Exclusive audio interview with comedian Guy Earle, fined $15,000 for 'homophobic' insults

By | April 24, 2011 at 2:08 am | 28 comments | Interviews, News | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

guy earleA four year-long legal case centered around a stand-up comedian hurling bigoted insults from stage toward a lesbian couple came to a head on April 20. Guy Earle, the comic in question, was ordered to pay accuser Lorna Pardy $15,000 in damages she allegedly sustained in May 2007 from Earle’s “sexist and homophobic” insults.

The owner of the Vancouver restaurant where the comedy show took place, was also ordered to pay Pardy $7,500.

The ruling was handed down by the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal, a relatively new watchdog group who, arguably, have been operating under questionable authority.

In September of 2009 the British Columbia Supreme Court ruled that the Tribunal should not continue with the proceedings until it was established if they even had jurisdiction for a case like this. The Tribunal ignored the ruling and proceeded anyway, saying they would hear all of Pardy’s allegations and then explore the issue of jurisdiction.

Upon this decision, Earle’s lawyer James Millar walked out of the proceedings, saying the Tribunal was in contempt. And Earle, himself, has never explained his side of the story to the Tribunal, claiming he couldn’t afford to fly back to Vancouver for the hearings — he had since moved to Toronto — and because he was awaiting the birth of his son. The comedian offered to testify via voice or video conference; the tribunal denied his request.

I talked to Earle by phone yesterday afternoon to get his side of the story. During our 35-minute chat, the comedian was incredibly candid and forthcoming about the details of that night. He was also clear about the following: he will take this current ruling to the Supreme Court and he has absolutely no intention of paying the $15,000 fine; in fact he doesn’t even recognize the ruling, for all of the reasons listed above.

For comedians worldwide, the ruling sets a scary precedent and forces performers to ask some serious questions, namely: “Will the next thing I say onstage cost me $15,000?”

Listen to my interview with Earle below.

About the Author

Dylan P. Gadino

Dylan is the founder and editor in chief of Laughspin. He launched Punchline Magazine in 2005 (which became Laughspin in the summer of 2011) with childhood friend Bill Bergmann. Dylan lives in northern New Jersey with his wife and two sons. He hopes the Shire is real.

  • http://adamholwerda.com Adam Holwerda

    I got through about twelve minutes, so forgive me if I’m posting out of turn. But I found a few of the things the guy said troubling.

    First of all, who remembers that much of one night three years ago?

    I hosted open mics for a year a year ago (ha) and don’t remember any of the nights specifically, nor the hecklers that were there, and most definitely not the jokes other comics told.

    He’s also very quick to make the “victims” of the case into the aggressors.

    Earle seems to be martyring himself to the “cause” of free speech in Canada, a la Lenny Bruce. “I’ll jump on the grenade for this country.” At this point we don’t know what the speech was necessarily, but we assume it was something relatively harmless.

    I don’t know if Earle should have lost his case or not (like I said, I only heard 12 minutes before I couldn’t take it anymore) but it’s not like he’s going to jail and it’s not like he’s Lenny Bruce.

    There’s no government action here, no precedent being set, dude just never showed up to his hearing and now he has to pay the lady who was suing him. Which is why he’s going to lose. Sometimes you go too far and you hurt someone’s feelings enough for them to sue you. That’s just the way it is. Maybe don’t do it next time.

    Basketball players get fined for having too many technical fouls. Technical fouls are earned by yelling stuff at the officials. Isn’t that a violation of freedom of speech?

    Just sayin’.

  • http://www.FiveFeetOfFury.com Kathy Shaidle

    Adam, you’re an idiot.

    Did you really mean this?

    “Sometimes you go too far and you hurt someone’s feelings enough for them to sue you. That’s just the way it is. Maybe don’t do it next time.”

    That’s the logic of the Gulag. Eastern European writers from Kafka to Kundera have written chilling satires about just this sort of eventuality, as had America’s own Philip Roth, with his novel The Human Stain.

    Yet you approve?

    When it happens to you, will you still be so philosophical?

    “It’s not like he’s going to jail?” He’d be better off — he doesn’t have $15,000 and I’ll wager neither do you.

    Educate yourself and read up on some of the other cases brought before this commission. I’ve written a whole book about them and so has Ezra Levant, who was forced to run up a $100,000 legal bill for printing the Mohammed cartoons, or Mark Steyn, whose magazine had to pay $2 million to fight charges of “Islamophobia”. His “Islamophobic” remarks were simply direct (and not very flattering or helpful) quotations by radical Muslim leaders, declaring their intent to take over the world.

    If your attitude is typical of American comedians, then God help America. America is our last best hope. If you guys are throwing in the towel in the name of “hurt feelings” we’re screwed.

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  • http://www.FiveFeetOfFury.com Kathy Shaidle

    PS, I’m sure you don’t remember what happened at this or that event.

    Guess what? Guy Earle has replayed that night every day in his mind since 2007. He had reason to do so. You’ve never had reason to do the same.

    At my blog, I’ve posted video of the likes of Joe Rogan and other comics saying (funnier) versions of more or less what Guy Earle said to the hecklers.

    Obviously, their counter-heckling was superior; they’re famous comics. Is it ok to go after Earle because he wasn’t as funny or adept as Rogan and co? Are we going to persecute people for “style” or “talent (or lack thereof)” now?

  • daryl

    I was offended by the first comment – it hurt my feelings and you went too far. I can’t “sue” you though – that’s an actual, real “court” thingy. I can, however, take you to the HRC and you can be forced to pay me for my feelings getting hurt. The Supreme Court (also an actual court thingy) says this isn’t allowed, but the ruling and the fine proceed anyway. Don’t worry though – you won’t get sent to jail, you’ll just have to pay me like $15,000 or so. I trust the fine will make you think about what you post and maybe you won’t do it next time. Do you understand now?

  • Winston Bell

    Gee whiz, Adam, if you hosted open mics for a year you must have heard a thousand jokes that were offensive to someone. Would you have every comedian who uttered one tried, judged and sentenced by a one person lynching committee? Man, the ha-ha industry would be dead in Canada. Knocked off by a ha-ha court.

  • David Cooperman

    Adam- respectfully, I think you’re missing the point. No comedian should have to fear going to a Human Rights Commission (a faux court of law) – for being offensive – that alone is OUTRAGEOUS, period, end of story. Whether Earle is grandstanding, you like/dislike him is IRRELEVANT. But to your pts:

    1) Yeah, I would remember the details of an open mike (where it almost comes to blows) AND you’re boycotted and served to go before the HRC. Remember – the consequences began immediately (the following week where the show was discontinued, and the restaurant picketed). This isn’t a guy remembering stuff 3 yrs. later.
    2) Was Earle the aggressor and not the hecklers? I don’t know – but again, this was highly WITNESSABLE account. Plenty of people around to support/contradict it, even the lesbian’s partner didn’t get involved, apparently – what does that suggest? To my knowledge, no one has contradicted his story- so there’s no reason not to believe him. But again, especially as a comic – whether Earle was the ‘aggressor’ SHOULD NOT MATTER where a person was not physically harmed, vandalized, etc. This is a case where being offended is a punishable event. You’re saying “sometimes you go to far and get sued” (really? by that score, either a heckler or comic could sue on every show, everyone would now have to be paranoid about what is “too far” AND who gets to judge that? Instead of a club owner not having the comic back (usual punishment) – now he’d have to be on edge every show about what the comic says)- NO! Do you not see just how ridiculous and out of control that could get? It’s censorship with a new angle.

    Have you not ever been heckled? Did you say “well, I guess you’re right – I do suck – don’t want to offend you. I’ll just get offstage now. Tip the waitstaff”

    3)Basketball players are employees. Employees in a union no less, where rights are negotiated. The employer has a right to dictate what that employee can say to a ref (another employee). It’s not a ‘free speech’ situation, Your TGIF waiter can’t tell you to go @$#% yourself and expect to keep his job.

    People should not have a right NOT to be offended. In the U.S. – in movies, back in the 40′s-50′s there was “decency” codes for movies. It was ridiculous. This is like a Superman-Bizarro inversion and backward time warp. Now it’s gays (previous true victims) CREATING new legit victims, under the heading of victimization. It’s a 2 wrongs make a right formula. Seriously, substitute “Christians” here with “homosexuals” and there would be a massive outcry. Here, it’s just clouded. I recommend taking a look at:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WKIcHTz4pFU

  • JJ

    Adam; no, the basketball example is definitely not a violation of freedom of speech, which has to do with legal protection for freedom of speech. A private organization has every right to punish offensive speech according to their own rules. There is free speech, and there are consequences for it, just not legal ones. The players don’t pay their fine, they get fired, but they don’t get prosecuted or go to jail.

    But this lawsuit in Canada sounds bogus. Although I might have been personally offended myself, a lawsuit is WAY over the top and does challenge free speech. The woman should have walked out, and a decent establishment would refund her money if she was that offended. But lawsuit? That’s ridiculous.

  • http://kaffir-kanuck.ca/ Kaffir_Kanuck

    If you’d listened to the whole story, it’s a story he’s repeated often from soon after the event occurred, and given the use of the Human Rights Commissions, where the one who has the complaint doesn’t have to pay a dime or hire a lawyer, in this case the aggressive and anti-social lesbian. The defendant, the Comic, has to pay everything out of pocket. That is not a real court of law in Canada, it’s a farce of justice adjudicated by not by real judges, but by persons appointed without law degrees.

    Your sports reference is even more stupid. Athletes don’t get hauled up in front of a Human Rights Commission to be found guilty before they pay their fines. You violate the rules of the league your in, you pay the consequences.

    Get this through your head, “There is no right, no entitlement not to be offended in Canada!”

    And ya, he never showed up. So what? It’s not a real court. And he offered to testify in other means ‘cause he’s a comic, not a rich guy, livin’ in Toronto, being asked to trip out to BC to explain why a couple of patrons who sat in front of the stage decided to assault and intimidate him after the act was over. Get real. The only victims of HRCs are the defendants who are already found guilty before the show trial starts, and of course, free speech.

  • http://adamholwerda.com Adam Holwerda

    @JJ – Maybe the fact that there was a lawsuit at all is bogus, I agree, but you still have to show up or you lose. If the guy had shown up, the case would probably have been thrown out.

  • Mal

    @Adam – Nope, doesn’t work that way at all. If anything, it would have added the cost of the airfare to his “punishment”. The entire thing is built to extort the accused; and truth is no defence, as these “rights” cases have proven every time. Even if the case is ultimately tossed, the financial burden of representation and loss of business is borne by the accused; while the person making the accusation is comped by the government.

  • crjc

    Adam et al, in most law cases you would be correct. There are two differences here. First, neither the restaurant not the comedian are regulated broadcasters or newspapers. The tribunal has no jurisdiction. Second, the Tribunal is not a court. In a recent case the federal version, the Canadian Human Rights Commission, was deemed constitutionally unfit to levy fines or award damages because it is not a court of law. The same will apply here. The BCHRT is a regulatory tribunal which a handful of Communists are trying to turn it into a political weapon. A star-chamber for the thought police. The funniest part is that the comedian himself is a confused Communist, or at least a “useful idiot”.

    The Tribunal’s decision will not pass the legal tests used by the Supreme Court of Canada to determine if a particular restriction of Free Speech is justified. The BCHRT does not have a case and never did. With these clowns, the process is the punishment. All of the plaintiff’s costs will be covered even if they lose. None of the defendant’s costs will be covered even if the defendant wins. Like I said, this is NOT a court of law we’re talking about here.

  • TimR

    Adam, this was NOT a lawsuit and this was NOT a real court with real judges. This was a complaint brought to a “human rights” commission and they are not in the habit of throwing cases out because then these busybodies would have nothing to do. They are kangaroo courts that exist to prosecute cases where minority groups are offended. If you’re a white male, you’re probably going to be found guilty no matter what.

    http://www.torontosun.com/2011/04/21/canadas-kangaroo-courts-strike-a-rocky-mountain-low

  • pettifog

    “There’s no government action here, no precedent being set, dude just never showed up to his hearing and now he has to pay the lady who was suing him. Which is why he’s going to lose.”

    Guess what, the dude that did show up, who had nothing at all to do with the “hate speech”, was still fined $7,500. This hearing proceeded despite a Supreme Court ruling that there likely wasn’t jurisdiction to even hear the case. So, the dude that did show up, spent thousands in lawyers’ fees still had his business ruined over some thin skinned drunken heckler but, I guess that’s just the way it is.

  • Darren Elmore

    This is a case of shitty people making shitty decisions…including the ridiculous Human Rights Tribunal….and making the entire city and its comedy scene pay for it.

  • http://www.google.com(type'geofftate'intothesearchbar) geoff tate

    If you don’t like what a comedian is saying, you already have a built in defense. You can leave. If it’s more than just you that doesn’t like him, there is a built in punishment of not getting booked back. If you need more than that, you’re an idiot.

  • The Joel

    Adam, be smarter.
    This isn’t a lawsuit, it isn’t being sued. It is the HRC. Don’t spout off about things you obviously aren’t aware of. That way you won’t sound like an idiot.

  • Adam Holwerda

    Okay, I’m the idiot. Sure. But I said I only listened to 12 minutes, so if you’re like “Didn’t you listen?!” the answer is yeah. I listened to 12 minutes. My comment is pretty much invalid anyway. I mean, or you could spend your time on me instead of on what you actually think about the story.

    Let me respond to some of the “outrage” here.

    1) The basketball thing…was meant to be humorous. If it wasn’t to you, I’m sorry. I don’t actually believe basketball players are having their rights violated.
    2) You CAN “go too far” in situations where someone doesn’t actually get physically hurt. Turns out there are things you can’t say on stage – things like death threats.
    3)“It’s not like he’s going to jail?” He’d be better off — he doesn’t have $15,000 and I’ll wager neither do you.” – Wait, what? Should the fact that a guy is poor have anything to do with anything? What if this was a rich comic? Would you not care as much? And really? The guy would be better of in jail. (And I’m the idiot.)

    Anyway, I’m not versed in HRC or what a travesty they are. Maybe that’s the bigger issue here – the fact that people are allowed to have a tribunal sue people who have offended them. Let’s get that figured out first.

  • Mark A Roberts

    Tsk tsk. All this for a peck on the cheek, and that the ladies turned out to actually be lesbians is an aside.
    The BC Human Rights Commission, Decision, on this incident is Public Record online…very interesting reading if you want to get down to the nuts and bolts.
    First, there was no Act/Performance going on…”Bad Guy” Earle came on the stage between sets. So his argument or feeble attempt to cover his attacks is not legitimate.
    Or, more simply;
    If a Hockey Player see’s someone in the stands give someone else a peck on the cheek, and he shouts vulgarities at them, leaves the ice to go after them, follows one to the bathroom taking their glasses from their head and breaking them, and follows them outside shouting at them…well my friends, he isn’t playing Hockey. The whistle hadn’t blown…
    GOOD FOR LORNA.

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  • http://kaffir-kanuck.ca/ Kaffir_Kanuck

    Adam, you’re just diggin’ yourself in deeper.

    Death threats are already covered under real law.

    “Anyway, I’m not versed in HRC or what a travesty they are. Maybe that’s the bigger issue here – the fact that people are allowed to have a tribunal sue people who have offended them. Let’s get that figured out first.”

    Duh! That’s the point. You don’t know what you’re talkin’ about and you automatically made assumptions about these star chambers empowering their decisions through your ignorance.

    And if your basket ball thing was meant to be humourous, then you must be a pretty marginal comedian.

  • David Cooperman

    @Mark Roberts – please post the link for the nuts and bolts as you said. On your first point though, if you’re stating that Earle wasn’t performing because he was bringing on other acts – sorry, he WAS performing. That’s what an MC does – that IS part of his/her job and it is considered a performance.

    The rest (if we’re now talking about what a comic does off-stage) is different. But, I’d add that it’s ALREADY covered by normal courts of law. I don’t know for sure what you’re talking about – but I’m assuming following to the bathroom, following outside – IS a physical threat, stalking, what have you. The involvement of a Human Rights Commission for the oversight of hurt feelings and dignity is utter B.S. If Earle was engaging in acts of harrassment offstage, that case could and should be made in a court of law. Just as with your hockey player (we’re now changing sports) – the player can’t physically engage, stalk, etc. but again – the hockey player, comic, can be persecuted through normal, accepted legal channels. The issue is being dragged by a special touchy-feely task force with it’s on set of special rules that can persecute anyone under the banner of ‘hate’. A scary idea for any free society, no matter what your politics.

  • Adam Holwerda

    @Kaffir -

    In deeper to what? State your case instead of making ad hominems.

    Me: “Anyway, I’m not versed in HRC or what a travesty they are. Maybe that’s the bigger issue here – the fact that people are allowed to have a tribunal sue people who have offended them. Let’s get that figured out first.”

    You: “Duh! That’s the point.”

    Wait, you agree with me and then tell me I don’t know what I’m talking about? Oh wait, I actually don’t. Sue me.

    The point I was actually making was that the HRC tribunal is the issue here – not as much what it means for free speech. Because if the tribunal is illegal, why should anything they decide be a precedent for anything?

    And dude, comedians write thousands of jokes. A lot of them aren’t funny. Ask anyone.

  • http://kaffir-kanuck.ca/ Kaffir_Kanuck

    Adam,

    The point was the fact that HRCs are a lateral court system unto their own who answer to no one, but your very first statement indicated Earl was in the wrong for not showing up, and the various assertions you were making for not bothering to study the issue of HRCs and the abuse of Section 13.

    Yes, “Duh”, because you’re suddenly coming to your senses. Same reason I try not to sit in front of the stage.

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  • George Washington

    I can’t believe I just spent all this time reading the story and comments. This is why the only good thing about Canada is that you get to look at America.

    • Dhalgren

      I love the fact that all you people defending this waste of skin and air and insisting that this would never stand up in a “real” court just got proven wrong. In a real court of law.

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