Mike Ward, a Canadian comic known for his ‘edgy’ style, went on national TV some months ago and, little knowing the Pandora’s Box of litigious horror that he would open, did a bit of material about a boy with a disfiguring disease.
The young man in question had become famous when he sang for the Pope. Ward became the first thing about fame the young man and his family didn’t like. And they demonstrated their dislike of Ward’s joke by taking him to the Canadian Court of Human Rights, where he faces a fine of $60,000 and a ban from performing in Canada. “Some people just don’t get comedy,” says Ward, philosophically.
To be fair, Ward is no oil painting himself and perhaps he has more in common with his alleged victim than people are giving him credit for. He takes my criticism on the not particularly well-defined chin
“I’m handsome in a Down’s syndrome way,” he says. “Black people can do black jokes, gay people can do gay jokes, I should be allowed to make fun of the ugly.”
Ward has never met the person who could destroy his career. “Just in court,” he says, “he was there with his family. Weird having your joke played in court while a bunch of people are crying. Definitely living the dream.”
But the Court and The Professionally Offended aside, the general reaction has been positive “It’s been amazing,” Ward says. “I’ve gotten a lot of love. I’ve gotten so much positive press, Social Justice Warriors don’t realise that by trying to shut me down they made me famous.” And now he is the poster boy (albeit not a very pretty one) for free speech.
“I’m just glad I had the money to defend myself in court. If this happened to a struggling comic he would be soooooo f****d.”
Does anything offend him? “There are tons of things that I find offensive,” he says, “but if something you say offends me, that’s my problem not yours. I should just leave or change channels.
Contemplating his future, Ward says, “I can’t lose. If I do, I’m screwed. I’m gonna have to leave Canada. I’m gonna have to find someone in the UK willing to marry a chubby (semi-lesbian looking) comedian so I can get my citizenship.”
I ask if there is any part of him (bank balance aside), that regrets the gag. “No,” he says, “because it was a joke. I wrote it to make people laugh and it did. I’m a good comic.” So, does he have anything offensive lined up for Edinburgh, what with the short fat ginger population being a readymade target? “I love having short fat people around me. As far as looks go, I’m a 6… but I might be an Edinburgh 7.”
Words: Kate Copstick
Picture: George Fok
Mike Ward: Freedom of Speech Isn’t Free Gilded Balloon Teviot, 3-28 August (not 25), 8.45pm