Tag Archives: slander

Worldwide comments on Louise Reay’s husband’s self-destructive court case.

Controversial Edinburgh Fringe show

If you want to complain about something included in a comedy show you have not seen, my advice is do not sue the comic. Whatever the rights or wrongs of the case, it will not make you look good and the media will love it.

Last Friday, I blogged about Louise Reay starting a crowdfunding appeal to cover court costs because her estranged husband is suing her for mentioning him in an Edinburgh Fringe comedy show Hard Mode last year.

As far as I am aware, he has never actually seen the show, which was about political totalitarianism and what would happen if the Chinese government took over the BBC.

I saw a preview of Hard Mode before the Fringe in which Louise mentioned how sad she was about her marriage breaking up. Without details.

I never saw the show in Edinburgh. Apparently her husband objected to some comments he was told she had made in a handful of shows and she removed the comments. Now, six months later, he is suing her.

Drawing attention to something only a few people heard by going into a public court and attracting inevitable media publicity is staggeringly counterproductive. As I mentioned in my blog yesterday, it triggers the Streisand Effect. I showed how the story had spread, virus-like – basically Husband Sues Comedian Wife for Talking About Him on Stage – and, since yesterday, it has spread further with people now commenting on it worldwide. The latest new references to it which I spotted on a cursory Google this morning are listed below at the bottom of this blog.

Eraserhead – Louise’s new show had to be written in 48 hours

In Australia, The Advertiser noted that the complained-of show “last year won an Adelaide Fringe Best Emerging Artist Weekly Award”. This year (Louise is currently performing in Adelaide), The Advertiser notes she was forced to write a new show Eraserhead in just 48 hours. It is “about the experience of censorship and the way it makes you feel like your identity is being erased”.

Louise is quoted as saying: “he’s suing me, which in my opinion is simply an attempt to silence me. As standup comedians, I believe it’s the very definition of our job to talk about our lives and social issues.”

Canada’s National Post wisely got in touch with Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award judge Claire Smith, who actually saw and reviewed the complained-about show in Edinburgh for The Scotsman last year.

She said that the show was about freedom of speech and political oppression. At one brief point in the show, she told the National Post yesterday: “My memory of it is that (Louise) said that she’d realized that she’d also been in an oppressive relationship. But it was so minor — there was very, very little detail… I’ve seen lots of shows where people talk about relationships where they’ve gone into a lot of detail about their relationships, their marriage. Mostly what she was doing was making a political point. It seems extraordinary that he has taken this view of it.”

The Malaysian Digest quoted Mark Stephens, a libel lawyer at Howard Kennedy in London, who told the UK’s Guardian:

“There’s a long history of British juries – before they were abolished [in defamation cases] – not finding in favour of claimants when it’s a joke… This will be the first time [the issue comes] before a judge. It’s going to be a test of whether the British judiciary understands a joke – I mean that seriously. It’s a test case for the judge to see whether they will follow the same route as juries used to take, which was to throw libel cases which were based on humour out on their ear. Judges have traditionally had something of a humourless side.”

The Malaysian Digest continues: “Drawing from personal experience has been key to vast numbers of comedians’ work. Last year’s Fringe, even, featured separate shows by ex-couple Sarah Pascoe and John Robins in which they discussed their break up, the latter winning the Edinburgh Comedy Award for Best Show, shared with Hannah Gadsby. Sarah Millican won the if.comedy award for Best Newcomer in 2008 for her show Sarah Millican’s Not Nice, inspired by her own divorce.

“It was a show about censorship and authoritarianism…”

“(Louise Reay’s) solicitors have also issued a statement on the case, reading: Louise started to write her Hard Mode show when she was still with her husband. It was a show about censorship and authoritarianism, asking the audience to imagine that the BBC had come into the control of the Chinese Government. It was in no way a show about her husband. While performing the show after their separation, Louise mentioned her husband a couple of times but this was in the context of telling the audience how sad she was that they had recently separated.

“At certain performances of the show, she cried at this point. While she used Mr. Reay’s image of a couple of times, she invited the audience to admire how good-looking he was and expressed sadness that the marriage had come to an end. She used an image and some footage from their wedding that she had been using in her shows for years without any objection from Mr. Reay.

Mr. Reay had claimed that there are sections of the show which will have been understood by the audience to mean that he was abusive to Louise. Louise’s position is that the key sections that he claimed are defamatory of him were not intended to be understood by the audience to refer to him. During the most of these sections, Louise was playing various different characters, including a newsreader and Jeremy Clarkson. Should this case go to trial, there will undoubtedly be debate over the meaning of the words complained about and whether they can truly be said to refer to Mr. Reay.

Claire Smith’s review of the show in The Scotsman last year, by the way, said it was: “an absurdist show about totalitarianism which intentionally makes its audience feel uncomfortable. We are hustled to our feet, given identity papers and surrounded by masked guards who are watching our behaviour. In the past Reay, who is fluent in Chinese, has been sponsored by the Chinese government to create absurdist mime shows in Chinese. It is safe to say Reay and the Chinese government are getting a divorce – particularly as she has worked on this show with dissident artist Ai Weiwei. It’s a bold experimental comedy.”

In fact, the Chinese, as far as I am aware at the time of writing, have not yet threatened to sue Louise.

Louise’s TV documentary work covers difficult subjects

Incidentally, Louise’s TV documentary credits include BBC1 Panorama, Channel 4’s Dispatches, BBC2’s study of income inequality The Super Rich & Us, Channel 4’s series on immigration Why Don’t You Speak English?,  BBC2’s series on education Chinese School: Are Our Kids Tough Enough?, BBC4’s History of India: Treasures of the Indus and Channel 4’s History of China: Triumph & Turmoil.

I don’t think the current court case could easily be the subject of some future TV documentary. More a TV sitcom.

Louise Reay’s crowdfunding page is HERE.

The latest batch of media reports are:

THE ADVERTISER (AUSTRALIA)

BBC NEWS, SCOTLAND

DAILY EXPRESS

DAILY RECORD (SCOTLAND)

(LONDON) EVENING STANDARD

GIZMODO

THE i

LINDA NIEUWS (HOLLAND)

MALAYSIAN DIGEST

MANDY NEWS online

NATIONAL POST (CANADA)

NEW YORK POST

THE SCOTSMAN

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Comic Louise Reay, her husband suing her and the destructiveness of publicity

Friday’s blog

On Friday, I blogged a story about comic performer Louise Reay crowdfunding to cover her legal fees because her estranged husband is suing her as a result of her saying, he claims, something derogatory about him in her Edinburgh Fringe show back in August.

She had removed the reference after he complained so why he has decided to sue her now – in February – is beyond me.

But, leaving aside the rights and wrongs of the case – I have no idea what his complaint is and the preview show I saw in advance of Edinburgh was not derogatory about him – there is the Streisand Effect to take into consideration here.

I mentioned this is my blog last Friday.

I can do no better than to quote the current Wikipedia entry – if it’s in Wikipedia, it must be true…

“The Streisand Effect is the phenomenon whereby an attempt to hide, remove, or censor a piece of information has the unintended consequence of publicizing the information more widely, usually facilitated by the Internet. It is an example of psychological reactance, wherein once people are aware that some information is being kept from them, their motivation to access and spread it is increased.

The complained-of photo of the Barbra Streisand mansion (Photo Copyright (C) 2002 Kenneth & Gabrielle Adelman, California Coastal Records Project)

It dates back to 2003, when Barbra Streisand sued a photographer for violation of privacy by making an aerial photograph of her mansion publicly available amid a collection of 12,000 California coastline photographs which aimed to draw attention to coastal erosion.

The photograph she complained about had only, one presumes, ever been seen by coastline erosion enthusiasts and had only ever been downloaded six times (two of those were by Streisand’s attorneys). As a result of the legal action, more than 420,000 people visited the site over the following month.  (The lawsuit was dismissed and Streisand was ordered to pay the photographer’s legal fees, which amounted to $155,567.)

Last Friday, I blogged about Louise Reay being sued by her estranged husband over an Edinburgh show which, let’s face it – Louise is good, but – only a small number of people had ever seen.

On Saturday, the Chortle comedy website picked up the story.

On Monday, the Guardian newspaper was reporting it.

On Tuesday morning, it was on Channel 5.

By Tuesday teatime, it was on the BBC World Service.

By this morning – Wednesday – on a very superficial search (excluding blogs and social media mentions) these outlets (listed alphabetically) had reported the story:

BBC WORLD SERVICE
“BBC OS” at 16’00”-20’00” on
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w172vrbbtvrl739

CHANNEL 5
“The Wright Stuff” at 54’24”-55’55” on
https://www.my5.tv/the-wright-stuff/season-2018/episode-32

CHORTLE COMEDY INDUSTRY WEBSITE

CRAVE

(GLASGOW) EVENING TIMES

GUARDIAN

(GLASGOW) HERALD

THE INDEPENDENT

METRO

DAILY MIRROR

NATIONAL POST

THE SUN

THE TIMES

THE WEEK

Louise – the allegedly offensive show

Louise Reay’s husband is apparently suing her because he says she said things about him which will make people think less of him.

Apparently Louise Reay’s estranged husband is suing her for £30,000.

It seems to me that, if he is claiming damage to his reputation, then (if true) £29,999.50p of that damage would have been caused by he himself and 50p by anything a few people heard in less than a handful of shows in Edinburgh back in August 2017.

Do people take what comedians say in comedy shows seriously?

As Terry Christian said yesterday on The Wright Stuff on Channel 5: “Imagine how much money Les Dawson’s mother-in-law would have got.”

Someone on Facebook commented about Louise’s un-named husband: “He’s trying to tell the world he’s not a cunt by being an utter cunt.”

Louise Reay’s crowdfunding page to cover her legal costs

Note that that comment (with which, of course, I do not associate myself) is referring not to the perception of the estranged husband raised by Louise’s Edinburgh Fringe show but by the perception raised by the estranged husband’s legal action.

If it is possible under English law, I think Louise’s estranged husband would have a very strong case for suing himself for self-defamation of his own character.

Now THAT is an Edinburgh Fringe show I would pay to see.

MORE ON THIS STORY HERE

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Why it is impossible to libel the Edinburgh Fringe

Last March, I wrote a So It Goes blog here headed:

ANSWERS TO NINE COMMON QUESTIONS ASKED BY INNOCENT FIRST-TIME PERFORMERS AT THE EDINBURGH FRINGE

As it is again that time of year when performers – especially comics – start thinking about arranging shows at the Edinburgh Fringe, last week I sent the same piece (with figures updated) to the UK edition of the Huffington Post, which occasionally prints pieces by me and which did not exist until summer last year.

Lazy of me, I know, but the advice is still relevant and, I think, helpful and true.

Imagine my bemusement when my piece appeared under the headline:

ANSWERS TO SEVEN COMMON QUESTIONS ASKED BY INNOCENT FIRST-TIME PERFORMERS AT THE EDINBURGH FRINGE

“Mmmm… That’s interesting,” I thought. “I wonder why they have cut two out?”

It did not matter particularly, but it bemused me.

The missing questions and answers were:

____________________

4. DOES MY VENUE’S STAFF KNOW WHAT THEY ARE DOING?

No. Trust me. No.

Most only arrived a week ago, some are Australian and the ones who are not have little experience of anything outside their friends’ kitchens. They probably had no sleep last night and are certainly only at the Fringe to drink, take drugs and, with luck, get laid by well-proportioned members of the opposite sex. Or, in some cases, the same sex.

Trust me. With help and advice, they could organise a piss-up at the Fringe but not in a brewery.

7. IT’S MY FIRST EDINBURGH. WILL I GET FINANCIALLY SCREWED BY UNSCRUPULOUS PEOPLE?

Yes.

____________________

I have not asked the Huffington Post why they chopped these two questions and answers out. It would seem churlish. And I suspect it may prove counter-productive to even mention it here. But I reckon it’s worth a blog.

I suspect it might have been an attempt to avoid a potential libel problem misunderstood by a Huffington Post sub-editor who thought that there is a single venue-organising company which, I claimed, is incompetent.

I did not because there is not.

There is a common misunderstanding by people who have never performed there that the Edinburgh Fringe is actually organised. It is not.

It is an open festival. You, I or Fred Bloggs and his performing caterpillars can perform there under the banner of the “Edinburgh Fringe” if we feel like it. There is no quality or quantity control.

“The Edinburgh Fringe” is what people call it and there an Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society which plays a central role. But, basically, they print the Programme for the event and publicise the event in general. They do not organise the shows or the venues in any way.

If you pay to have your show listed with 40 words in the Fringe’s printed Programme and 100 words online, then (provided there is nothing illegal in the wording) details of the show and its performances will appear and you are performing “in the Fringe”. And there is a central box office system, although many venues also run their own box offices.

The Fringe Office will advise and help to an extent, but you are on your own as a performer. You have to find a venue, probably pay for the venue, arrange posters, flyers, publicity and all the rest yourself.

That is one of the joys of the Edinburgh Fringe.

No central body actually ‘organises’ it in any way.

Last year, the Fringe had 21,192 performers appearing in 2,542 shows (41,689 performances) at 258 venues with 855 registered journalists reviewing/reporting on them, 974 ‘arts industry professionals’ (TV scouts, agents, producers, bookers etc) and an estimated 1,877,119 people attended Fringe shows during the three-and-a-bit weeks of the festival. The non-profit-taking Fringe Society itself had an income of £3,161,601 last year to organise the generalities. Someone somehow calculated that, in 2010, the Fringe event pumped £142 million into Edinburgh’s economy.

But it is anarchy.

In the best sense of the word.

The Edinburgh Fringe is full of opportunities, dreams, nightmares, testosterone, adrenaline, drink, drugs, out-of-control egos, showbiz shysters and con men (and women). It is full of people out to make their reputations, to make a buck out of performers and to shaft each other in all meanings of the phrase. To repeat one of my answers which the Huffington Post cut out… and it ain’t libel, it’s life… it’s a fact, indeed a racing certainty…

____________________

7. IT’S MY FIRST EDINBURGH. WILL I GET FINANCIALLY SCREWED BY UNSCRUPULOUS PEOPLE?

Yes.

____________________

And to repeat one of my answers which they did run:

7. SHOULD I GO BACK FOR A SECOND AND THIRD YEAR?

Yes.

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Filed under Comedy, Edinburgh, Newspapers, PR, Theatre

No joke: a secret list of people you cannot joke about on ITV in the UK

A scriptwriter for a very well-known comedian told me this week that one of his jokes was recently rejected for inclusion in an ITV programme not because it was not good enough, not because the producer did not like it, but because it was a joke about a celebrity (a rock star, as it happens) who is on an ITV list of people who are considered too litigious to make jokes about.

Whether this is true or not, I cannot guarantee. But the producer showed the list to the scriptwriter.

“I am not even supposed to tell you it exists, let alone show it to you,” the producer said.

No joke.

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