A 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.