A stand-up act gone wrong in Vancouver has cost a moonlighting comedian $15,000 over the violation of human rights.
Guy Earle, who became the subject of a B.C. Human Rights Tribunal complaint four years ago, was ordered Wednesday to pay Lorna Pardy for injury to dignity, feelings and self-respect.
The proprietor of Zesty Restaurant, now known as Zawa, was also ordered to pay $7,500 for playing host to the incident.
The case earned national media attention over the last few years, partly due to its coincidence with human rights commission cases that involved journalists Ezra Levant and Mark Steyn, both of which were later dismissed.
But the dispute that involved Earle was seen as more personal.
A group of three women were informed by Zesty's staff on May 22, 2007 they couldn't drink on the Commercial Drive restaurant patio after 11 p.m., so they were moved to a table inside the restaurant where the full-time physicist voluntarily hosted an open-mike night.
After a few heckles were reportedly hurled from where the women were sitting, Earle retailiated from the stage, which was responded to with a display of smooching between Pardy and her then-girlfriend. Earle admitted to calling them "fat and ugly," among other much cruder epithets, something not uncommon in Canadian comedy clubs.
The exchange was followed by a physical fracas, during which Earle broke Pardy's sunglasses, although he later offered to pay for a replacement.
While word of the complaint spurred a "Comics for Freedom" rally the following summer in Toronto, and Earle's lawyer attempted to get the process quashed on constitutional grounds, the B.C. commission pressed on with a hearing last year.
The tribunal ruled the harassment of Pardy was both verbal and physical, and involved both aggressiveness and physical contact, which gave merit to her claim of having suffered post-traumatic stress disorder due to the incident.
Earle, who has since moved back to his hometown of Halifax, has pledged to take the case to the Supreme Court of Canada.
Meanwhile, he has left the comedy business behind, and hasn't hosted an amateur night since.
"This is a really good stimulus package for hecklers," Earle told AM 770 Calgary talk radio host Rob Breakenridge last year.
"If you want to be a real good heckler you can probably go out an clear 10 grand a night going to some free comedy gigs if this precedent is set."