I hadn’t been to a comedy show in a long time, not since Jerry Seinfeld came to town a few years ago. And I don’t even know if that counts as going to a real stand-up comedy show.
I like stand-up comedy. It’s been one of those art forms I’ve always appreciated. It takes courage to get up on a stage and tell jokes that you’ve written, often personal, hopefully funny.
I like it because it’s the kind of art that straddles the line of human decency – many of the things that we fear most, once made funny, often become digestible and easier to acknowledge. Of course, there is a difference between human decency and human dignity. In my view, a good comedian is able to cut through the mirage of human decency without losing focus on human dignity.
So when I pulled up a chair at the new Rhapsody Barrel Bar and had a draw of my first Maker’s Mark since my surgery a year and a half ago, I wasn’t expecting the first joke from the first comic to not only come up to the line of human decency, but in a flair of out outdated ‘90’s comeuppance, blow right past it.
I’ll lay it out for you in pretty simple language. At no point is any joke that ends with the epithet “That’s gay!” as the punchline an appropriate joke.
I don’t care if you’re talking about childhood memories of awkward kids wearing rollerblades, it is never appropriate for the punch line of a joke to end with those words.
I let my waitress know that I would be leaving because of the inappropriate joke. She was visibly upset and asked if I wanted to speak to the Blackball Comedy show director. After paying, he came up beside me and asked what was going on. After I calmly explained that gay jokes aren’t acceptable, he shrugged and looked at me and said “There was a gay joke?” as if I was crazy. After repeating the gist of the joke, he shrugged once more and said “uh, okay” before turning away.
Just over a month ago, a lone gunman walked into an Orlando nightclub and shot 49 people on account of their sexual orientation. Many progressive but privileged straight people, people like me and many of my friends, like to think that homophobia has disappeared in Canada, that an episode like Miami couldn’t possibly happen here. Not only do we not have the guns, we might say, but clearly our governments and institutions have embraced equality, regardless of sexual orientation.
The worst part about the joke?
Everyone else laughed.
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