In "Andy," the sixth episode of Judd Apatow's new Netflix series Love, spiraling addict Mickey (Gillian Jacobs) sits somewhere beneath Hollywood, riding the Los Angeles subway with actor and comedian Andy Dick (who plays himself). They're coming down off "sassafras" — a form of ecstasy — and both are realizing they've just catapulted themselves off the wagon. Again.
Andy leans back in his seat and sighs heavily. "Every bad choice I've made: drinking. Everything I've lost: drinking," he says. Mickey recognizes her own pattern of self-destruction in this bleak sentiment, and blinks back panicked tears as he describes some of the experiences he's had while wasted.
It's a wrenching moment for Mickey, not to mention a crucial one for Love, which only gets going once it addresses her addiction issues directly. But if you know much about Dick's personal history offscreen — which includes not only addiction issues but a long list of sexual harassment and assault claims and charges — hearing him tell a story about the time he went out with Vince Vaughn and drank so much that he "probably got gropey" is incredibly jarring.
Andy Dick's very real addiction issues have triggered some truly ugly behavior — leading to frequent accusations of sexual assault
Dick's history of addiction issues is well-documented. Less well-known — or at least oft-forgotten — are the many times he's been accused of committing sexual assault while under the influence.
These incidents aren't the stuff of backstage whispers; Dick has repeatedly been arrested based on accusations of sexual harassment and assault. His alleged offenses are numerous, and on the record. Here are just a few:
- 2007: Dick was dragged off the set of Jimmy Kimmel Live! by Kimmel himself, after repeatedly touching Ivanka Trump — who appeared as a guest on the show the same night as Dick — live on the air.
- 2008: Dick was arrested for theft and sexual battery in Murrieta, California. According to the LA Times, a "heavily intoxicated" Dick "grabbed and fondled the breast of a 17-year-old girl before pulling her top down." He avoided felony sexual battery charges, but pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery and drug charges.
- 2010: Dick was arrested and charged with first-degree sexual assault for "engaging in unwanted and uninvited groping" of two victims' genital areas, according to the Huntington Police Department in West Virginia. Dick pleaded not guilty; the alleged victims filed a civil suit against Dick in 2012.
- 2011: Dick was sued for sexual assault by a Texas nightclub patron, who alleged that Dick exposed and rubbed his genitals on the patron's face. The claimant later dropped the suit.
Obviously, these incidents are connected to Dick's addiction issues; he was often reported as drunk or high during the alleged assaults. Maybe that's why people who've encountered him in Hollywood, or who know him personally, talk about him in such confused terms.
After Kimmel booted Dick from the Jimmy Kimmel Live stage, the host discussed being "uncomfortable" around Dick, saying, "You have no idea what he’s going to do next." In the clip of a visibly inebriated Dick being escorted off set, you can hear Trump and the crowd trying to laugh off his groping, as if it were a comedic bit gone awry.
Comedian Pauly Shore told HuffPost Live in 2014 that despite having an "awesome" relationship with Dick, he was nonetheless concerned about Dick's addictive behavior. "I think he likes being fucked up," Shore told host Ricky Camilleri. "He just loves it. He loves kind of stumbling around and touching guy's penises and touching chicks' boobs."
Note that when people talk about Dick's history with substance abuse and sexual assault allegations, his issues with alcohol generally take center stage, while his assault charges are tacked on as an almost wacky afterthought.
But addiction doesn’t excuse sexual abuse. Being an addict doesn't automatically make you sexually assault people, nor does it mean you should get a free pass on whatever you do while under the influence — especially if you acknowledge, like Dick does on Love, that he has a reputation for groping people when he's drunk.
Judd Apatow has made a point of calling out Bill Cosby. So what makes him consider Dick any differently?
Apatow, who co-created Love with Paul Rust and Lesley Arfin, has recently made a name for himself as Hollywood's most vocal detractor of all things Bill Cosby. He has gone after the disgraced comedian often and passionately, insisting that Cosby's legacy shouldn't in any way excuse him from having to answer for the sex crimes he's accused of.
Apatow's persistence in taking Cosby to task is undeniably admirable. He's a prominent, influential producer in an industry that is thoroughly terrible at addressing sexual abuse within its ranks. (See: the widespread refusal to pay attention to years of women accusing Cosby until Hannibal Buress's standup set about them went viral.)
Still, Apatow has remained quieter regarding other prominent sex abuse accusations. Gawker has specifically condemned him for not going after Woody Allen — whose adopted daughter Dylan Farrow has accused him of sexual abuse — the way he's gone after Cosby. Apatow addressed this particular criticism in a July 2015 interview with Rolling Stone:
At some point enough women came forward that the world knows this happened and that [Cosby] is clearly some sort of sociopath. With Woody Allen — you can't compare all the cases, but the sheer numbers effect it. It's very sad when someone like Dylan comes forward and doesn't get the level of support she deserves, but it might be easier to try to ignore her than it is to ignore all the women who accused Cosby.
Apatow also stated that he has a personal connection to a victim of Cosby's, who is choosing to remain anonymous.
With all these factors at play, Apatow told Rolling Stone, it's impossible for him to separate Cosby's alleged crimes from his cultural contributions. "Some people say you have to separate it," Apatow said skeptically. "Then they list everybody who's done terrible things who made art. I guess that's an argument you could make."
But then Apatow continued to double down on Cosby, explaining that his fervent vitriol for the comedian is about "preventing other people from getting hurt," because "ignoring all of the victims is a signal to other victims that when you speak up, people will not take care of you and do something about it."
Fair enough. But that doesn't explain why Apatow allowed Dick, who's repeatedly been accused of sexual assault, to appear on his show — and to allude to an incident of sex abuse in passing, no less.
Letting Andy Dick play a more innocuous version of his drunk self shows that we still don't know how to respond to allegations of sexual assault
For Apatow, maybe the difference between Cosby and Dick is that Cosby continues to deny his victims' claims and maintain his innocence in the face of overwhelming evidence, while Dick is acknowledging on a TV show that his addiction issues can lead to him getting "gropey." But since Apatow has drawn such a sharp line for one prominently accused serial abuser, it's difficult to understand why he would allow Dick a contemplative, borderline redemptive arc on Love.
When someone is accused of sexual abuse — whether that person is famous or not — there's no universally accepted protocol for how anyone should react. And the initial paralysis that many of us feel, the crisis of faith in the face of horrific accusations, says a lot about how we would often prefer to not accept a terrible reality if there's an easier way to move forward.
As Vox's Amanda Taub wrote when Buress's set brought the Cosby accusations back to light:
This isn't just a Bill Cosby problem. The same pattern plays out, over and over again, every time we're asked to confront allegations against someone we care about. We want to enjoy our Woody Allen and our Roman Polanski and our Penn State football. We don't want that enjoyment tainted by a sense of complicity in the terrible crimes they are accused of.
The same thing is true of allegations against our friends, family, and co-workers: If we believe these accusations, then that means we have to re-evaluate our own lives and relationships, and do the work of deciding if and how to remove the perpetrator from them.
Should addiction, familiarity, or frequency soften how we judge someone's crimes? If the accused acknowledges past crimes — like Andy Dick has before, and does again on Love, even if just in passing — does that actually ease their severity?
Or is it as simple as what Apatow said at the Rape Foundation's annual brunch in October 2015, about Cosby's legacy: "You don’t get a free pass because of your good deeds. He still committed crimes. It doesn't matter how funny he was."