UPDATE: March 31, 4:45 pm —
This was a “spat between two children,” another comedian who performed at Zesty’s the night of the alleged human rights violation told the tribunal today.
Describing the lesbian complainant as righteous, Nic Roy called the hearing a “waste of tax payer money.”
He also described comedian Guy Earle as a “terrible comedian and an asshole” and says the situation got out of hand after Earle interacted with Lorna Pardy’s table.
Pardy and her girlfriend were kissing during his performance, but Roy said their behaviour was more distracting than rude. “You’re two women and you’re making out in the front booth of a stand-up show – no matter where you are you’re going to get something.”
But once Earle began interacting with Pardy’s table “it stopped being a comedy show,” Roy testified.
“It got awkward. Guy Earle was being offensive without being funny. He pretty much acted like Michael Richards, so to speak, instead of using the word nigger he used the word dyke.
Zesty’s owner Salam Ismail and his brother Sam told the tribunal about Salam’s relationship with the gay and lesbian community. Sam Ismail described his brother, who comes from Iraq’s Assyrian Christian minority, as someone who knows discrimination first hand.
Salam Ismail said that he has been on the Drive since 1997 and has maintained a good relationship with the gay and lesbian community.
“About 60 percent of my customers are lesbian and gay and I have a lesbian show every Saturday for the last seven years,” he said.
He said the incident has cost him many gay and lesbian customers, hurting his business.
Longtime lesbian comedian Ardell Fitzpatrick and her partner Lee Anne Keple said Ismail has been a huge supporter of the gay and lesbian community for years. They hosted their show, the Laff Riot Girls, at Zesty’s from 2000 until 2007.
“Our show predominantly features female comics,” Fitzpatrick and Keple told the tribunal in a written submission. “Salam welcomed them as well as the male comics. He welcomed all of our comics and audience equally, whether they were male or female, young or old, straight or gay and regardless of their faith, the colour of their skin or whether they were differently-abled.”
One Laff Riot Girls fan even proposed to her girlfriend on stage, Fitzpatrick said. “Salam was like, ‘Are we gonna hold it here and have a reception?’ He was fine. Ardell and I met at Zesty’s and got married a few years later and Salam was extremely positive.”
Earle, who lives in Ontario, has not been present at the hearings this week. His request to appear by telephone was denied.
Earle’s lawyer, Jim Millar, walked out of the hearing in protest on day one, claiming the tribunal lacks the jurisdiction to hear this case.
Millar says his client is entitled to the freedom of artistic expression guaranteed by the Charter of Rights which, he says, trumps Pardy’s complaint.
Millar, who also defended accused Aaron Webster killer Danny Rao in 2004 and got him acquitted, said he would wait for the tribunal’s written decision in this case before deciding whether or not to appeal.
UPDATE: March 30, 5:55 pm —
The May 2007 incident at Zesty’s was a case of bad comedy, not homophobia, according to Vancouver comedian Mike Wolfe.
“Guy Earle’s not a very good comedian,” Wolfe told BC’s Human Right Tribunal today. “He’ll tell his jokes and if someone interrupts regardless of who is there he’ll attack someone. And because Guy Earle’s not a good comic he doesn’t understand that the audience will retort. This isn’t the first time this happened, but it was the first time it happened with lesbians. It wasn’t new for Guy to do that but it was the first time it hit that level where it hit the fan.”
Earle is currently the subject of a human rights complaint filed by Lorna Pardy.
Pardy alleges that Earle violated her human rights when he made homophobic remarks about her and her girlfriend from the stage and later broke her sunglasses.
Jeremy Miedzinski is another Vancouver comedian who performed on the night in question. He claims Pardy’s table was actively heckling the performers before Earle addressed them.
Miedzinski told the tribunal today that Earle didn’t address Pardy’s table until after members of Pardy’s table were shouting general “heckling stuff” at Nic Roy, another local comedian. That’s when he said Earle returned to stage and said, “You’ve ruined the show you will need to shut up or leave.”
“Both of them were sharing insults with each other,” Miedzinski said. “It started out with basic things like ‘shut the fuck up you dumb bitch’ or ‘fuck you, you ugly loser’ and escalated into insults directed at his mother with comments like ‘she should have aborted you when she had that chance’ and ‘your mother was shitty mother.'”
But Wolfe said the women did not heckle Earle until he “started throwing insults their way.”
While he thought the women were initially being loud, Wolfe said he didn’t consider their behaviour unusual. “They just seemed like friends having fun with each other, hanging out,” he testified.
Miedzinski told the tribunal that Pardy’s girlfriend gave her more than a peck on the cheek.
“They were full-on making out for a while,” he testified. “Many of the comics were looking at each other because they were right up front making out. They were putting on a show for everyone at that point, they were making out in front of everybody.”
Carlin Sandol, who was sitting with Pardy and her girlfriend at the table that night, tells a very different story.
“Zoe kissed Lorna on the cheek, that was after ordering a second round of drinks,” she testified. “She just leaned over and give her a peck on the cheek. It didn’t seem very significant to me.”
Sandol claims her table came to Earle’s attention while they were having a lighthearted conversation with two waitresses.
“We weren’t screaming,” she testified. “We were talking to the waitress, we were laughing. There were people on the mic talking loud so there was a chance we had to elevate our voices.”
Sandol said they were only speaking loudly enough to be heard by the waitress over the noise of a nearby speaker.
Sandol, who is straight, argues that even if they did cause a disturbance, their sexual orientation was irrelevant to the situation.
“If we were causing a disturbance and being loud what does that have to do with your sexual orientation?” she said. “If he said, ‘You are heckling, shut up so we can get on with the show’ that’s a different category from saying lesbians and dykes ruining it for everybody.”
March 29 — The BC Human Rights Tribunal today began a hearing on a complaint filed by Lorna Pardy who has accused Toronto comedian Guy Earle with discrimination based on her sex and sexual orientation in violation of the BC Human Rights Code.
“I’ve been dealing with this case every day of my life for the last three years,” said Pardy of the May 2007 incident which took place while Earle was hosting an open-mic night at Zesty’s Restaurant (now known as Zawa) on Commercial Dr.
Pardy told the tribunal she was neither drunk nor heckling the performer at the time of the incident. She went on to explain how the events exacerbated an anxiety condition and left her to deal with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
“Those are present as we speak,” she said, visibly nervous but composed. “My hands are sweating, I feel myself shaking. It’s the same feeling I get whenever I get into the facts of this case. I’ve had difficulty sleeping. Insomnia affects every aspect of my life. Especially work.”
She had been drinking a Corona on the outside patio at Zesty’s for approximately 90 minutes with her girlfriend and their mutual friend before they were asked by a waitress to move inside because the porch was closing.
Once inside, Pardy testified that her girlfriend kissed her on the cheek, at which point Earle said, “Don’t mind the inconsiderate dyke table that just walked in.”
Pardy said they were figuring out their drinks with the waitress and Earle confused this with a disruption of the show.
“I don’t know what happened before we got into the show, but we were the perfect target for any frustration he had from earlier that evening,” she told the tribunal.
Somebody booed from the audience and Earle assumed it was her, Pardy testified.
“He looked directly at me and said, ‘Do you have a strap-on so you can take your girlfriend home and fuck her in the ass with it tonight?’ I was so embarrassed and humiliated that I booed him, and he looked at me again and said, ‘Are you on the rag? Is that why you’re such a fucking cunt?”
Pardy said her friend spoke up then and accused Earle of being ignorant.
“I saw him come down off the stage,” Pardy testified. “I put my hand on a glass of water because I knew he was coming to our table, and when he came to the table he put his hands on it and leaned over me. I threw water in his face and said, ‘Don’t come near our table.’ Then he looked at me and screamed in my face ‘Why do you have to be such a fucking cunt?”
Pardy told the tribunal Earle then returned to the stage and said, “Thanks for ruining the evening, you fucking dykes. Cunts.”
That’s when her friend spoke up and said, “Hate speech isn’t free speech,” Pardy said.
Earle then turned to Pardy and said, “You want to be a man don’t you? That’s why you’re such a fucking asshole,” Pardy alleged.
Pardy’s girlfriend then accused Earle of not being funny. In response, he allegedly pointed to the girlfriend and said, “You’re a fat ugly cunt. No man will fuck you. That’s why you’re a dyke, you fat cunt.”
“He then yelled to me ‘Somebody stick a dick in her mouth and shut her up.’ Which was interesting because I wasn’t saying anything,” Pardy said. “It was to humiliate me more and shut me down because my girlfriend is trying to stand up for me at that point.”
Earle then approached her table again, Pardy testified, so she picked up another glass of water and threw it in his face saying, “I told you, don’t come near our table.”
Pardy claims she threw water to keep him away and hopefully diffuse the situation. “I thought by throwing water in his face it would embarrass him and snap him out of whatever rage he was in,” she told the tribunal.
Pardy said she later passed Earle on the way to the bathroom. He was speaking with a man later identified as Zesty’s owner Salam Ishmail. Earle called her a “fucking cunt” at that point, she alleged.
Upon emerging from the bathroom, she said she was approached by Earle once more.
“Guy Earle came over to me again and said, ‘Why’d you have to ruin the show, you fucking stupid dyke? You fucking bitch.’ Then he stands over me right in front of me. I’m frozen. I cannot move at this point. Everyone’s watching me, this is centre stage at this point. Guy Earle is standing over me and says, ‘You want to be a fucking man don’t you?’ He reaches over and grabs the glasses off my head, breaks them right in front of my face, cutting his hand in the process and throws them on the floor. At this point I can’t hear anything, my ears are ringing, my face is red.”
Pardy claims the staff did nothing to intervene and were nowhere to be found during the alleged incident.
“I was humiliated, and I was shocked and embarrassed. Physically too, I was shaking, sweating, and my ears were ringing. I felt like I’d been assaulted at that point. I didn’t understand the comedy routine. I certainly thought it was a targeted attack.”
The hearing continues Tuesday at 9am.