CASC Stands With Nour Hadidi

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CASC Stands With Nour Hadidi

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

 

2 Comments

  1. Lynne Sosnowski says:

    Hi, I’m the producer of Comedy@The Registry and was working the show at which this hateful outburst happened. It’s actually my job to intervene when a patron’s behaviour makes that necessary. I want to be clear that there is no room for Islamophobia or any other kind of hatred and intolerance at our shows. But I also want to be clear that, until his outburst, there was no indication that this man was acting in any way different from any other heckler and nothing abusive in his responses. Nour was doing crowd work. He, among others, answered her questions, twice. In the course of this crowd work she spoke with and asked names of Rob, Bob, Kez, a woman who’s name I didn’t catch, and Dan. Once he continued talking past answering her question, Nour cut him off with “Sure, but this is my show isn’t it Dan?” and carried on. From my perch at the sound board, there was nothing untoward. Until nearer the end of her set, when she again asked something open-ended and he responded with a hateful blanket statement.

    In a post on FB, Courtney Gilmour said “performers can sense your tone and demeanour a mile away” and I agree most heartily. Nour may have sensed that this man was not an ally, but there was nothing in his word or actions to indicate the turn things would take … until it turned. In the space of the 2-3 sentence exchange, I and the audience quickly grasped that we’d gone from fun & games to the opposite of that. Before I could intervene, the fellow exited the theatre. To a person, the audience came together and supported Nour, and expressed their sadness and shame to be part of a community where this happened.

    I take very seriously the duty of care for both performers and audience. I welcome constructive feedback, and the opportunity to do better.

  2. Cari Angold says:

    I was a member of the audience and I stand with Ms Hadidi, too. I’m glad to hear that the Registry Theatre is taking this seriously and following up. While I understand the importance of supporting Ms Hadidi, the incident happened too quickly for the employees of the theatre to respond. As a member of the audience, I was glad that he removed himself before that became necessary. One inappropriate, hateful jerk should not put a stain on the reputation of this venue.

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