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Comedian Bobby Lee is suing Wondery for breach of contract after the audio company allegedly canceled a multiyear ad sales and distribution deal for his podcast, TigerBelly, which he co-hosts with Khalyla Kuhn.
The complaint, filed in Los Angeles on Thursday on behalf of Lee’s TigerBelly company, alleges that Wondery was “under pressure to cut expenses and roll back its financial commitments” in anticipation of a podcast market slowdown in 2023, leading the company to terminate its 39-month deal with the TigerBelly podcast in early April.
The deal, which TigerBelly and Wondery reached in December 2022, was in exchange for “multimillion-dollar financial guarantees that reflected the widespread success and popularity of [the podcast],” the complaint said.
In the termination notice sent to TigerBelly, Wondery also allegedly cited a “morals clause” and pointed to a 2013 story that Lee told — and later said was made up for shock value — about paying for “a young-looking sex worker who had tears in her eyes” in Tijuana while a guest on another podcast, the complaint said. Prior to Wondery terminating the contract, Lee was also the subject of public pushback after clips of the comedian telling the Tijuana story began resurfacing online in late March, leading Lee to address the story during an April 5 episode of TigerBelly. In the episode, Lee said he felt “terrible” and explained that he made up the story by combining two bits he had used on tour about going on a date with a girl who looked like 12-year-old Natalie Portman from Léon: The Professional and another about speeding up having sex with a girlfriend who started crying about her deceased grandmother.
TigerBelly’s complaint alleges that the company never agreed to a morals clause in its contract with Wondery, and noted that Wondery would have known about the Tijuana story prior to striking a deal for the podcast. (The TigerBelly episode was also released before Beef actor David Choe apologized and claimed he made up a story about raping a massage therapist during a 2014 episode of his podcast, DVDASA.)
A representative for Wondery did not immediately have a comment when reached by THR. TigerBelly is seeking a jury trial and damages in the “millions of dollars,” according to the complaint.
Lee, who has recurring roles in the Magnum P.I. and Sex and the City reboots, created the TigerBelly podcast with Kuhn in 2015 and has uploaded weekly episodes to YouTube and on major podcast platforms. The show has ranked among the top 50 podcasts in the comedy category on Apple Podcasts, according to Chartable, and recent guests have included Meghan Trainor, Ronny Chieng, Daniel Dae Kim, John Stamos and Marc Maron.
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