Comedian's heckler combat skills suck, but that's no reason to put him on trial

By | April 5, 2010 at 12:40 pm | 3 comments | News | Tags: , ,

Comedian Guy Earle

Comedian Guy Earle

The United States isn’t the only country that wastes millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money funding frivolous lawsuits. Our friends in Canada do too! And this time it’s in the name of comedy.

We told you a few days ago about comedian Guy Earle, who was set to face a human rights tribunal in British Columbia for heckling a lesbian couple at a comedy show in 2007.

The short of it is this: the couple strolled in toward the end of the show and decided to sit right up front, where they began to heckle Earle. The comedian layed into the couple pretty harshly saying things like, “You’re fat and ugly, no wonder you’re lesbians, you can’t get a man; that’s why you’re dykes. You must be on the rag, you stupid dykes.”

Lorna Pardy, half of the couple in question, threw water at Earle twice and, by witness accounts, said equally hurtful things to the comedian. And remember, the couple were being disruptive first.

Well, last week, official proceedings began to establish whether Earle really did violate Pardy and her partner’s human rights. Pardy claims, among other things, that she suffered discrimination, hurt feelings, psychological damage, plus a loss of self-esteem, according to the National Post.

This Friday, the tribunal, will hand down their decision— whether to drop the charges or levy stiff fines on Earle for his naughty behavior.

Here’s what we think: We obviously don’t condone the act of making fun of people based on whom they like to have sex with—especially if it’s not done with any sense of tact, art or humor. But we also don’t condone people showing up late to a comedy show, sitting in the front row and acting like complete assholes to the comedian onstage. One of the signs of a seasoned comedian is the ability to skillfully – and that sometimes includes being harsh – deal with hecklers.

Earle took cheap and unfunny shots at this couple; he clearly was rattled and simply came out swinging with what he knew would hurt the couple fastest and easiest. So, based on this interaction, it seems to us Earle is not so great with dealing with hecklers.

But, if you’re going to disrespect a comedian who’s trying to do his job by talking and heckling in the front row, you can’t expect him to remain quiet. And you can’t control what he’s going to say.

Lorna Pardy

Lorna Pardy

Both parties were out of line.

However, this is a situation that should’ve been dealt with outside of a tribunal, who – after a glance at their last half a dozen cases, is pretty used to ruling on things like long-time employees getting fired from their jobs because of a disability or because of gender– truly life altering, financially-based events. The discussion of a comedian-heckler interaction gone awry does not belong in the courts.

You want to make a point, Lorna, that you’re a human and you don’t deserve to be made fun of because of your sexual orientation? Talk to Earle like a human being; give him a piece of your mind — yell at him, even — after the show, in private, if that makes you feel better.

But literally putting Earle on trial, wasting taxpayers money, claiming what feels like melodramatically blown up charges (psychological damage? loss of self-esteem?) just makes us feel less badly for you. It makes us think you’re in this to make an extra few thousand dollars, get some media exposure or maybe use this to make your foray into the Canadian LGBT rights leadership.

People get hurt every day, for every sort of reason. Life sucks. But you can’t run to the government every time you think you’ve been wronged. If you’re sexual orientation is indeed not a handicap – and it isn’t – then you should be able to stand up for yourself. Bringing this unpleasant incident to the courts is not empowering; it’s quite the opposite.

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  • Niki

    @Comedy Coach:

    Michael Richards (Kramer) isn’t a seasoned comedian?

    And to the community at large, there are conflicting reports on who “started it.” So this isn’t a clear-cut case of heckler vs. comedian; by some accounts, he started in on them just because they kissed, so they started offending right back.

    I have no idea which account is true, and I think it’s hard to comment on whether or not this deserves recognition as a human rights issue without accurately knowing what they (the lesbian couple) said or did without knowing that. However, no matter how awful they were or weren’t being, homophobic slurs should never be the answer.

  • Comedy Coach

    What happened to Kramer and Earle should be a lesson for all new comedians, that performance anxiety will blow up your career. A seasoned pro comic would have welcome both
    incidents and had fun with it. We want distractions and hecklers. To justify what Earle did, because the ladies were making noise is not the punchline to the event.

    Stage time for beginning comedians is valuable, getting harder to come by and should be respected. Earle cared only about himself. Do you think that this incident is going to make more restaurants, clubs and bars want to do an open mic?

  • Hugi

    very well said…

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