Freedom of speech …

I am a firm believer in the freedom of speech. I don’t even take issue with the literature that abounds from such groups as the National Socialist White People’s Party or the Ku Klux Klan. You see I believe everyone can say whatever they want to and I have the choice to listen or not! In fact listening to others with different beliefs can help you to form an educated and informed decision. How can I say I disagree with something if I really don’t know what they stand for in the first place?

Why this subject. Well it’s because of an article today in the Province Newspaper here in BC. A Toronto comic, Guy Earle, has being called before a BC Human Rights Tribunal to account for his actions while doing his show at Zesty’s restaurant in Vancouver. You can get Earle’s side of the story by watching the youtube video of a recent radio interview. The other side of the story is that of Lorna Pardy who charges that Earle verbally assaulted her and her partner with derogatory comments. Hmmm?

From Earle’s account of the story, the couple came in late during the show, sat near the front and made out and finally heckled him. If this is the truth, then anything is fair game as far as I am concerned. Don’t go to a comedy club and heckle the comic. I know … haven’t I seen the footage of Michael Richard’s and his racial rant in a comedy club? I did and I know he was wrong … I personally would not attack the heckler with racial slurs but I sure as hell would have used my best heckler material to shut them up. If you don’t put a heckler in their place, which is in the audience, listening and laughing, then you will get your butt kicked by the whole audience when they smell blood! If the audience doesn’t join in the fun of picking on you they will certainly leave with the feeling your not very good as you couldn’t control the crowd. Take it too far and the audience will side with the heckler and then you lose too.

Oh did I mention that Earle’s heckler’s were lesbians? No! Well that’s because it doesn’t matter. The news however thinks this is the prime part of the case and the fact that the comic attacked them with comments about their orientation is why he is going before a tribunal. Apparently comedy shows are not what they used to be when I worked them years ago. I can understand if you were attending a function and the surprise entertainment was a comedian. You now have a different set of circumstances. You are at an event and the comedy is thrust upon you. Your options, listen or leave. If you don’t like the show, don’t go. If you’re already there and you find it to be less than entertaining, well leave! Don’t ruin it for everyone and don’t expect the entertainer to change just for you!

From Pardy’s view it is uncalled for to bring in to public light for ridicule her sexual orientation. Ms. Pardy alleges that she and her same-sex partner were subjected to a tirade of homophobic and sexist comments by Mr. Earle.”

Despite everything I have written this is not the reason I write this rant. The reason for the rant is my objection to a local comic Mark Dennison. In the Province article it reports: And from what he’s heard, he said, the material Earle supposedly used was “mean-spirited” and a “pointed attack” based on “completely wrong assumptions.” “Comedy is inclusive. We laugh because we see commonality,” he said. “I don’t think anything is off-limits as long as it is handled in a way that shows us what makes us the same.” If anyone should be Earle’s ally it would be a fellow comic. Even the Western Standard made note in their blog by saying “Mr. Earle is getting no help from someone who should be an ally”. For me the moment the article said “from what he’s heard” I was confused. What do they mean “from what he’s heard”? He wasn’t there? He didn’t watch the youtube video? Didn’t speak to Ms. Pardy? Where did he hear what he heard?

That’s why I am giving no opinion on this particular case. I don’t know Ms. Pardy or Mr. Earle and I don’t know enough about the case to make an informed decision. I however, can and did state my opinion on how one should conduct themselves when attending a comedy show and what should happen when one does not follow these simple protocols for being an audience member.

Freedom of speech is the backbone of our society, just don’t exercise it from the audience during a comedy show, unless you want a little “freedom of speech” coming right back at ya!

So ends my rant … you can agree or disagree … that’s you’re right. You can read this or not. That’s your right too. Isn’t it nice we have these rights? Imagine if we lived somewhere else where we didn’t have rights.

“Opinions are like assholes. Everyone has one. Some are bigger than others. Most of them stink!” -me


3 thoughts on “Freedom of speech …

  1. Hey Shawn,

    Good post…Here I was thinking that people like George Carlin and Lenny Bruce paved the way to free speech. Their years of hard work and sacrifice seem to have been undone by this new feeling that each of us has a right not to be offended. Each of us is offended every day – some of us send out press releases when we are, the rest of us “get over it”. I just hope that the former doesn’t start to out-number the latter.


  2. I personally have to give you great kudos for seeing through the smokescreen that the mainstream media has put up. The other side of the story is completely untold. There is no mention (out of the YouTube video) of the glasses being broken. Or how he picked on them after they ordered their drinks. (apparently ordering drinks from a server is now considered heckling)

    There were other people in the room. We saw what happened. What happened is not even remotely accurate in all the news articles.

  3. That was a well thought out blog. A lot of good points.
    From what I understand, from direct witnesses to the incident, the sequence of events pivoted on the ladies being directed to the table by the waitresses who closed the patio. The move was too distracting to the comedian who was in a foul drunken mood, and he went ‘sideways’ on the ladies.
    Why would he go to THEIR table, but to intimidate and get cooled off by ‘a drink’ (water)–and twice!
    Too bad he didn’t take the advice on my sign.

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