As soon as she saw his name, Katherine Fiore Tigerman broke out in a cold sweat. Her shirt damp, she scrolled through the text messages from her best friend alerting her that comedian Chris D'Elia was being accused of sexual misconduct by scores of women on Twitter. She'd never watched the comic's stand-up. She just knew that he was the best friend of Bryan Callen, a fellow comedian and actor. And Callen, she'd long told those closest to her, had once raped her.
Lightheaded, she logged onto Twitter to scan the allegations. She found that many of the tweets referred not just to D'Elia's supposed misconduct but to that of his tight circle of male comedians.
"My first thought was: 'Is something going to happen with Bryan?'" Tigerman recalled. "Reading all the comments, I thought: Here it comes. I've known how terrible this person is for 20 years. And maybe I'm not the only one."
In a statement to The LA Times, Callen adamantly denied raping Tigerman and said that their encounter was consensual.
Tigerman is not the only woman to claim that Callen was sexually inappropriate with her. Since June 17 -- the day that D'Elia started trending on social media -- three additional women told The Times that they had been mistreated by Callen, 53, describing troubling sexual incidents ranging from assault to misconduct to disturbing comments. Their stories suggest a pattern of behavior that spans decades, going back at least as far as 1999, when, Tigerman said, Callen held her down and forced her to have sex with him as she pleaded with him to stop.
In the years since, three women claimed, "The Goldbergs" actor continued to be both verbally and physically aggressive. An American Apparel saleswoman said that in 2009, Callen pinned her against the wall of a fitting room against her will and began to kiss her. An aspiring actress who had a four-year affair with Callen while he was married said he told her in 2016 that women have a "biological, primal desire to be raped." One year later, a female comedian said, he suggested she give him oral sex in exchange for stage time and money.
Callen denied all of these accounts. "Let me be very clear: I have never raped, forced myself upon any woman nor offered to trade stage time for sex. EVER," he said in a statement to the Times. "I know the truth. And I can only hold my head up high, remain true to myself, my family, my audience and know that I will not allow the cancel culture to subvert what I know and as importantly, what they know, is the truth."
In recent weeks, Callen has come to the defense of D'Elia, who said in June that he'd only ever had consensual relationships and hadn't "knowingly" pursued underage females. On a June 18 episode of his podcast, "The Fighter and the Kid," Callen described D'Elia as a "ladies' man" whom he'd "never seen or heard" engaging in illegal activity. "And right now I have to believe that, because he's still a friend," he said.
Despite that assertion, within days, Callen had scrubbed his Instagram account of any trace of D'Elia. Previously, the comic had played up their friendship on the app, where he has 897,000 followers -- about 1.4 million fewer than D'Elia. They appeared onstage together at the Comedy Store, did stints on Joe Rogan's massively popular podcast and had even closed a deal this summer to make a prank show for Netflix. (The streaming network quietly scrapped plans for the docuseries after the headlines about D'Elia surfaced.)
Even Tigerman, who'd tried her best to avoid Callen since that night in 1999, was aware that Callen's friendship with D'Elia was part of his public persona. Every few years, she said -- against her better judgment -- she'd Google his name, and inevitably most of the search results linked Callen to D'Elia.