an end-of-semester celebration in which she was “very, very drunk – blacking in and out. The next thing I knew, he was on top of me, having sex with me, without a condom. I tried to push him off but I was too drunk to do anything meaningful. He finished and I stumbled out of there… I was too embarrassed to tell anyone.”
Hatchett Books, Veitch’s U.S. Publisher, Has Yet to Comment on the Allegations
In the U.K., Veitch published his debut book in 2015, Dot Con: The Art of Scamming a Scammer. In January 2020, Hatchett Books made a deal with the comedian to publish it stateside on June 2, as reported by Entertainment Weekly. Hatchett has not yet publicly commented on the allegations made against Veitch.