When comedian Jen Grant was hired to perform at a seemingly benign corporate event for a printing association last week, she never thought she would have the worst experience of her career.
Grant, who performed at the Ontario Printing & Imaging Association's Excellence in Print Awards in Etobicoke, Ont., was three minutes into her set when a man in the audience yelled out, “there’s a 51 per cent chance that my buddy here will have sex with you, and I will take the other 49 per cent," she wrote on her blog.
The comments continued throughout her act, including one remark saying, “Oh, the things I would do to you,” when Grant was setting up a joke about disliking homemade wine.
Grant felt so unsafe that she walked off the stage, 25 minutes into her 45-minute set, something she says she has never done in her 16-year career.
"I was not able to do my job because someone was sexually harassing me. As a stand up comic I do not have a Human Resources Department. The stage is my workplace and I was publicly humiliated, objectified and belittled," she writes. "I [was] reminded once again that I am not respected as just a comic. I am a female comic. To some Neanderthals I am an object that can be talked down to and aggressively sexualized."
Harassment isn't something she regularly experiences on stage, Grant tells HuffPost Canada. "Usually if I’m at a corporate event and a man says anything that even touches on crossing the line, it’s more like, ‘You’re cute, what are you doing later?’ It’s not threatening, but this circumstance felt threatening."
Though comics are known to have thick skins, and Grant has dealt with her fair share of heckling, she knew this was different from the man's tone and demeanour.
"As soon as I got up there, I felt like he looked at me like an object," she says. "Most times, I’d say that heckling is not mean-spirited, it’s people just getting enthusiastic and wanting to be part of the show. With this man, it wasn’t fun. It felt intimidating."
Grant says Transcontinental Printing, the company for which the man worked, has been in touch since the event to tell her that they are penalizing the employee — she was told it would be without pay, but a follow-up piece from the Globe and Mail reports it will be with pay.
And while Grant won't shy away from getting back on the stage, she feels like she's learned something valuable from the experience. "I’ve had a chance to reflect, and if it happens again, I wouldn’t let myself get to the point where I was crying, because it’s not worth it. I wanted to do a good job, and I didn’t want the rest of the audience to not get a show just because one guy was gross."
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