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CBS Diversity Showcase Cleans House, Second Co-Head Also Exits Program

Grace Parra and Stephen Guarino were named co-directors of CBS Diversity Comedy Showcase last month

After program co-head exited amid sexual harassment accusations, co-director Fern Orenstein has exited the CBS Diversity Comedy Showcase as the program takes on new leadership for the 2018 season.

Last month, CBS announced that “The Nightly Show” alum Grace Parra and “I’m Dying Up Here’s” Stephen Guarino were brought on to co-direct the annual program, which highlights a diverse group of comedy writers and actors before an audience of CBS executives, producers and casting directors.

Orenstein stepped away from producing the program (though she remains in her role as a casting executive at CBS) in October, after director Rick Najera left amid accusations of sexual harassment, which he denied. Orenstein and Najera ran the program together since its inception 13 years ago.

“It feels like it was a good move; it was a necessary hire,” an anonymous participant told Vulture. “The new directors are promoting a different culture. It just seems like they have the right intentions.”

A Vulture report published after Najera’s resignation featured 20 anonymous former participants accusing the workshop of racist and sexist behavior under his and Orenstein’s leadership. The participants said the program required black actors to play slaves in sketches, asked Latina actresses to “slut it up” and body-shamed performers of both sexes.

Rachel Bloom, who never participated in the program but works for CBS Studios as the co-creator, star and executive producer of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” told Vulture it was an “open secret” that the program was a “bad experience” and provided guidance for participants who wished to complain.