Quebec comedian Mike Ward is fighting for humour, stand-up comics and free speech.
The 45-year-old comic was in Quebec’s Court of Appeal on Wednesday as the comedian challenged a judgment ordering him to pay $42,000 in damages after ridiculing a young man in a series of stand-up routines from 2010 to 2013.
In 2016, the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal found that Ward repeatedly made discriminatory comments about Jeremy Gabriel, a Quebecer who has a congenital disorder that causes skull and facial deformities.
Gabriel, now 22, became well-known in the province because of his singing ability who performed in front of the Pope and Celine Dion at a young age.
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Ward created a comedy routine about Gabriel, wondering how he was still alive, supposedly not realizing that Gabriel suffers from a life-threatening condition.
Quebec’s Tribunal ordered Ward to pay $35,000 to Gabriel and $7,000 to Gabriel’s mother in moral and punitive damages.
“Crazy listening to the Commission try to dissect a joke I wrote 10 years ago. It was a joke people. A tasteless joke yes, but a joke none the less,” says Ward in a statement posted to his social media channels on Wednesday. “Suing me because of a joke I did in a theatrical performance is like giving Vin Diesel a ticket because he was speeding in The Fast & The Furious. It’s fucking stupid.”
Ward continues to argue that he’s “not a bad person” and that he’s done a lot for people of the disabled community. The comic claims that there are bad people out there, some of whom used to work for the Quebec Human Rights Commission.
“Those are some bad people, not me. I’m just a dude living his dream. Telling tasteless jokes, one at a time. Comedy is not a crime,” before concluding, “I like humour, I like comedians, that’s why I fight.”
The three-judge panel is now deliberating Ward’s appealing and will hand down a ruling in the coming months.