Apr 23, 2011 7:24 PM GMT
Canadian stand-up comic, Guy Earle, will face a human rights tribunal hearing in British Columbia
Photograph by: Handout photo from Guy Earle, Handout photo from Guy Earle
VANCOUVER -- A Toronto comedian and Vancouver restaurant owner were ordered to pay $22,500 by a B.C. Human Rights Tribunal on Thursday after the standup comic hurled a torrent of sexual insults at a woman and her same-sex partner during a comedy show three years ago.
Amateur standup comedian Guy Earle has been ordered to pay $15,000 to Lorna Pardy, 32, who filed the complaint last year after she and her lesbian partner were taunted at Zesty’s Restaurant on Commercial Drive on May 22, 2007. Restaurant owner Salam Ishmail has been ordered to pay her $7,500.
Earle told The Vancouver Sun Thursday night he will appeal the decision.
Pardy filed a complaint in 2007, claiming she was discriminated against on the basis of her gender and sexual orientation in contravention of the Criminal Code. She said Earle directed homophobic and sexist insults at her when she was a patron and he was the master-of-ceremonies at an open mike comedy show at the restaurant.
In his ruling, tribunal member Murray Geiger-Adams said Earle repeated vulgar language in public and attacked Pardy’s identity and dignity as a woman and a lesbian.
“His attack showed every sign of being calculated to inflict as much damage as possible, in as short a time as possible, on her greatest vulnerabilities,” he wrote in the decision.
Geiger-Adams ordered Earle and Ishmail to pay a total of $22,500 for lost wages and for injury to dignity, feelings and self respect.
Earle’s lawyer Jim Miller had argued during the hearing that his client was entitled to freedom of artistic expression under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Earle had also claimed that the couple heckled him while he was on stage and that Pardy threw a drink in his face.
Pardy denied she was heckling him and said Earle pointed at them and told the audience they were sitting at the “dyke table.”
She said Earle went on to describe lesbian acts involving her and her partner that shocked and embarrassed her.
She said she booed him in an attempt to shut him up and this caused him to leave the stage and come to their table where he loomed over her, swearing and asking her derogatory questions.
Pardy testified Earle’s tone was “angry and condescending” and she felt threatened.
She told the tribunal she didn’t want him near their table so she picked up a glass of water and threw the water in his face.
As she was leaving, she said Earle intercepted her, took the sunglasses from her head, broke them and threw the pieces on the floor.
In an email to The Sun Thursday night, Earle said “the findings are not factual and the events are laid out wrong.
“I never said anything hurtful to them or treated them badly after I got off the stage,” Earle wrote. “I didn’t say the things they said I said. They harassed me out the door to my car and out into the street.”
Earle called Pardy’s accusations “bold-face lying for the sake of a cash grab” and said he and his lawyer will take the matter to B.C. Supreme Court.
Charles Demers, a Vancouver-based comedian, writer and political activist, said the case sets an unsettling precedent for comedians.
“This ruling is going to have an impact on professional comics who are now going to have a harder time starting up in new venues,” Demers said.
“They’re going to have a harder time getting restaurants and bars to start up comedy nights because now [the restaurants and bars are] going to be worried that they’re on the hook.”
But while Demers is concerned about free speech as it relates to his profession, he said he considers himself “as much invested in the fight against homophobia as in the fight for comedy,” and wouldn’t want to align himself with someone making hateful, homophobic comments.
“I’ve never been heckled by someone and said, ‘What’s their sexual orientation, or what’s their racial origin?’” he said.
“I’ve dealt with hecklers in ways that are not hateful to whatever group they visibly come from.”
Donovan Mahoney, a Vancouver-based comedian and promoter, said the topics of race and sexual orientation are only successful when approached intelligently.
“If you say something mean to somebody, it doesn’t matter what format it’s in, it’s mean, and people see through that,” Mahoney said. “Mean spirited stuff, I’ve seen people do it and I kind of cringe, because in my mind, comedy is very smart. A good comic is smart.”
Comedic performer Ruven Klausner said while Earle might have offended and embarrassed Pardy, he doesn't believe Earle violated her human rights.
“He might have violated her sense of entertainment, but we all have to endure that sometimes when we go to comedy shows,” Klausner said with a laugh.
“I just believe it's one of those situations where, if you don't like it, leave.”
Klausner also found it worrisome that the case could discourage business owners from having live entertainment.
Gregg Scott, who did standup for several years, said it seemed Earle’s biggest mistake was that he wasn’t funny.
“For a good comic, a heckle can be an opportunity for creating new comedy,” Scott said.
“If the response was an attack, or perceived as one, there still are a number of approaches to take before slandering — [such as] being funny.”
© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun
Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/life/Comedian+Vancouver+restaurant+ordered+insults+against+lesbian/4656851/story.html#ixzz1KNLsKFqs