Friday, April 22nd, 2011

Comedian Fined $15,000 After Making Homophobic Insults Against Audience Member

As if open-mics weren't nightmarish enough. Yesterday Canadian comedian Guy Earle was fined $15,000 after the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal determined his homophobic rant against audience member Lorna Pardy constituted discrimination.

The charges stem from an incident on May 22, 2007, when Pardy and then-partner Zoe Broomsgrove attended a comedy show at Zesty Restaurant in Vancouver. Reportedly Earle unleashed a stream of homophobic insults at the couple after seeing them kiss, which then lead to the comedian going into the audience, the pair arguing and Pardy throwing a glass of water in his face. Earle admits he insulted the couple but defended himself, saying he was just dealing with hecklers. According to the claimant, who was later diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder which she traces back to the incident, the comedian later accosted the couple as they attempted to leave the restaurant and broke her sunglasses. Earle denies the accusation, saying "I never said anything hurtful to them or treated them badly after I got off the stage. I didn’t say the things they said I said. They harassed me out the door to my car and out into the street.”

Pardy filed a complaint in September 2007 against both the comedian and, perhaps even more significantly for future cases, Zesty's owner Salam Ishmail, who is undoubtedly wishing he just put in a karaoke machine instead. Per the court's decision this week, reportedly "Earle has been ordered to pay Pardy $15,000 for injury to dignity, feelings, and self respect. Zesty and Ismail have been ordered to pay Pardy $7,500 for injury to dignity, feelings, and self-respect."

Wrote tribunal member Murray Geiger-Adams about the court's findings, “Mr. Earle’s treatment of Ms. Pardy was both verbal and physical, and involved both aggressiveness and physical contact. In my view, in the circumstances disclosed by the reliable evidence in this case, it is important both to Ms. Pardy and to the public to clearly identify that the conduct engaged in by Mr. Earle, in particular, was a breach of Ms. Pardy’s human rights under the Code.” Earle plans to appeal.

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  • JoshUng

    Wow, not really sure how I feel about this. I definitely don't defend hurling anti-gay slurs at people, then again I'm not comfortable with precedent that you can be sued for being insulted (of course, the "verbal/physical" may give it more heft depending on how the customer was accosted).

    Then again, it isn't in the U.S, and I don't know how Canada's laws differ from ours in regards to speech.

  • fnumbers

    If, in fact, this guy is being fined, just for what he said, then this is rubbish. Have these lesbians never seen stand up comedy before? Even if he did break her sunglasses, $15,000?! Damn!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Caroline-Anderson/731041782 Caroline Anderson

    I've been reading up a ton on this since you posted. The thing is, I cannot find a SINGLE account that the couple was actually heckling. The waiters and other comics didn't remembering hearing the audience engage him until he'd already begun his rampage.

    If this is true, given that this was an open mic show and that the couple was first seated outside but the wait staff MADE them come in, I can't really find fault with the couple (except for the AMOUNT they are suing for, which is crazy sauce).

    • JoshUng

      @Caroline Anderson That is interesting, and does give more credibility to the couple. Also, it might explain the "heckling." Perhaps they weren't heckling, but just not paying attention at all, which the comic perceived as heckling.

  • dikwad

    The real victim here–comedy at Zesty Restaurant.

  • Tina Shontz@facebook

    Re: "…which then *lead* to the comedian going…" s/b "led"

  • freedom of speech is dead

    Getting Sued 15k , dragged through the courts , all for insulting a couple of lesbians, at a bar(people drinking) , in a comedy club(freedom of speech) , on open mic night,.. INSANE is an understatement.

    THEY COULD HAVE SIMPLY WALKED OUT , if they felt uncomfortable.
    and the Amount could have been something like 500 or 1k to make a point. she is profiting from this much?,