Comedian self-censorship to avoid backlash

Canadian comedians are finding it increasingly difficult to get gigs, and some say they’ve encountered backlash, threats and show cancellations because of their approach to making people laugh.

Lizzie Stanton A Vancouver-based stand-up comic, claiming her jokes got her banned from most venues because many owners and managers didn’t want to risk offending audiences, and fellow comedians with her I refuse to make a reservation for

To disrespect her Jewish ancestry or to say that she is driving alone in a HOV lane in a highly occupied vehicle because “I recognize them/them” Stanton cites her as an example of making her too edgy for the current market. And the comments were vicious.

“She needs to cancel, this girl,” Stanton told The Epoch Times of the comments on social media and the pressure to keep her off stage. I say I have an ideological bias, but actually I’m a Jewish girl, I don’t know how I could be racist, misogynistic, mean, but apparently I am. ”

“At this point, once a month, I can book my show and try to get all the ‘free people’ involved in it. Lies and slanders you.

Epoch Times photo
Lizzie Stanton. (Courtesy Lizzie Stanton)

Mark BreslinThe CEO of Yuk Yuk’s comedy chain, which has nine clubs across Canada, said he’s seen a change that comics may be approaching their productions with more care than they used to.

“This awakened thing is getting so powerful that you have to be very careful about what you say and what you don’t say,” he told the Epoch Times. You have to signal your virtue so that people think you’re a good person, as if it had anything to do with being home or not. Frankly some of the worst humans makes the best cartoons.

“But we have to distinguish between censorship, which is actually a set of legislated rules, and another kind of censorship, which is a kind of self-censorship. This can be the worst.”

Breslin introduced its first venue in 1976, with the goal of allowing comedians to freely bring controversial and traditionally dangerous material onto the stage, and vowed to protect comedians. Actually the chain is different Facebook The page displays comments such as “When a customer complains about the cartoon, we throw the customer away,” and “No refunds for hurt feelings.”

“We like honesty. If honesty is a little ugly, so be it. I think it’s better than repression that you think leads to bigger problems,” Breslin said.

“A Handful of Gatekeepers”

Asian Justin Chan Sharing Stanton’s assessment of Vancouver’s comedy scene, he claims to have become the city’s most banned comedian in just one month. This is partly because his comical character as a hyper-masculine Asian didn’t fit well with traditional stereotypes he says he’s expected to follow, and partly because the wrong people in the industry Criticism of the government’s legislators was also a factor.

“Because our industry is so small, it is controlled by a handful of gatekeepers in each city. told The Times.

According to Chan, the creative expression that once allowed comedy to thrive has been reduced to a safe set of topics where most lines comics cross have already been endorsed by social media establishments. The industry is suffering, he said.

“Many people try to think of themselves differently or through an outside-in lens, trying to commodify their identity as a moral virtue,” Chan says. “They’re trying to get attention instead of actually bringing something meaningful or honest to their art form.”

Like Stanton and Chan in Calgary Brett Forte He also says he faced criticism and even death threats for jokes he made. I got

“My take on this whole cancellation is that it’s good for business,” Forte told The Epoch Times.

When people pressured clubs to cancel his shows, Forte said larger venues stepped up to ask if he would play for them. When regulations prevented comics from working indoors, he arranged drive-in shows in parking lots, performed outside hotels where guests heard his jokes from balconies, and held several gigs in basement locations. and broke the rules so he could still make a living.

“Every day is a receding line of sand, and it’s my job to dance around it,” Forte said.

“If someone offends you professionally, it’s my job to handle it professionally. You are in a position to make a lot of money.

Free speech in stand-up comedy

Dax Dradio I am Skelton Clark Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Political Science, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario. He is currently working on a research project examining the law and politics of extending constitutional protections for expression to college campuses, and has published an essay on free speech in standup his comedy.

“Stand-up comedy itself and various forms of artistic expression are usually a very good litmus test for freedom of expression in general, because artistic freedom gives people the freedom to express themselves,” Doradio said in an interview. said in

“We expect artists to push boundaries, push buttons, and ask deeply offensive and critical questions about our moral values ​​for ourselves and society at large.”

According to D’Orazio, the challenge is how performers in public can express themselves on topics that can be truthful and offensive, but can make mistakes without being banished forever. It’s about maintaining an adequate safety net. However, he said this could “squeeze artistic expression.”

“If there is an atmosphere of discomfort felt by the artist, the artist will do a cost-benefit analysis and move away from certain forms of subject matter. So the cost-benefit analysis of pushing moral boundaries changes,” says D. ‘ says Orazio.

“If we want good art and comedy, we have to give artists freedom of expression and artistic freedom. I think it’s about how to give people enough freedom for artistic expression.”

Most controversies erupt after some of the performer’s acts go viral online. So Dradio’s question about what to do when “people fail” is part of what was recently reviewed and discussed. Building C-11, online streaming method. According to Canada’s Radio, Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), Bill C-11 is necessary to tighten regulation but won’t punish individuals who speak up.

and speech At the Senate Standing Committee on Transportation and Communications on November 16, CRTC Chairman and CEO Ian Scott outlined his interpretation of the bill. Regulate Canadian content.

“The powers given to the CRTC under the bill are central and necessary,” Scott said.

“This will allow social media platforms to support the development of Canadian programs and request that content be found and accessed by people with disabilities. You are not authorized to regulate users.”

“CRTC has no intention of regulating digital content creators,” he added.

‘Government overreach’

Mark Joseph, a senior litigation attorney for the Fund for Democracy, is not convinced. He thinks he’s moving into territory where the federal government doesn’t belong.

“Generally, I believe that liberal governments in the West have struggled with the freedom of speech made possible by the internet and social media,” Joseph said in an email. These parties are motivated to censor it because it could be used to, and that situation is unfolding in Canada.”

Joseph believes that not only will the Online Streaming Act give the CRTC powers to regulate or “filter” content in accordance with the Broadcast Act, but his group also “plans to introduce censorship legislation that would further restrict” Ottawa. I said there is a reason. online speech. ”

“In our view, this all shows government overreach,” he says.

“Censorship laws always extend beyond their original mandate, restricting speech previously considered harmless. If the law is actually enacted, we can expect musicians, filmmakers, and writers to be punished for their works of art.”

Jeff Sandes


Jeff Sandes is a freelance contributor for The Epoch Times based in the Vancouver area.