A standup comic draws the line between heckling and harassment

Comic Rebecca Kohler on putting an end to bad ‘jokes’ in the standup comedy world.

"If sexual harassment were a meal, the comedy club would be an all-you-can-eat buffet," writes comic Rebecca Kohler. (EMMA MCINTYRE/FOR METRO)

About seven years into my standup career, I walked offstage after a particularly good set and a male comic I’d never met made a beeline for me. I thought he was coming to congratulate me. Instead he came out with, “You have a great ass and when I wasn’t looking at your ass your jokes were OK, too.”

My jokes were OK, too?

It was disheartening, to say the least, that my jokes were only a sideshow to the stump of fat and muscle attached to the back of my body. Even more disheartening: I was used to this. This was how “male comics” talked to “female comics” and if you didn’t like it you could . . . not be a comic?

So when news of Harvey Weinstein’s horrific behind-the-screens behaviour came to light in October, I was disgusted but not surprised. Every industry has its version of Weinstein Culture. In fact, I endured some of the worst sexual harassment while working at a diner. But if sexual harassment were a meal, the comedy club would be an all-you-can eat buffet.

We joke for a living, so everything — every sexist comment and uninvited touch — is a “joke.” We make jokes, we should be able to take jokes or so go the excuses. Call a man out for it and it’s, “Hey, relax, I’m just kidding!” It throws you off your instincts, and you’re not sure what’s harassment or hilarity.