Lorna Pardy, left, and Guy Earle. Image via National Post
In a ruling by the Supreme Court of British Columbia, Toronto comedian Guy Earle was ordered to pay $15,000 in damages to Lorna Pardy, a woman who claims that she developed post-traumatic stress disorder after being targeted for being a lesbian during Earle’s comedy show in 2007. The exact series of events are in dispute (all the witnesses were drunk), but basically what happened was Pardy and a girlfriend were out at a Vancouver restaurant called Zesty’s and decided to stay when an open mic show began. Part way through the show, Earle, who says Pardy was disrupting the performance, told the audience: “Don’t mind that inconsiderate dyke table over there. You know lesbians are always ruining it for everybody.” This, and other slurs, prompted an off-stage confrontation that according to the Human Rights Tribunal, aggravated Pardy’s existing generalized anxiety disorder with panic attacks.
Earle testified that, “Comedy clubs are like no other places, the quintessential element that distinguishes them from vapid mainstream media is the fearless pursuit of free speech.” The only problem with Earle’s logic is that another quintessential element of a comedy club is that you are performing comedy. The judge ruled that, “Mr. Earle was not giving a comedy performance when he launched into his tirade of ugly words directed at Ms. Pardy.”
Take note, open mic comics: having a microphone doesn’t mean you can get away with hate speech, even if you’re getting heckled.
[via National Post]
Vidal Wu is an intern at Toronto Standard. You can follow him on Twitter at @vidalwuu.