Johnny Vegas sexually assaults young woman on stage

[Edit 10th May: I’ve since learned that the claims made in the Guardian piece I’ve linked to below are possibly unfounded. The piece itself has been removed from the Guardian website. I’ve not had time, however, to investigate this myself.]

[Edit 11th May: According to Chortle, Vegas began legal proceedings against the Guardian, and that is why the original article was removed. I shall update this post if I hear more.]

I just saw this on Feministing and have copied the piece from the Guardian blogs. Here is the link to the full piece and comments.

Along with hundreds of others I watched a set during which Johnny Vegas, without any discernible artistic or comedic merit, gratuitously groped a young woman on stage. Judging from some of the furious postings on the internet that followed the gig, I was not the only person asking if he had crossed a line.

Vegas stepped on stage to cheers and immediately announced that he had no material, and that he was there mostly to get laid. There followed a short meandering ramble (mainly about lap dancers) before he turned his attention to the audience – and to one young woman in particular in the front row who, he announced, he wanted to be “inside”. Anyone who has seen Vegas live knows to expect the unexpected, and you take a front row seat at your peril. He can appear deliriously and uncontrollably drunk and casually offensive, and he isn’t afraid of injecting a dose of tension by involving members of the audience in his erratic act. But something backfired this time.

The woman he focused on was about 18 or 19 and was very obviously unnerved by his attention. I saw her expression clearly – I was in the front row too, just three seats along. Vegas insisted that she allow herself to be carried on to the stage by six members of the audience – he called them “pall bearers”. She must pretend to be dead, he said, and he would bring her back to life with an onstage kiss. He warned her that there probably would be tongues. As James Williams, writing on the NOTBBC forum after the gig, put it, “Honestly, you couldn’t have found a nervier or more passive girl if you’d scoured all of London – she was like a rabbit in the headlights, but she was giggling and clearly somewhat enjoying the attention, so it just sort of went ahead without so much as a yes or no from her.” As she was carried on stage, Vegas repeatedly goaded one of the pallbearers to “finger” the girl.

Once she was on stage, Vegas told her to lie very still. She couldn’t stop her nervous giggling; he threatened to kick her in the ribs. It didn’t come across to me as a joke – and near to where I was sitting, no one was laughing. Eventually Vegas crouched down beside the nervous girl and started stroking her breasts while repeatedly saying, “don’t fucking move”. Then he ran his hand up her leg and began pulling her skirt up. Every time he looked up to address the audience, she would reach down and pull her skirt back down, but he kept pulling it back up. According to Williams, who had a different view of the stage from me, Vegas ended up “fingering her through her clothes for a second or two”. What I heard was an audible sharp intake of breath from the audience as they realised that the woman was getting much more than the kiss Vegas had told her to expect.

There was an air of menace from the outset, made worse by the fact that Vegas clearly had no idea where he was going with his act. The more the young woman was groped, the more anxious one of the “pallbearers” looked. Then Vegas straddled the young woman, pinning her to the floor, and kissing her for quite a while. Most disturbing, perhaps was that around half the audience seemed to find this really funny. Vegas asked if the curtain could be brought down; when it wasn’t, Simon Munnery, the comedian who had been on stage before him, came on stage and used his coat to screen the pair from the audience.

I’m shocked. And more a little upset. One of my questions is whether or not the woman would be able to prosecute. It seems to me that Vegas committed a chargeable offence, and that there would be no shortage of witnesses. I also wonder if any of the audience reported what happened.

Some of the comments to the Guardian piece are, thankfully, denouncing of Vegas’ actions; while some (see EricConway’s for example) are typically defensive of him. Throw some victim-blaming and ‘youse are all hysterical wimmines’ responses into the mixer, and we have our usual gamut of opinions. I imagine it’s the same on many sites which wrote about this incident.

Unfortunately, I’ve not been able to find anything online about the woman’s take on what happened to her, and it feels very obvious that her perspective is missing. If anyone else manages to find anything on this, I would appreciate seeing it.

23 responses to “Johnny Vegas sexually assaults young woman on stage

  1. I read this on the Guardian yesterday and it really made me very cross. I was going to blog it, but I blogged three times yesterday as it was and I didn’t have time!

    I can’t stand Vegas, he is vile.

  2. He really is, Blue. Whatever I thought about him before, I certainly think he’s vile now. I think I’ve always felt sort of sorry for him because he seems like he has many of his own demons to deal with. I feel sorry no longer.

  3. Vegas is someone who I’ve never thought of as funny. Vile, crass, humourless and pointless yes, funny no.

    It seems he has not only overstepped the mark, but landed himself in serious trouble, although I do like to hear both sides of the story before making an informed decision, and that second side of the story is ominously absent at present. It would appear though that might not be the case for a number of the posters on Feministing, with their ‘throw him in jail’ comments and the like.

  4. Yes, most of the posters on Feministing would not, by definition, be sympathetic towards him at all. And neither am I, as it happens, because of the eyewitness testimonies I’ve read.

    Like you, Perp, I would like to hear all sides of the story, particularly from the victim. I expect a very contrite, apologetic and defensive statement from Vegas (or his agent) soon, but that would (or should) do nothing to diminish his culpability.

  5. Interesting article… As you and many other have pointed out it really does depend on what has happened and what has not. You do have to wonder about whether the author should be blogging about her take on what happened as opposed to following more appropriate steps.

    I’m all for pushing the boundaries with humour, I think you need to make light of certain things. But I really don’t ever see a place for such physical acts of humour. What was the actual point of this joke? If it was just to make the woman feel uncomfortable & nervous then I don’t see the point or the humour. If the article is a true reflection of what happened then that is very very wrong.

    But it really does depend so much on what actually happened. What looks like fingering from one angle of the theatre could be quite different from what is actually happening. Ask Derren Brown fans.

    I hate the way these topics become men abuses woman though. As if all men are the same. It could quite easily be Jo Brand sat on a nervous 19yr old male cupping his genitals. But that would probably be seen as funny.

  6. It does sound like Vegas went too far. I wonder, though, if it had been me in the young woman’s place, would i have been able to get up and off the stage. Or just gotten up and kicked him hard in the bollocks. (I’m not implying in any way that it was her fault for not having done anything else than lie there.)

  7. Christ, I didn’t know anything about this.

    I always loathed him before Ideal, whenever he appeared on shows as himself I found him nothing but vile, totally unfunny and nonsensical. This just pisses all over the charter of decency. If I was that woman I would have bitten his bloody fingers off. How horrid! I’m not sure I’m going to enjoy Ideal quite as much now… inspite of my recent hailing it as the best comedy since Spaced.

  8. James, I too have no issue with testing limits with humour but it when it actually involves humiliating someone else, or assaulting them, I think we as viewers and comedy punters have to make a stand. And while no one really seems to know what happened from the victim’s perspective, I believe her reaction on stage is very indicative. Also, I know that many would laugh at Jo Brand with a 19 year old male, but I wouldn’t. And I don’t think that anyone who understands the implication would.

    Jaded, it’s easier said than done in such a situation. There’s the shock factor, the fear, the humiliation and the sheer uncertainty of what’s going to happen to you next. All that is very immobilising.

    YATW, frankly, I’m surprised that it’s not getting more coverage. But anyway, I’ve never heard of Ideal. I dare say I won’t bother now. Vegas is absolutely talentless, if you ask me.

  9. By the way I see that Johnny Vegas is on Jonathan Ross this Friday. I wonder if Ross will bring up the recent newspaper reports, he’s not normally someone who shies away from asking the tough questions. If he does it will be interesting to see Vegas’s (Is it Vegas’ or Vegas’s?) response, although he will probably be too pissed, and just laugh it off.

  10. Is he now? Thanks for letting me know James. I wonder indeed. If it’s been taken any further, Ross would likely be advised not to ask him about it, but I will tune in to see.

    And it’s Vegas’, I believe. I would say that anyway but others differ and say Vegas’s. So long as you’re consistent with the use of the possessive s, I think you’re ok.

  11. Johnny Vegas did not commit a sexual assault. Mary O’Hara’s Guardian piece has been comprehensively discredited by numerous eyewitnesses who contributed to the Guardian Blog. The victim here is Vegas who’s reputation has been damaged by the chinese whispers provoked by the original article. Interestingly O’Hara’s article and the subsequent blog contributions have now been removed from The Guardian website.

  12. Pingback: Johnny Vegas defends himself against recent media reports « The Ink·

  13. Vegas is one of those people I just take an instant dislike to, regardless of the medium.

    Regardless of the truth in the Guardian’s allegations, you could easily imagine him doing something like this. He comes across as “that sort of individual” (and I normally dislike stereotyping!)

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