4 min

The homophobic heckle

I pounced the stage and locked eyes with hatred

When I think about writing a full article about an incident that took all of three minutes to occur, I’m a little baffled.

I’m even more baffled when I realize that this three-minute incident happened almost six months ago and I still can’t shake the feeling.

The incident itself wasn’t all that glamorous. It might seem to some like a blip on the map, but for me it was something I’d always known was going to happen. I just never figured it was going to happen in the West End; arguably the gayest neighbourhood this side of Toronto.

I started that fateful Saturday back in February excitedly preparing for my big show that night at Yuk Yuk’s. The show itself was going to be a brief one but one that could enhance my career (for lack of a better word).

I was chosen from a group of comedians to perform for the executive producers of Comedy Now and the Comedy Network, in the hopes of securing our own one-hour, televised specials. Needless to say, for a Canadian entertainer this was a paycheque none of us wanted to go without.

The fact that the showcase was taking place in my home club was just an added bonus. Where better to strut my hilarity than on the stage I’ve called home for the last two years?

As showtime slowly approached, I went through my usual ritual of scoping out the audience and separating them into the ones who would love me, the ones who would really, really love me, and the ones whose opinion didn’t matter anyway.

A couple of friends of mine broke the cardinal rule and sat in the front row. They’d be getting a lecture later but for now they had a reprieve —it’s an exciting night after all.

I hadn’t really spent a lot of time thinking about how the crowd would react to my gay jokes; it was my home club after all. And that club was two blocks away from my community. Not to mention the fact that the whole crowd knew what the deal was with this show; what could possibly happen?

A lineup of Vancouver’s funniest comics proceeded to throw down their best material for a sold-out crowd. Finally, it was my turn to bring out my favourite undercover-fag-laden material, then walk off stage and sign on the dotted line for my comedy special.

I pounced the stage and took over, and was having a great time doing it. Then about halfway through my 10-minute spot, off to stage left, I hear this deep voice shout: “Quit wasting our time, faggot!”

Time didn’t slow down for me, it just stopped altogether.

I didn’t know if I’d heard correctly, but then I saw my two friends in the front row looking terrified. At first I thought it was maybe them, but it turns out I wasn’t that lucky. Mr Heckler was sitting right behind them.

I locked eyes with him and all I could see exuding from this well-spoken man was hatred. Pure hatred. Was this actually happening? Was he for real?

Yep, about as real as herpes after a one-night stand. Real and itchy.

Perhaps I have been living in a little bubble of rainbows, blowjobs and trunk hipsters, but I couldn’t believe this was happening in Vancouver of all places. I had just finished writing about performing in Kelowna and how wonderfully supportive the Kelownians were. And yet here I was with Mr Heckler and all his hatred.

Like I said, I’ve always known that one day this would happen. I think it’s just as ignorant of me to expect everyone to accept me, as it is for them to reject me. It’s the plain old truth. That being said, I also always imagined that when this day arrived I would attack it at full speed.

I would stand up and fight. (Verbally, of course. Physically I may look big and strong, but on the inside I’m just a teeny little mouse with a heart of gold. I’m a lover not a fighter; you hit me and I blow you. Hey, don’t judge —it made me popular in high school.)

I’m not very proud to admit this, but instead of standing up and fighting for our rights, I buckled. It’s the plain-Jane truth of the matter. I froze like a twink caught naked at the PumpJack.

As a comedian, a heckler can be your best friend. As a gay man, a homophobe can be terrifying. I stopped being a comedian when that happened.

I wish I could go back now and drive this guy out the club with laughter aimed at him, but I can’t.

Instead of fighting, I politely told him that he was the one wasting everyone’s time, then continued with my set.

The executives from the networks were totally awesome, and we are all looking forward to the comedy special I’ll be filming next year. But for me, the night was tainted.

As I look back on it now, I don’t even think I am as mad at Mr BibleHatesGays&SoDoI as I am at myself for not dealing with it better.

They say that your true colours come out in times of stress. When someone is challenged, it shows who they really are.

Every time I get up on a stage, whether it is in Vancouver, Kelowna, Toronto or my mom’s house, I come out to a room full of strangers. Sometimes, that is all it takes.

Was I a coward that night? I think so. But it hasn’t stopped me yet, and next time I’m gonna be ready.

Now if you don’t mind, I’m gonna go use the powers of “The Secret” to will a twink to show up at the PumpJack.