Monday afternoon rising comedy star Beth Stelling posted on her Instagram some very personal photos showing her badly bruised legs, along with a statement announcing that she has been the victim in a past abusive relationship. If you’ve ever seen Beth perform you know her as a powerful, confident woman, and so the revelations she shares in the Instagram are shocking and troubling on many levels. If you’ve seen her in person, you know she’s tall, and exudes a quiet kind of strength in her demeanor.
So when she shared on her Instagram that she broke up with an abusive ex, and then relapsed and connected him with again, and dated him for two months “after being verbally, physically abused and raped” it’s hard to even comprehend. And perhaps that is exactly why she is choosing to bravely share her story.
Beth’s story immediately went viral across the internet Monday. Her Instagram post was shared in dozens of major publications, like People Magazine, Entertainment Tonight, Jezebel, Cosmo and Vulture, Complex and PerezHilton.com just for starters. Many people who didn’t know Beth Stelling yesterday, are reading her story today and some might think of her as a victim, others will think of her as a survivor. But as you read Beth Stelling’s story don’t make the mistake of limiting her to just a victim of abuse, or a survivor of abuse in your mind, although she is both. She’s also a powerful comedic voice, who has a bright shining future ahead of her.
I spoke with Beth back in October about her new special and her new album. We spent nearly an hour on the phone and I later got the chance to meet her face to face, and see her perform live during the New York Comedy Festival in November. She struck me then, not only for the strength of her comedy, but also at her maturity and drive, particular considering how early on she is in her career. Stelling is already well on her way to being an important comedian. That’s not my opinion, it’s a fact. Her comedy is complex, original and sharp, and she is being recognized for it in all the right places. She’s a Los Angeles comic now, but her career started taking off when she was still in Chicago and was named an Editors Pick by the Chicago Reader in 2010. In 2011, she was one of the Just for Laughs New Faces- an honor and an important recognition. Things took off from there, when she moved to Los Angeles and had appearances on Conan, @midnight, Chelsea Lately and the Pete Holmes Show.
The incredible 2015 she mentions in her Instagram post is no exaggeration, this has been a transitional year for Stelling all around. Professionally it has been a huge leap forward. Comedy heavyweight Paul F. Tompkins said he considers her one of his favorite comedians. Patton Oswalt tweeted out support for her comedy. Jimmy Kimmel thinks she’s fabulous too, and LA Weekly called her show at UCB Sunset one of the best new shows of 2015. Kimmel was in the audience for one of those shows and after seeing her, personally invited her to be a guest on his show. That’s pretty spectacular; Kimmel doesn’t usually scout and book his own show. She had a great appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live back in March and since then has toured internationally twice (Ireland and New Zealand), put out her second album and a Comedy Central Half Hour Special, and has received accolades every step of the way.
We now know that 2015 has been a year of great personal change as well. She left behind an abusive relationship and started a new healthier one. Stelling told me she met and fell for comedian Sam Morril while she was recording her special for Comedy Central in Boston this past June. Sam was recording his own Comedy Central half hour at the time. She posted a happy photo of her and Morril on her Instagram Monday as evidence that there are also great men in the world. She posted that Morill has helped her to recover. “Sam Morril was a friend to me getting out of my last relationship,” she wrote. “He listened, made me laugh, comforted me. He encouraged me as I toured the world, respected me and my work, and he stuck by me when I made it really difficult to want to. He is a good partner and I love the man.”
Both Stelling and Morril are on our list of the best albums of the year for 2015 (due out later this week). Beth’s album- Simply the Beth– is a breakout album for Stelling, even though she feels she could have done it even better, but as she told me in October, she’s a perfectionist.
“It takes years to be a really good headliner” she told me, “but I’m on my way.”
Yes, yes you are.
Read her Instagram posts below, and the Facebook post by her boyfriend Sam, as well as the long list of tweets sent out by her comedy friends and supporters.
View this post on Instagram
Same girl in all of these photos (me). I've had an amazing year and you've seen the highlights here, so these photos are an uncommon thing to share but not an uncommon issue. You may be weirded out but do read on. I have a point. There are many reasons not to make an abusive relationship public, mostly fear. Scared of what people will think, scared it makes me look weak or unprofessional. When I broke up with my ex this summer, it wasn't because I didn't love him, it was because of this. And I absolutely relapsed and contacted him with things I shouldn’t have, but there are no “best practices” with this. When friends or comics ask why we broke up it's not easy or comfortable to reply; it doesn't seem like the appropriate thing to say at a stand-up show, a party or a wedding. It's embarrassing. I feel stupid. After being verbally, physically abused and raped, I dated him for two more months. It's not simple. After I broke up with him he said, "You're very open and honest in your stand-up, and I just ask that you consider me when you talk about your ex because everyone knows who you're talking about." And I abided. I wrote vague jokes because we both live in L.A. and I didn't want to hurt him, start a war, press charges, be interrogated or harassed by him or his friends and family. I wanted to move on and forget because I didn’t understand. I don't want revenge or to hurt him now, but it's unhealthy to keep this inside because my stand-up is pulled directly from my life. It's how I make my living. My personal is my professional. That is how I've always been; I make dark, funny. So now I'm allowing this to be part of my story. It's not my only story, so please don't let it be. If you live in L.A., you've already started to hear my jokes about this and I ask you to have the courage to listen and accept it because I’m trying. Already since talking about this onstage, many women have come to me after shows asking me to keep doing it. Men have shown their solidarity. An ex-girlfriend of this ex-boyfriend came to me and shared that she experienced the same fate. Then there was another and another (men and women) who shared other injustices at his hand that..
— Hari Kondabolu (@harikondabolu) December 29, 2015
— Cameron Esposito (@cameronesposito) December 29, 2015
— bert kreischer (@bertkreischer) December 28, 2015
Mine, too. Please read this. @BethStelling rules at comedy, humanity & courage.
Also GODDAMIT. https://t.co/uosgrPZ9xD
— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) December 28, 2015
— The Sklar Brothers (@SklarBrothers) December 28, 2015
If @BethStelling have one girl the courage to stand up for herself then the post was worth it.
— Iliza Shlesinger (@iliza) December 28, 2015
— kurt braunohler (@kurtbraunohler) December 28, 2015
— Paul F. Tompkins (@PFTompkins) December 29, 2015
Always stand up and make your voice heard. Just another of many, many reasons to count you as one kick ass human being, @BethStelling.
— Ben Roy (@benroy00) December 28, 2015
— Riki Lindhome (@rikilindhome) December 28, 2015