On Wednesday evening, while performing a 45-minute set at Registry Theatre in Kitchener, Ontario, comedian Nour Hadidi was the victim of Islamophobic harassment directed at her by an unidentified man in the audience. Three times during her performance, the same man is said to have interrupted her; his abuse escalated to the point that Hadidi broke down into tears on-stage.
The Canadian Association of Stand-up Comedians, (CASC), is committed to promoting a safe, harassment-free, and discrimination-free environment that is conducive of respect, dignity, and professionalism for comedians of all disciplines. We expect this from comedians within our own community and we are working to ensure that it is a clear expectation for all others, including audiences and venue operators.
CASC stands with Nour Hadidi and asks that the rest of the Canadian comedy community stand in solidarity with her as well. Our job is sometimes a vulnerable one. This is something we all accept. That does not mean we are inviting ourselves to be the targets of abuse. This alleged behaviour cannot, and should not, be brushed off as “heckling”, that age-old, often unwelcome interaction from a member of the audience. These seem to have been targeted statements laser-focused on Hadidi’s identity as a Muslim. Unacceptable.
Sam Varteniuk, executive director of Registry Theatre was quoted in an article by CBC News stating: “I know our front of house staff were preparing to intervene, but before that was necessary, the individual left.” If a performer you have booked is crying on-stage, it is beyond the necessary time to intervene. While we respect that Registry Theatre has an anti-harassment policy in place, it is clear that CASC must urgently work with them and other venue operators to help them better understand the unique nature of a comedy performance. It is imperative that comedy artists have confidence that show producers know when audience behaviour is acceptable and when it is necessary for them to take immediate action.
It is our hope, in the wake of this incident, that comedy venues (and those that welcome comedians) will revisit their own anti-harassment policies and evaluate if they are doing enough to protect performers from bigotry and abuse. No one should have to feel unsafe at work.
– Ashley Cooper, Chair
CASC Safety, Anti-Harassment, and Anti-Discrimination Committee