Québécois comedian Mike Ward has taken some heel turns that I can’t condone, but none of what an artist says should be punishable by the government. His case for performing jokes (reiterating: jokes) about a differently abled kid was just made before the Supreme Court of Canada.
I truly feel like it’s fair if the vilest joke one can make results in losing fans, friends, sponsorships, jobs, etc, but it CANNOT get you fined or imprisoned. I’m an absolutist on that. A lot of people feel like that standpoint is gauche or even alt-right, but freedom of expression is not the same as freedom from consequence – the latter of which must exclude consequences from the law or government. Sure, Mike Ward picks on a differently abled kid; maybe he doesn’t get to do any KFC ads. Maybe people won’t buy a ticket to his next show. But the utter daftness of thinking that Mike Ward wants to harm, or see harm come to that kid is astounding. That kind of daftness has to be intentional. Some people must be so horny for daftness that they avert their eyes from one simple truth: upholding freedom of expression when it comes to jokes of bad taste is just as meaningful to your wack little simpleton musings that bore everyone including yourself:
“Maybe WE should build a wall to keep TRUMP out!” -You, who should quit comedy
“People are afraid of what’s in the vaccine but they eat Cheese Whiz and Pop Tarts!” -You again, not being sued by me for ‘grand theft of everyone’s time’
It is sad that people who saw Mike Ward’s bit harassed the kid, but Mike Ward isn’t responsible for the actions of every twit animal who grossly manufactures a call to action over it (why aren’t THEY dangled in front of the Supreme Court like a morsel of sardine for the self-righteous gullets of “justice”, huh?). This is a comedian – not a politician. This isn’t like Trump and the insurrection. It’s art. And you simply can’t/mustn’t contain art because it’s all held together by this keystone that is freedom of expression.
Here are some jokes about differently abled children. Sue me.
DEAF DANNY & THE DIFFERENTLY ABLED:
I and other comedians were quoted on a Vice piece a few years ago about Mike Ward’s Human Rights Tribunal case and I said the following:
“We have a history of rare physical conditions in our family. I have vitiligo and my brother has gigantism in his left side. When kids would harass us about the way we looked and try to make our lives shit, we stuck up for each other, along with our friends and family. We were taught by our parents that the world can be volatile and taught how to handle it with love, wit, strength and self esteem. My brother turned out to be a strong, capable man who has meaningful relationships with wonderful people; he sticks up for himself more than anyone I know, and defends the underdog with the same passion. We need people like my brother – we don’t need “feelings court.”
What really cracks me up is the way this bit has been distorted by the Anglophone media. A lot of what’s being written paints the bit out as this ruthless, continued attack on Le Petit Jérémy—but Mike only takes like 14 seconds at the end of a 2.5-minute bit to say he tried to drown the kid without success and that he’s ugly. I know that sounds callous, but it was the comedic equivalent of tearing off a band-aid after a long rant. Sometimes a lot of the value of a joke is just in the audacity it takes to say it. The wit might not be there, but some comedians are satisfied with gasps as much as laughs. That’s the risk you take in playing that card—you alienate people. But comedy isn’t about walking on steady ground all the time. It’s about stepping on the cracks and digging your toes in the earth and seeing what kinda bugs, tubers, shit and gold are in there. It’s fine if that’s not your brand, but there’s all sorts of comedy for everybody out there. You know? Some people play a harp and some people bang on a bucket with a filthy doll’s head.
Some of the critics of Mike’s bit call it “bullying,” but to me the bullies are the parents of Le Petit Jérémy. It’s such a transparent cash grab on his parents’ part. On top of the fine to Mike, ten thousand dollars for “moral” damages? You know how rich I’d be if I sued everybody who damaged my morals? I’d be living on some crazy-ass party plane that never lands and gets perpetually refilled mid-air. “Moral Damage?” The Miami Dolphins damage my morals every year. I still wear the jersey.
Some comics might not be on Mike’s side here, but I know that if they were somehow to get caught in a mess like this over some bullshit they were just trying to get a laugh with, Mike would be the first to rush to their defense. Maybe a few more of these cases need to swing this way so we can get some traction on restructuring the language of these laws, which clearly needs to happen. ‘Cause Personally, I’d never make fun of some kid with goblin-face disease, but I think I should be allowed to.”