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Real life in Kenya with Kate Copstick

katecopstick_skype_14oct2016_cutLast Friday, I recorded the weekly Grouchy Club Podcast with Kate Copstick via FaceTime.

She is in Kenya for her charity Mama Biashara.

Mama Biashara gives small grants and advice to individuals and groups so that they can start self-sustaining businesses which will allow them to climb out of abject poverty by their own hard work. 

The charity aims to “give a hand up not a hand out”.

Kate Copstick covers none of her own expenses and 100% of all money collected is spent on the charity’s work. No-one working for Mama Biashara is paid. It survives solely on donations and on sales at the Mama Biashara shop in Shepherd’s Bush, London.

These are edited extracts from Copstick’s diary over the last week.

Mama Biashara logo

THURSDAY

I am meeting Vicky, Our Lady On The Coast, to get an update on our goings-on down there and do some funding. Vicky has with her a young man who was one of our group of rent boys who wanted to ‘reform’. There is plenty of work for a fit lad on the beaches and in the bars and clubs here. But these lads wanted out of the game.

Their chosen new business was renting what they call ‘floaters’ on the beach. Happily, this turned out to be rubber rings and other swimming type floaty things. Phew!

There was a group of fifteen and they were doing incredibly well. Until some of the other boys in the ‘fun in the sea’ business decided to get rid of them. All it took was a few whispers that they were gay and they were regularly attacked and their stuff ripped to shreds.

Finally, they were set upon by a mob and one of the boys was stabbed and another burnt. Fire is huge here as an expression of displeasure. There is an epidemic of school-burnings. Pupils who are upset about anything simply set fire to their dorms and classrooms. Would never have happened at Paisley Grammar. Anyway, at this point six of the boys decided to cut and run. Well, five ran. One was in intensive care. Now they want to start another group along the coast in Watamu. It is a marvellously liberal town by Kenyan standards. They tend not to burn their homosexuals, for example.

FRIDAY

Even when Mama Biashara has no money for funding, our ladies (Vicky, Purity, Fatuma and Vixen) along with Doris, try to find ways to get women work.

For example, we have had news today that a group of our girls are going to get jobs promoting Tusker Beer and Heineken in bars around Nairobi. They get a uniform, giveaways, basic training and 800 bob a day, which is phenomenal money.

Doris had sent a letter to Tusker some weeks ago and the guy had heard about Mama Biashara and so we got in through a sort of back door. Fantastic opportunity which we are hoping will be available in other cities soon. Purity and Doris had also managed to get 18 of our ladies in the Limuru area trained up as vaccination health workers, trained to go out and give polio vaccine as and when it appears. Work like this on their parts keeps Mama Biashara going and punching well, well above her financial weight. Even the baby care in Mombasa – ladies now number in the hundreds – is almost free to run.

Today Purity came with some new groups that want funding. There is a group of ladies who have found a supplier of pepino plants. This is a South American fruit that is purported to have amazing effects on high blood pressure and is much in demand. It is part of the solanum family, grows fast and sells at premium rates. They already have customers keen to buy.

Vixen has also mobilised our groups of sugar cane juice sellers. This has turned into a huge business for us right across Kenya. She has been approached by someone on behalf of a group of fifteen young women – all HIV+ – on a place called Lusinga Island in Lake Victoria. They are sex workers because they know how to do nothing else and because there is not much else to do. But Vixen thinks they could make a really good living from sugar cane juice and has found a good, sturdy second hand machine. The ladies have also asked for as many condoms as I can send.

VIxen is lesbian and has not had an easy time. Like many many lesbian girls, she has been a commercial sex worker. You dare not show your fondness for the flatter shoe (as Zoe Lyons says) or all hell will break loose. And, talking of hell, the current educational trend is interesting…

Across Kenya, girls in their hundreds are being excluded from school, expelled, on the basis that, generally without any substantiation, the Head Teacher denounces them as lesbians and so – as we all know – worshippers of the devil. I kid you not. Worshippers of the devil. They are then expelled with a letter stating their devil-worshipping lesbian tendencies, which ensures that no other school will take them in.

It recently happened to Barbara, the daughter of my lovely friend Janet who died last year. Doris has a pile of letters from parents asking for our help and enclosing the pages of written bile. There is no appeal. We are one step away from flinging the girls, bound, into a river to see if they float. I am not quite sure what to do.

SUNDAY

Currently, the Somalis have taken over almost all the viable farms in Meru, buying them from the older farmers, or, more easily, from their widows. This is the heartland of miraa (khat, jabba, call it what you will) and it is now monoculture.

The Somali growers get the young locals to pick it. But this is picking like no picking since cotton picking in America – complete with bullwhips and sticks with which the pickers are beaten. If any of the pickers is seen eating even one single leaf of the stuff, then the overseer takes that person’s hand off at the elbow. And if it happens again, the other forearm goes. Apparently the idea is that just losing the hand is insufficiently crippling. And the local police and other authorities are simply paid to look the other way.

MONDAY

Julius brings some great news about a boy Mama Biashara set up in a water carrying business in Kawangware about two years ago.

He was bought a wheelbarrow and some jerrycans and he would go to the water point, fill up and then go around houses selling water door to door. He has now given that wheelbarrow to another young bloke and started him in a water business while the first young man now owns and runs two motorbike taxis and is in the process of getting one more. This is huge. And makes me very happy.

CONTINUED HERE


Mama Biashara survives solely on donations and on sales at the Mama Biashara shop in Shepherd’s Bush, London.

You can donate HERE.

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Bras, a drag king, lesbians and the IRA

A bag of bras - Charmian Hughes

A bag of bras

Just after twilight yesterday, I was rushing to catch a train and was carrying a bag of bras destined for, in my imagination, bemused bosomy women in Kenya.

If you don’t know why, you should have read my blog three days ago.

Crossing a busy road in Borehamwood, I bumped into a lady about my age or older and knocked her over. I didn’t see her; she didn’t see me. Queues of cars in both directions had their bright white headlights on in the black air. She ended on the ground; I dropped my bag. Fortunately the cars were not close enough or travelling fast enough to hit her or the plastic bag.

I would not have liked to explain why I was carrying a plastic bag of bras, though I do try to be supportive in general.

Especially as, after delivering the bras to the Mama Biashara charity shop in Shepherd’s Bush, I was then going to the Admiral Duncan gay bar in Soho.

LoUis CYfer performed to dancing men last night at the Admiral Duncan

LoUis CYfer had the Admiral Duncan crowd dancing last night

I am not gay. This blog’s South Coast correspondent Sandra Smith had persuaded me to go along with her to see drag king LoUis CYfer host and perform her (LoUis CYfer’s) regular Wednesday night act there. Well, OK, I did not need any persuasion, having met and blogged about LoUIs CYfer just over a a month ago.

I don’t know why I have never gone to gay clubs, as I do like a bit of OTT kitsch and camp.

In the mid-1980s, when I was researching TV shows, I did go a few times to a lesbian cabaret at Oval House in South London, but it was all a bit too cliquey for peaktime Saturday night television.

IRA songs and lesbian cabaret seemed to share something

IRA songs and lesbian cabaret seemed to share something…

In Dublin, in the 1990s, I bought a collection of IRA songs to see what they were like and was surprised because so many of them were obviously designed to reassure their listeners that they were not losing.

The Oval House lesbian cabaret seemed ro me to have much the same psychology – inward-looking – We are not alone. We are a marginalised, prejudiced-against group and we should huddle together for reassurance. We are not losing! A sort of covered-wagons-in-a-defensive-ring mind-set. Everything was self-referential and inward-looking to try to build up reassuring self-esteem.

LoUis’ support act last night - Elvis in a cardigan

Elvis in a cardigan – LoUis’ support act last night

So the Admiral Duncan last night was a very enjoyable surprise. Not an enclave. Not a meat market. Relaxed. I guess (I hope) it is a sign that gay times have moved on since the 1980s.

LoUis CYfer had to battle slightly against a distracted Christmas pub audience. But that is normal in any British pub and club. And she succeeded.

So I guess things are progressing OK.

CYfer so good.

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Juliette Burton is a lesbian SuperMum who reads erotica for blind Britons

Juliette burton is SuperMum

Juliette Burton: media crisis SuperMum

Tomorrow night sees the big-screen premiere of the short SuperMum at the Vue cinema in London’s Leicester Square – part of the Raindance Film Festival. It stars comedy performer Juliette Burton in the title role.

“Yes,” she told me yesterday. “My massive face on a massive screen. Its also going to be part of the Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival.”

“Because?” I asked.

“Because my character happens to be lesbian.”

“Now THAT is real acting,” I said. “How did you get to be a lesbian SuperMum?”

“I auditioned for the writer-director Lisa Gifford and her partner Elisar Cabrera who produced it. I went in for a proper audition where I had to read a scene and do stuff, but they just wanted to chat to me and talk about the script and what I thought about it. That was back in April.”

“So, in the script,” I said, “you are super and you are a mum.”

“Yes. SuperMum’s day job is being a superhero and I was attracted to it because it was about the conflict between two different lives: wanting to spend time with your family and wanting to devote yourself to a career you really love. And then the fact the media keep focussing on irrelevant things like Has she gained or lost a few pounds? What is she wearing? Who does her hair? Who designed her cape?

“It’s a mockumentary about the dissonance between what she is in reality as a mother and as a wife, in her lesbian partnership, and who she is as a superhero. The media see her as someone else. It was interesting because the weekend we started filming it was the weekend that the Beach Body Ready controversy kicked off.

Juliette burton - coming soon as supreme

Ready in Lycra. Who cares about being Beach Body Ready?

“I was getting all these Twitter notifications and people wanting to do interviews about the Beach Body Ready thing and I was getting trolled really badly. I was very fragile and the production crew was so supportive. It involved working with children and animals, which was fun, and involved me running around a lot wearing Lycra. It was very bizarre running around being a Lycra superhero at that time.

“I just had a birthday a few days ago, so I’ve been reflecting on the last year and it’s been quite a challenging year in lots of ways, but it’s also been quite a transforming year. Oh! That sounds really cheesy, doesn’t it? That’s so cheesy! But that whole debacle had a big effect on me.”

“You did a routine about it shortly afterwards,” I said. “At your monthly Happy Hour show.”

“Yes. That was the first time I felt like me again. If I hadn’t been performing at that time, I don’t know if I would’ve gotten stronger again.”

“And your next show is…?” I asked.

“I’m going to be doing a first work-in-progress performance of Decision Time at the Leicester Comedy Festival next February.”

“I thought,” I said, “that you were going to do Dreamcatcher as your next Edinburgh show.”

“Well,” said Juliette, “having done loads of research for it, I think Dreamcatcher’s going to take a different form. It was going to be about psychosis and the idea of sanity and whether I’m still crazy now. I do like the idea of exploring sanity, especially within comedy, because there’s no place for sanity in comedy.”

“Or in contracts,” I said. “Everybody knows there ain’t no Sanity Clause.” (Look, I like the Marx Bros; what can I say?)

Decision Time,” continued Juliette,is more relevant to what’s going on in my life right now, because I’m having to make lots of big decisions in my life and some are fun and happy and some are quite sad and difficult. So the show will be about how people make decisions. I am very indecisive and my family have been very worried about me being left behind in life because I’m not…”

“…married to a farmer?” I suggested.

“… getting a mortgage or a marriage,” Juliette continued, “or babies or ‘a proper career’…”

“… by marrying a farmer,” I suggested again. Juliette’s family is in farming.

Juliette Burton with Russian Egg Roulette medal

Juliette with her Russian Egg Roulette medal in Edinburgh

“I never met a farmer who came to a comedy club,” she told me. “Anyway, I decided I would do a show about indecision and choices. I’m workshopping it between now and early February and then, in early February, it is likely I will be doing my first work-in-progress performances of it…”

“But you haven’t decided yet?” I asked.

“… hopefully at the Leicester Comedy Festival,” continued Juliette. “But I can’t confirm that yet.”

“Last time we talked,” I said, you had been recording a Mills & Boon audiobook for the blind.”

“I’m now,” said Juliette, “recording a book called The Visitors for the RNIB – which is as scary as it sounds – and the next one I’m recording is Glitter. But the last one I recorded was Dark Obsession by Fredrica Alleyn – the dirtiest book I have ever read. Basically, someone has made a list of all the fetishes you could possibly have and has written them into a story.”

“Like Fifty Shades of Grey?” I asked.

Fifty Shades of Grey,” said Juliette, “could learn from Dark Obsession. What I realised when I was reading it was that, with all of these books, you can usually stop if it gets too sordid or a bit heated. But you can’t if you’re reading it as an audiobook for the RNIB. You have to keep going. So, when I was reading some ridiculous sentences about clitoral rings and throbbing balls and S&M and all kinds of contraptions, wearing no make-up in a tiny little room with a sound engineer in the next door room, I kept thinking it was a lot darker than I was expecting and I got bored by sex. By the end of the book, there had been so much sex that I was bored of it.”

“It’s debatable,” I said, “when you’re doing the voice for an audio book, whether you are an objective narrator or being a stand-in for the person listening to it.”

“I didn’t want to read it too seductively,” replied Juliette, “because I would have found that too uncomfortable and, as a narrator, I was a third party observer. When I’m a character seducing another character then, yes, I have to sound seductive. But, when I’m the narrator talking about these people in the third person, then I have to sound fairly detached from it. You have to be engaged but some of the scenarios being described were quite analytical. I have to say it’s the most challenging audio book I have done.”

“And?” I asked.

“And I’m doing a couple of feminism talks in October and also a couple of mental health talks in London, Sheffield and London again. And, next Tuesday in London, there’s my monthly Happy Hour.”

“You’re taking things easy, then,” I said.

SuperMum is currently online.

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Lesbians in Brighton, a 101st birthday party, but no news of any stripping

Mrs H on her 101st birthday

Mrs H celebrated at her 101st birthday party in Catford

I went to a 101st birthday party in Catford on Saturday night for ‘Mrs H’.

She was dancing at her 100th birthday, in her youth did a lot of walking and camping and now drinks a bottle of brandy every week. A lesson to us all.

Meanwhile, camping of a different type…

I keep getting mistaken for gay comedy icon Michael Topping. I think it is the eyebrows and the lack of hair atop our heads. We are not mistaken for each other. I am mistaken for Michael not vice versa. It is in the nature of fame.

When I worked at Anglia TV, someone called me ‘Peter’ for two years. I never corrected him; I felt it would have seemed churlish.

Claire Smith in Brighton yesterday

Claire Smith took a selfie in sun-kissed Brighton yesterday

Yesterday, Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards judge and Scotsman comedy reviewer Claire Smith was impressed by Ali Child and Rosie Wakley’s show All The Nice Girls at the Brighton Fringe. It is about music hall entertainers who were secretly lesbian.

Ali came out 18 months ago, after getting together with Rosie, whom she met in (of all places) Lesbos. Elsewhere, Rosie performs as Sinatra-esque  lounge singer Ronnie Rialto and, with Ali, she performs as Behind the Lines.

All The Nice Girls is based on the true story of Gwen Farrar and Norah Blaney – music hall singers of the 1920s who had an on/off relationship with each other.

There is a 1922 film clip of them on YouTube.

Claire tells me: “When Ali and Rosie started researching the show they were hoping to find some original sheet music – but hardly anything existed. Then a friend in the British Library found some very old original recordings, so they have recreated the songs from them. The lost recordings also ended up on an album.

Ali child & Rosie Wakley - All The Nice Girls

Rosie Wakley and Ali Child – All The Nice Girls in Brighton

“The songs are lovely, fresh and funny with surprisingly fruity lyrics. Ali and Rosie have done an amazing job of bringing back to life this forgotten bit of entertainment history.”

The man from the British Library was also at the show.

“Ali and Rosie make lesbianism very appealing,” Claire tells me.

Ali Child, Michael Topping and Rosie Wakley (Photograph by Claire Smith)

Rosie Wakley, Michael Topping and Ali Child yesterday (Photograph by Claire Smith)

They must do. Claire also tells me that Michael Topping too thinks the show was “delightful – very warm and intimate and funny”. So much so that he says it has inspired him to become a lesbian.

Meanwhile, I await news of a previously-mentioned strip show in Vancouver.

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Fanny & Stella: “I had wanted to write a book which was completely gay”

Last night, I had a gay old time with Chaps in Dresses.

Perhaps I am old-fashioned at heart. Like many others, I lament the change in meaning of the word ‘gay’.

But, last night, the highly esteemed Sohemian Society hosted an evening billed as Chaps in Dresses.

The evening started with the recitation of a limerick from famed Victorian porno publication The Pearl, circa 1879-1880.

There was an old person of Sark,
Who buggered a pig in the dark;
The swine, in surprise,
Murmured “God blast your eyes,
Do you take me for Boulton or Park?”

Fanny and Stella bookLast night’s Chaps in Dresses was a talk by writer Neil McKenna nimbly plugging his new book Fanny & Stella: The Young Men Who Shocked Victorian England about Boulton and Park.

The Sohemian Society meeting took place in an upstairs room at the King & Queen pub in Foley Street in what I think estate agents now call North Soho. It was a stone’s throw – or as Neil McKenna put it – “a strong ejaculation away” from 19 Cleveland Street, the site of a famous Victorian male brothel.

Fanny & Stella is a merry tale of Victorian men who liked to dress as women – Fanny and Stella were actually Frederick Park and Ernest Boulton who, according to the book’s publicity, had their “extraordinary lives as wives and daughters, actresses and whores revealed to an incredulous public” at a show trial in Westminster Hall “with a cast of peers, politicians and prostitutes, drag queens, doctors and detectives” in a “Victorian peepshow, exposing the startling underbelly of nineteenth century London.”

But I was equally interested in Neil McKenna’s tale of the problems he had getting the book published. He gave a health warning before his talk:

“When I did a talk in Kirkcudbright in Scotland,” he explained, “in a hall where the average age was about 82, they provided not one but two defibrillators. We got through without mishap but then, a couple of weeks ago at Gay’s The Word, we were doing very well when suddenly a lesbian fainted and had to be carried out. Then I did a talk at Waterstone’s Gower Street and I was just getting into my stride when a woman rather ostentatiously walked out.

“We must also spare a thought for poor Virginia Blackburn, a reviewer for the Sunday Express who read my book and said she was no prude but felt she had to skip over some passages – which begs the question What sort of ‘passages’?”

Neil McKenna believes that, until very recently, gay history has been largely written by heterosexuals who “have an agenda” but, to an extent, things have slightly improved. For example, this month is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans-Gender History Month – a title which, Neil McKenna admits, is “a little bit of a mouthful”.

“Gay history, as generally told,” Neil said last night, “is a history of criminality, repression and punishment but, actually, gay history is also the history of people who fall in love, people who go out and have sex with each other, people who create a sub-culture and who form an identity. And that’s really what I wanted to write about, although the story in the book is framed within the context of a criminal trial.”

Ernest Boulton and Frederick Park were arrested in drag outside the Strand Theatre in 1870 and put on trial in 1871.

“My publishers, Faber, were a little ‘challenged’ by the content of the book when I first delivered the manuscript,” Neil admitted last night. “They went a bit green and then a bit white and then they went a bit blue and, more or less, said This is not at all what we were expecting. I said Well, you’ve met me. What were you expecting? Hardly Patience Strong.

“So they were all a bit tense and we had quite a few tense weeks of discussions and chit-chats. My agent sort-of abandoned me and said: You’re on your own. But it was all resolved because Stephen Page, the CEO of Faber, read the book and announced that he liked it. So suddenly everyone liked it, which was rather useful.

“Instead of having a book they were rather sceptical about – I think largely because it’s an in-your-face book – they got behind it and I think it’s quite new and quite exciting for Faber to publish a rip-roaringly gay, unmediated, utterly-butterly book about gay men, drag, bottoms, fucking and cock-sucking.

“I had wanted to write a book which was going to be completely gay. I was fed up with writing stuff that had to be seen through a prism of heterosexuality. I just thought I’m going to go for it. I’m going to write a book that is totally and completely gay. I’m going to call Fanny and Stella ‘she’ because that was what they called themselves… and that was a little bit of a sticking point again at various stages of the publication process. I much preferred to call them ‘she’ and that was a battle I won.

“I wrote the book because I’d finished my book on Oscar Wilde and I was looking for another subject. I had mentioned Fanny and Stella in the Oscar Wilde book and I wondered if there was any mileage in them.

“I discovered there was a full trial transcript in the National Archive, put together with maybe 30 or 40 depositions and maybe 30 or 40 letters. It’s remarkable, because most Victorian trials don’t survive. Sometimes there’s a shorthand account of a trial or part of a trial but, usually, we’ve only got fragments. I think that’s because the Public Record Office was bombed in the War and lots of stuff was destroyed. But also lots of stuff was never kept. It was never considered important to keep. So I’m very grateful to the the succession of people at the National Archive who thought this was – maybe – important to keep.

“That was my first step… and then I found curious things like a ledger of Treasury payments to some of the witnesses in the trial and to some of the policemen in the trial. It was strange, because normally the Treasury shouldn’t be paying witnesses, even in 1870. So why were there payments to some of the witnesses? That started little alarm bells going off in my head. And, as I probed and probed, I discovered that there was… well, Fanny and Stella were accused of conspiracy to induce and incite men to have sodomitic sex with them.

“But there was also a parallel conspiracy… the police, probably the Home Secretary, certainly the Attorney General and perhaps Sir Richard Mayne, the Chief of the Metropolitan Police had all conspired to create a show trial, to make an example of two young cross-dressers.

“I discovered Fanny and Stella had been followed for a year. They had been under surveillance for a year. In the MePo files – the Metropolitan Police files – in the National Archive, there are also surveillance reports not of Fanny and Stella but of various other people who were considered a threat to the State. So we know in the late 1860s, 1870s, Britain was becoming a little bit of a police state, because lots of people were being surveilled.

“But why were Fanny and Stella such a threat? What was the problem with two very silly young men? They’re not intellectuals, they love to dress up, they love to perform, they love the theatre and when they weren’t in the theatre, they were on the streets selling their bottoms to raise a bit of cash to buy frocks so they could perform. They were very silly boys. They were not a threat. They were not terrorists. They were not Fenians. So why bother?

“The death penalty for buggery was only abolished in 1862, eight years before the arrest of Fanny and Stella. I think it has something to do with sexual identity.”

But, even so, why the big hoo-hah, the conspiracy and the trial in Westminster Hall? And why did the jury find them innocent after deliberating for only 53 minutes?

“You’ll have to read my book,” Neil McKenna said last night.

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What the c*** word meant when the Daily Mail reported a comedy court case

Guy Earle: a scary homophobic monster?

Yesterday afternoon, comedian Guy Earle contacted me from Canada to correct my blog of yesterday morning.

My blog had been about a case in which Guy was accused of  making comments during a comedy show in which he was said to have attacked an audience member’s “identity and dignity as a woman and a lesbian”. His defence was: “I don’t hate anyone based on their sexual orientation… But I do hate hecklers, and sometimes I get a little vehement.”

Yesterday, he told me: “I have been misquoted more than Churchill.

“You put in your blog that I said to her: You’re fat and ugly. You’re not even lesbian. No guy will fuck ya! That’s why you’re with each other. Somebody put a cunt in her mouth and shut her the fuck up. Which one of you wears the strap-on dildo? Because silicone cunt crazy is still cunt crazy in my book.”

I told him I had picked up this quote from a 2011 article in the Daily Mail which used asterisks for the four-letter words.

“C***” is ‘cock’ not ‘cunt’,” he explained. “I actually NEVER called them the C word – Quoted that I did, it makes me real unlovable by about 51% of the world’s population.

“I did use the C word once, however, on stage that night. It was when (some of) the dumbass Vancouver amateur comics groaned when I stuffed it to the hecklers…

“I was like: Oh, you cunts, shut the fuck up!… Do you even know what stand-up is? I provide a stage for you and you groan at me when I’m dealing with an unruly heckler when you should be going over to their table and asking them to shut the fuck up or get the fuck out? WTF!!!”

He told me the exchange with audience member Lorna Pardy who, he says was heckling him, actually went like this:

Lorna PardyHey Asshole, you’re not funny!

Guy Earle – Oh? I’m not funny?… Well, guess what? You’re not a lesbian, you’re just fat and ugly and nobody will fuck you… Somebody put a cock in her mouth and shut her the fuck up… and – while we’re on the subject – I’ve actually never had the opportunity to use these jokes – but since I got ya in front of me, can you answer the question: ‘When you’re both on the rag – how do you choose which one gets to go on the fishing trip?’

Lorna Pardy – ‘Blah blah blah’ wish your mother aborted you, etc.

Guy Earle – You say you’re lesbian but you still wear a strap-on, right? Which one of you wears the strap-on? ‘Cause silicone cock-crazy is still cock crazy, in my books…

Lorna Pardy – ‘Blah blah blah’ I’d like to break this beer bottle and jam it in his neck, etc…

“I mean,” he told me in an e-mail yesterday, “you have to at least get my jokes right. You see, all the quotes (as included in yesterday’s blog) – when you look at them – don’t even make sense as JOKES.

“I HATE defending myself and correcting my quotes.

“In the freedom of speech/rights perspective – I should NEVER have to defend myself and I abhor it BUT when people are misquoting my JOKES it is a double-edged sword in the side.

“People misquote me to make me the monster – I am the fricking victim here.

“I’ve been five years without work, can’t get a gig as a liability, can’t get my book published due to ‘perceived homophobic undertones’, lost my will to stand up, lost my future (temporarily – as a film maker) and await sweet vindication for a ‘crime’ I didn’t commit – all because some half-drunk asshole in dyke’s clothing tried to make a cash-grab. The biggest joke of all is: I don’t have a pot to spit in.”

“Maybe the best way to look on it,” I suggested, “is that all publicity is added profile for you.”

“The publicity has been unfavourable,” he told me, “and I have been repeatedly used in the media for some political mandates that have no bearing on the actual issue. For example, there was big media on me the week before they elected Steven Harper – big conservative – right wing – down with the Human Rights Code kinda politics.

“Then I was dropped like hot shit when I started focusing on the problems with the country. The country remains ignorant and I remain notorious, at best, but perceived as some homophobic hack – which, again, isn’t surprising given what people write about me.

“So, ironically, I become famous but as a pariah. Publicity CAN be bad – Don’t let the cliché fool ya.”

I told Guy I would probably blog about his responses today.

“Do you have a recent, non-copyright photo of yourself?” I asked .

Guy got a Golden Shaft Award + a large cheque

“I don’t really have too much recent stuff,” he replied. “But I like the short hair ones where I’m all slicked-back hair. Go ahead and use that – It makes me look like the scary homophobic monster (and mysterious). Or how about me dressed up as Jesus on my MySpace page? No? How about me surrounded by naked painted chicks during my winning of the Golden Shaft award? I can’t write this shit – It’s my fucked-up life!”

Guy was born in Guildford, England, though he now lives in Canada. He told me yesterday:

“I hope, someday, to come to the UK to do comedy. Actually, it’s a childhood dream. I have this notion that I would be welcomed by ‘my people’ and this romantic idea that the UK is where I was ‘meant’ to ‘make it’. Where are you from?”

“Scotland,” I replied. “Campbeltown and Aberdeen, but then Ilford in Essex and now Borehamwood in Hertfordshire.”

“North Americans are so bloody sensitive to sarcasm, it’s ridiculous,” he told me. “Something that I love about the Scottish – Their attitude is of blunt-honesty and, if you step out of line, you get snarked… People here don’t always get that – they’re too fucking serious all the time and taking themselves too seriously.

“My mom taught me to poke fun at things starting with MYSELF – after that, everybody else is fair game.”

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Canadian comedy chaos. Loud lesbian heckler? Or irate picked-upon punter?

Canadian comedian Guy Earle just hates hecklers… quite a lot

This may be the 21st century, but news can still travel slowly from the American Colonies to Britain.

The So It Goes blog’s Vancouver-based correspondent Anna Smith has drawn my attention to something which started back in 2007.

It happened when English-born comedian Guy Earle was hosting an Open Mic comedy evening at Zesty’s club in a restaurant in Vancouver. He felt that a lady called Lorna Pardy and a group of friends were disrupting his show. He responded, according to Canada’s gay and lesbian news magazine Xtra!, “by letting loose with what he no doubt considered to be some clever putdowns on the topic of their apparent lesbianism.”

And ended up in court.

Lorna Pardy said she was in the process of placing a drinks order with two waitresses when her girlfriend kissed her on the cheek and that Earle then said: “Don’t mind the inconsiderate dyke table that just walked in.”

She claimed she did not know a comedy show was going on and denied Earle’s claim that the table was heckling him, saying: “It’s just not the way I conduct myself in public”.

According to Earle’s version of events: “These two lovely guests came in from the patio and sat right in front of the stage and started making out, like tongue and tonsil wrestling. I didn’t care if it was two guys, two girls, a horse and buggy, you know? Whatever. I don’t hate anyone based on their sexual orientation or whatever. But I do hate hecklers, and sometimes I get a little vehement.”

He claimed the women ignored his “request” to be quiet and told him Fuck you asshole! and Shut up! He said they insinuated he had singled them out for being lesbians: “So then I broke into it. I said You’re fat and ugly. You’re not even lesbian. No guy will fuck ya! That’s why you’re with each other. Somebody put a cunt in her mouth and shut her the fuck up. Which one of you wears the strap-on dildo? Because silicone cunt crazy is still cunt crazy in my book.”

He said people then started booing him and walking out. When he walked by Ms Pardy’s table and stopped to look at her, she threw a glass of water in his face.

Another comic then performed on stage after which, as MC, Earle went back to the microphone and briefly closed the evening. Lorna Pardy’s version is that, when he returned to the stage, he “continued to mock and humiliate” her.

Earle – clearly not a wise man at this point – says he then walked by Ms Pardy’s table again, at which point she allegedly threw more water at him. He reportedly claimed she “got up and faced him, puffing her chest out.”

‘I lost it for two seconds,” Earle admitted afterwards. “This is the part that I publicly apologize for.”

He snatched her sunglasses off her head and broke them in half, he admitted, “like a little baby dumb.”

In court, Lorna Pardy’s lawyer’s version of this was: “When Ms Pardy later went to the washroom to compose herself, Mr. Earle cornered her on her return, continuing to physically intimidate and verbally abuse her. He grabbed and broke her sunglasses, and dropped them to the floor at her feet.”

Ms Pardy works as an airport weather technician and said she had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress as a result of the evening. She complained to British Columbia’s Human Rights Tribunal. Her lawyers invoked Section 8 of British Columbia’s Human Rights Code, which forbids anyone to “discriminate against a person or class of persons regarding any accommodation, service or facility customarily available to the public.”

Earle was quoted as saying: “They pissed me off so I said some rude things. Does that mean I should go to court? If you’re an asshole, should you be arrested?”

He could not afford the airfare to attend the court and the presiding judge ruled he could not participate by any electronic means. Earle’s lawyer sought a Supreme Court ruling that the tribunal had no authority to rule on the case and the Supreme Court directed that the tribunal should not proceed “until the jurisdictional issue had been resolved”. But the tribunal went ahead anyway.

In May 2011, it ruled in favour of Lorna Pardy, awarded her $15,000 to be paid by Earle for “injury to dignity, feelings and self-respect” and $7,500 to be paid by Zesty’s club owner Salam Ishmail. It also reportedly banned Earle from performing in British Columbia.

Tribunal member Murray Geiger-Adams said Earle repeated vulgar language in public and attacked Pardy’s “identity and dignity as a woman and a lesbian”. Earle’s lawyer argued that his client’s speech should be protected under “freedom of expression”.

The court ruling was:

“Mr Earle submitted that it was his job to engage disruptive patrons to quiet them. However, the Tribunal found no evidence of any rational connection between this and attacking a patron’s sex or sexual orientation on or off the stage… There were measures available to accomplish the purpose of ending any disruption of the show well short of attacking Ms Pardy’s sex and sexual orientation.

“None of the witnesses testified that Mr. Earle was telling ‘jokes’ and there was no evidence that he was using comedy to expose the stereotypes of others.

‘The discrimination had a significant physical and psychological effect on Ms Pardy, which was supported by unchallenged medical evidence. This was aggravated and prolonged by public statements made by Mr. Earle about her, which falsely portrayed her as a drunken heckler and instigator.”

Guy Earle’s reaction was: “I’m shaking over here… What a bloody joke. $15,000 for being misquoted and I NEVER thought I would have to correct/defend my words in a free country!”

In July this year, Earle’s lawyer brought the case back to British Columbia’s Supreme Court for “judicial review” on the basis (among other things) that Earle had been accused of breaking Section 8 of the Human Rights Code, which forbids anyone to “discriminate against a person or class of persons regarding any accommodation, service or facility customarily available to the public,” but that a comedian’s performance is not the “provision of a service” but an artistic expression.

There has been no decision yet.

(Guy Earle contacted me and corrected some mis-quotes in this blog HERE.)

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