People & Ideas

Nov 28, 2012

No joke, freedom of speech is worth debating

Crikey -- among others -- raised concerns about a recent "there's nothing funny about rape" comedy night. The event's host, Melbourne comedian Kieran Butler, asked for a right of reply.

Earlier this year I was informed the “Raw Comedy” competition administered by the government-funded Melbourne International Comedy Festival had a judging policy that banned material that was “racist, sexist, homophobic or otherwise seriously offends the sensibilities of the audience”. I wondered out loud: so who is finding comedians for the other 50% of Australian taxpayers who vote for Tony Abbott?

Comedy is democratic. Something is funny if people laugh. You might not like the audience, the joke teller or the joke. But laughter makes it funny. Even racists should have a few laughs. It relieves stress. I want my racists relieved of stress.

Free Trial

Proudly annoying those in power since 2000.

Sign up for a FREE 21-day trial to keep reading and get the best of Crikey straight to your inbox

By starting a free trial, you agree to accept Crikey’s terms and conditions


18 thoughts on “No joke, freedom of speech is worth debating

  1. Simon Roberts

    I like the way this guy frames the problem he created as the work of others. Boo hoo.

  2. amct

    Freedom of speech doesn’t protect you from having a gig cancelled, it protects you from going to prison. Get a clue.

  3. mikeb

    I always find it curious when people are outraged by something they imagine will happen. Being offended must be a comforting state of mind for some.

  4. Mike Smith

    @Mikeb – I think many of them go looking for something to be outraged about.

    @Amct: nice to see how well that doesn’t work.

  5. Ruprecht

    Way to avoid the main issue, which was how the crowd jeered insulted and heckled a woman talking about her experiences with sexual assault. Just because you bagged Eddie McGuire once doesn’t make that right.

    But yeah, poor poor blokes being told their all-male rape debate idea sucked.

  6. Kevin & Julie Harris

    Dear Kieran

    Do you mind if Julie and I call you by your first name? It’s a bit more warm and personal that way.

    Firstly, I know both Julie and I are about to make ourselves about as popular as a red headed step-son at christmas lunch, but is n’t ironic that Eddie McGuire is showing our friends at Cr-key a thing or two about free speech? that’s funny!!! n’t it?

    Did you know that Julie and I posted some very important information regarding a certain “male” health issue to Cr-key recently and guess what!..they edited it, yes, they edited out a possible cure for pr-strate cancer. Can you believe that? Are Cr-key really just a bunch of mansoginists?…hmmm?!?!

    I dunno, but both Julie and I absolutely support you on your crusade for comical free speech.

    We were not privy to r-pe issue thingy, so we can’t comment on that, but as you intimated, comedy is therapeutic ( sp ) and you don’t seem like a young lad that would purposely go out of your way to harm someone.

    Now, take Julie as an example, she continually suspects me of having an affair with Judy Frump.

    Judy plays tennis at our local club, well, she does n’t really play, she sort of goes out there and tries to swat the ball like you would swat a fly with a fly swatter, but…..hang on a sec Kieran, Julie wants to say something.

    Julie: Sorry about this Kieran. Kevin))))))))))…what about Judy Frump and that single red rose she had delivered to your office?…and what about her coming to your bedroom window at 3.00am in the morning?

    Kevin: Just because she delivered a single red rose to my office does n’t mean to say there’s anything in it….and just because she came to my bedroom window at 3.00am in the morning does n’t mean to say there’s anything in it…like hellloooooo! ..where do you get off Julie?


    Your Sincerely
    Kevin & Julie Harris

  7. Andy Sorlosa

    The problem with Cr-key is censorship. I feel sorry for them, Kier-n

  8. Tom Jones

    Love the way that freedom of speech = freedom to put forward any material whether it is funny or not. Jokes are used by a powerful group against those who don’t have power. Women are often the targets of male so called comedians with the boy’s club thinking it uproarious to humiliate women. That is why the the rape joke wasn’t funny before it was aired. Bullies are always happy to find humour in the humiliation of their victims and rape is the worst kind of bullying. Freedom of speech doesn’t override the need to be safe in public spaces. Trying to make rape a joke is puerile and quite disturbing. Grow up Kieran. You might then find material which is both funny and intelligent.

  9. Stephen Luntz

    Wow. So Kieran butler thinks the debate about whether rape is funny is one that should be restricted to male comedians. The all male line up wasn’t an oversight but a deliberate attempt to exclude women’s voices. “It is male comedians who needed to.have this discussion.”

    Not really surprising butler ripped the microphone away from a rape survivor while she was being heckled; he didn’t think she should have had it in the first place.

  10. samquigley

    One of the participants in your “comedy debate” cried when he told you he planned to speak about being raped? You’re right, it’s a terrible shame it was cancelled. Sounds hilarious. I can only presume you are the love-child of Richard Pryor and Aung San Suu Kyi, and hope that someday the world will appreciate your genius.

Share this article with a friend

Just fill out the fields below and we'll send your friend a link to this article along with a message from you.

Your details

Your friend's details