The first time I heard about the Zesty’s case of the comedian versus the lesbian, I was unimpressed with everyone involved.
Sounds to me like a case of everyone behaving badly, I thought quietly to myself. Quietly because most of my crowd was siding with the lesbian, and I didn’t feel like I had enough information to take a firm stance.
Now I do.
What we’ve got here is a talentless comedian whose only tools to disarm a disruptive heckler are shockingly offensive slurs and a couple of lesbians who triggered the tirade by behaving obnoxiously.
To me, shouting to be heard over a speaker rather than postponing your conversation until after a show that others are presumably trying to enjoy is obnoxious. Heckling is obnoxious.
Kissing your girlfriend in public is not.
It’s hard to say what actually triggered Guy Earle’s tirade that night. Was it Pardy’s shouting and heckling, as witnesses have told the Human Rights Tribunal? Or was it the sight of two lesbians kissing?
The answer is most likely a little of both.
Regardless, this doesn’t belong in a Human Rights Tribunal.
Yes, offensive shit was spewed. Yes, Earle allegedly called Pardy a “fucking dyke” and a “fucking cunt” and suggested she take her girlfriend home and fuck her up the ass with a strap-on.
Yes, at one point he even allegedly yelled, “Somebody stick a dick in her mouth and shut her up.”
All bullshit, all shocking and offensive. I’d be angry too.
But I wouldn’t say my rights had been violated.
Human Rights Tribunals play a critical role in our society. When someone gets kicked out of a restaurant, denied a hotel room, fired from a job, or evicted from an apartment just because they’re gay, they need the tribunal to intervene on their behalf.
We all have the right to be served in a public place, not denied a job, a loan or a home because of who we are.
But we do not have the right to not be offended.
Nobody kicked Pardy and her girlfriend out of Zesty’s that night. Nobody denied them service because they kissed.
They expressed themselves freely, and Earle expressed himself right back. Loudly and repeatedly and offensively, yes. But that’s not, and shouldn’t be, a human rights violation.
“While Mr Earle’s comments may have been resoundingly offensive, this has made a mockery of the human rights tribunal,” one observer posted on Xtra.ca. The tribunal “should be reserved for exceptional, truly egregious cases, not because someone’s feelers got hurt…. Yes, freedom of speech has some limits (ie yelling fire in a crowded theatre), but censorship, state involvement, etc should be the very LAST not the first option.”
Adds another poster: “Free speech includes slurs, insults and hate-filled tirades. It’d be different if this ‘comic’ had started uttering death threats or summat, but as it stands, it’s all just a terribly sad spectacle that’s done far more harm to the HRC process than Mr Earle’s words could ever do to Ms Pardy.”
“As for Guy Earle, NEVER HOST ANOTHER SHOW!” adds another. “When the host of a standup comedy show resorts to using profanity with malice to deal with a heckler, he loses, and so does everyone else in the room.”
Another post shares a woman’s experience of being heckled for being a breeder at a comedy show 10 years ago. “Bottom line,” she says, “I walked into a venue where I KNEW there was potential for ridicule, I got it and never went back but you don’t see me at a tribunal over it.”
The question here is not whether offensive insults were uttered; they absolutely were. It’s how best to respond.
Rather than running to the Human Rights Tribunal and asking a body bigger and stronger than ourselves to step in and defend us, why not take some action on our own behalf? Why not, for example, lean on other comedy venues to boycott Earle’s act?
Tell the world that Earle is a poor excuse for a comedian. But don’t ask a Human Rights Tribunal to punish free speech.