Joking about wives is one of comedy’s oldest traditions, but no one ever considered whether the wives might sue. The husband of a female comedian did.
Everyone who’s ever seen a comedian perform has heard “take my wife, please!” jokes, and even more frontiers in how comics joke about their wives, husbands, and other significant others.
A recent lawsuit in England raised the question of whether comedians who make such jokes could be facing legal liability, although the suit has now been dropped.
According to The Guardian, comedian Louise Beamont, who performed under the name Louise Reay, was sued by her husband, Thomas Reay, who claimed defamation, breach of privacy, and data protection. Thomas claimed that his estranged wife had used photos and videos of him in her act without his consent, suing for £30,000 (about $38,000) in damages.
However, the parties have now settled the case, issuing a joint statement that the matter has been put to rest.
“A settlement has been reached, which has resulted in the claimant discontinuing the proceedings. Both parties have agreed to make no further comment following settlement,” the two parties said, according to the newspaper.
Reay had objected to some aspects of “Hard Mode,” a show Beamont performed last year as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. A report by The Province last year stated that Beamont’s husband was not a primary part of that show, but that he had been mentioned a couple of times in passing.
Prior to the settlement, Beamont had defended her free speech rights against the prospects of such a suit. She also launched a GoFundMe account to raise funds.
It is, she said, “the very definition of our [comedians’] job to talk about our lives and social issues. So this has become a free speech issue – and free speech means everything to me.” The issue of free speech, in relation to comedy, is frequently a controversial subject, with comedians taking issue with both “politically correct” culture on college campuses, as well as the changing mores in regards to feminism, homophobia and racial humor, and how they have affected the lives of comedians. However, lawsuits by the subjects of acts rarely happens, at least in the United States.
Many comedians have shared aspects of their personal lives in their acts, including intimate details of their marriages. Prior to his downfall in a sexual harassment scandal last year, comedian Louis C.K. devoted multiple specials in the early part of his career to the subject of how terrible his relationship was with his then-wife. The ex never spoke out publicly, nor did she sue him.
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