Hello again, Huffington Post readers. It's been a while. I had to escape to Tumblr for a while. I have a hideous fear of user comments. My Tumblr allows for readers just to hit a heart button. That's more my speed. But this topic is important to me, so here I am.
As you may know, I'm a stand up comic. A female one, obvi. This has been a crazy few weeks for us. I didn't even have the time to date this week, but the important part is that I write, otherwise my cousin will send me that Wikipedia link to the word sloth again. (One of the seven deadly sins referring to laziness. Can you believe laziness is a deadly sin? How am I alive?)
A fellow comic, Jen Grant has been in the news lately. A lot of people, some of whom barely know her, have been standing up for her. I figure I should too, since she is one of my best friends, my next door neighbour, people often mistake us for sisters, plus she made me a muffin yesterday. (It had something called chia in it. It kept me full for hours.)
We started doing comedy together in Ottawa 15 years ago. We have done comedy in comedy clubs, legions (bragging), military bases, overseas, festivals, television tapings, corporate events -- I've even done comedy in a church. We are professionals.
As most of you already know, Jen was sexually harassed at a corporate gig a few weeks ago. A man at the front table interrupted her act with classy lines such as,
"There's a 51 per cent chance my buddy here would fuck you. I'll take the other 49 per cent."
And other smash hits like,
"Oh... the things I would do to you..."
As many of you know, I endured some sexual harassment on stage two years ago at Casino Niagara. I even got fired for it (NEAT!). Apparently I bring an "unruly crowd." (Actually, it's not me who brings the unruly crowd, it's the casino who gives away free tickets to the comedy club after people lose thousands of dollars. Real comedy fans, obvi.) My full story is here if you want to read it.
K, I'm almost ready to make my point. Jen and I simply wrote blogs, to share our experiences and feelings with people. You have no idea when you write something that it's going to go viral. It's a huge lesson in how the Internet works. And once it's viral, it's scary as FACK. All of a sudden, everybody's judging you. Your human rights are up in the air and immediately your talent is on trial. It's a terrifying place to be. Everybody's an expert on what it's like to be a woman (even if they're not), what it's like to be a comic (even if they're not), and most of all, what it's like to be a female comic. I've heard some of the dumbest comments ever this week. The first thing I think we really need to clear up is the difference between heckling and sexual harassment.
"You suck. Get off the stage."
Or in the case of my act:
"I have a vibrator too!"
Heckling isn't always mean-spirited. Sometimes people actually think they're adding to the show. We've been doing comedy for 15 years. We can handle it.
"Show me your bush."
"Me and my buddy want to fuck you."
See the difference, kids? So when some super smart "journalist" calls a comedian "sensitive" and says:
"You're a comedian. You dish it out, so you should be able to take it."
You are wrong. All the comics I know and love are crafted storytellers, joke writers with smart commentary on the world. We DO NOT go on stage, single out a girl in the crowd, tell her to get naked, tell her we want to fuck her, and so does our buddy. If we did that, we would surely get fired. To say this is what comedians are "dishing out" is degrading to all comics.
I think some people have this outdated vision of what a stand up comic is. You always hear this in comedy clubs:
"Don't sit in the front row. You'll get picked on."
That's just a myth. We're not all Don Rickles (MUCH respect, Don.) There are so many different types of comics -- political, storytellers, one-liners, observational, alternative, self-deprecating, the list goes on. The truth is, the only person I pick on at a comedy show is myself.
My buddy Ennis Esmer wrote this brilliant tweet the other day:
"If you're a hetero male who can't tell the difference between heckling & harassment, try it with a male comic next time. That should be fun."
(I even kept your ampersand in that quote, Ennis. I like to be very accurate when I quote people.)
There's no HR in comedy. We are walking businesses who often shut up and do the job because we don't want to lose gigs. Jen brought up a good point yesterday, over a quality Mexican dinner where I overindulged in hot sauce. Obviously this wasn't the first time she had been sexually harassed as a comedian. This has been happening for years. This is 15 years of suppressing the frustrations of being female comic that built up to this moment on stage at a corporate gig at a country club in a Toronto suburb. Fifteen years of holding something in before she finally broke. I wouldn't call that being "sensitive." I'd call that powerful.
Jen, you're one of my favourite comics/human beings in the world. Thank you for speaking out.
Also, thanks for the muffin.
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