Mike Ward: Freedom of Speech Isn't Free (2 stars)

Canadian's shocking hour is outrageously bad

Mike Ward: Freedom of Speech Isn't Free

credit: Georges Fok

In July, Canadian shock comic Mike Ward was fined £25,000 by the Quebec Human Rights Commission for repeatedly telling (since 2010) an offensive joke about a child (now an adult) with Treacher Collins Syndrome. Ward is currently in the process of appealing that fine but he reasons that he may as well get his money's worth so repeats his infamous gag here while attempting to raise much-needed funds.

Ward's story is certainly an interesting one and its consequences could have far-reaching effects throughout the industry and Canadian society in general, so it's odd that he asks an audience member to recount the events – inaudible to much of the crowd – rather than clearly stating his case from the off. From there he launches into a series of obscene gags covering paedophilia, necrophilia, bestiality, domestic abuse, infanticide and incest, often combining several taboo topics at once.

'Jesus Christ it's quiet in here', he remarks at the muted response. He expects his outrageous punchlines to provoke a strong reaction but this is a Fringe crowd and we're not easily offended. And because he's laid no groundwork for the material, it's difficult to take any of it seriously: just saying outrageous things isn't funny and the set-ups are laboriously executed before petering out with predictably 'shocking' punchlines.

After explaining how much he hates his brother he asks if anyone in the audience has AIDS. No one volunteers but that doesn't stop Ward urging anyone with the disease to rape his brother and infect him with AIDS. 'That's a joke by the way,' he deadpans to stunned silence. The biggest shame is that Ward seems like a nice guy. He's evidently crestfallen by his recent financial predicament and it's easy enough to root for him when he's being sanguine about the future. Here in the UK he's free to speak about whatever he wants (for now). If only he had something funny to say.

Gilded Balloon Teviot, until 28 Aug (not 25), 8.45pm, £10–£12.

Mike Ward: Freedom of Speech Isn't Free

  • 2 stars

Stories in Theatre Productions Ltd for ComediHa! Having been sued by the Canadian Government for telling a joke, multi award-winning comedian Mike Ward makes his Fringe debut. The Human Rights Commission (Quebec) now wants to fine him $80,000! Mike has decided to get his money's worth by bringing the joke to Edinburgh…


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