There are two things sure to draw the attention and repartee of a stand-up comedian: a fat guy in a Hawaiian shirt sitting ring side and two women kissing in the front row, particularly two heckling and kissing women in the front row. Either scenario is likely to draw a rapid fire, profanity-laced response from the comedian whose job it is to berate those in the establishment to amuse those who have come to see the comedy show.
Comedy isn’t pretty as Steve Martin once said, but the rules are pretty clear going in for both performer and audience member. 1/ Night club comedy is not a library puppet show; it can be an intolerant and crude performance that rips open the belly of all that is crude and intolerant in the world. 2/ Don’t sit anywhere where the guy with the microphone can see you or else he’s likely to pick on you.
So far as I know, no fat man in a Hawaiian shirt has ever ran to the Human Rights Commission claiming discrimination and seeking damages for post traumatic distress disorder after being on the opposite side of a comedian’s microphone. But a lesbian did. A lesbian named Lorna Pardy. And she was awarded $22,500 by the BC Human Rights Commission last week – $15,000 from the comedian, the balance from the restaurant who hired him. And all because a comedian made homophobic and insulting comments to Pardy and her same-sex partner at a comedy show in response to their heckling his act.
The comedian, Guy Earle, tried to fight the tribunal on Charter of Rights and Freedoms grounds but the tribunal is not set up to hear charter claims. Even Earle’s lawyer walked out of the tribunal because it was a farce that denied his client’s rights to freedom of speech. The tribunal deemed the comedian hired by the restaurant needed to follow the same rules of conduct as other restaurant employees.
If a server, busboy or maître d’ unleashed a barrage of anti-lesbian remarks at the couple, we’d be first in line to say the couple had been wronged, but the cutting, insensitive and politically incorrect comments of a stand-up comedian cannot be held to the same degree of authenticity or sincerity as similar comments made in public by patrons or actual restaurant staff. And yet, the BC Human Rights Commission felt discrimination had occurred and that an offensive comedian had no right to offend.
Human rights commissions were established to prevent minority groups from being denied employment, rental accommodations or service in shops and restaurants, not so thin-skinned people can get a pay day for being insulted by a person whose job it is to insult patrons with no cow being sacred and no personal attribute being taboo. That includes race, religion, sexual orientation and – yes – fat guys in Hawaiian shirts.
If Pardy’s complaint was a one off, we’d consider it ridiculous, but Canadian human rights commissions are rife with bogus complaints from the easily offended and narcissistically entitled.
There is something wrong with a system that deems $78,000 as sufficient damages for a transgendered teacher being removed from employment but awards a third as much to an offended lesbian who had a bad night at the comedy club.
It’s time human rights commissions and their slow-as-molasses process of punishing those who dare to be politically incorrect were shut down and those resources used to bolster our real courts where those whose human rights have truly been trampled upon can get the justice they deserve in a more timely and efficient manner.