Stand-up comedian was court ordered to pay $42K for ‘offensive’ joke in his routine; here’s how he handled it

A comedian has been ordered to pay $42,000 by a Canadian human rights court for jokes that were considered offensive.

Comedian Mike Ward was ordered by Quebec’s Human Rights Tribunal to pay former child singer Jérémy Gabriel and his mother for making jokes about the boy’s appearance in his stand-up routine, CBC News reported.

Jeremy Gabriel

Gabriel, who has a facial disfigurement due to Treacher Collins Syndrome, performed for the pope in Rome in 2006.

Ward incorporated jokes about Gabriel’s appearance in his comedy routine between 2010 and 2013, including in his 2012 comedy special “Mike Ward’s eXpose.” He was ordered to pay $35,000 in punitive damages to Gabriel, plus an additional $7,000 to Gabriel’s mother.

According to CBC:

“The plaintiff argued the jokes gravely affected Gabriel’s dignity. During the case, Gabriel’s lawyer Marie Dominique argued that there is a difference between making fun of a public figure and making fun of a child with a disability.

Dominique said Ward’s jokes reinforced stereotypes of people with disabilities, adding that the jokes hurt the boy’s confidence, his career and led to bullying in school. The judge, Scott Hughes, concluded the jokes went beyond being an exercise in freedom of expression.”

“The discrimination that Jérémy fell victim to is unjustifiable,” Hughes said in the judgment.

Ward’s attorney argued that the comedian was exercising freedom of expression and was operating within the norms of comedy, CBC reported. He is planning to appeal the decision.

“I didn’t know there was a Human Rights Tribunal until I got sued,” Ward said during a comedy show Wednesday.

“One day the caller ID read: Human Rights Tribunal. When I answered the woman said, ‘Mr. Ward, we’re calling you about one of your jokes. We think you know the one.'”

Ward did not try to guess which joke it was, he said, because he would have gotten in more trouble since all his jokes could be considered offensive.

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Video from CBC News.

 

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Frieda Powers

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