An amateur comedy night at a Commercial Dr restaurant turned ugly May 22 when the host comedian aimed homophobic remarks at a lesbian couple, got water thrown in his face, and broke a pair of sunglasses belonging to one of the women whom he claimed were trying to draw attention to the fact they were lesbians because they were "making out" during his show.
Comedian Guy Earle says the women were outside on the restaurant's patio when he arrived for the regular open mic night, and they only came inside towards the end of the show. "I'm about to bring up the second-to-last act and this couple comes in from outside and they plop themselves directly in front of the stage, and they start sucking face like no tomorrow," Earle alleges.
Xtra West first learned of the incident from Stephanie Frigon, who identified herself as a friend of the couple. Frigon says her friends came inside because Zesty's staff asked them to, since the patio was closing.
The couple refused to comment for this article, on advice from legal counsel. "I can't even give you my name [to be] printed," said one of the women, who would only confirm her first name as Lorna.
Frigon, who was not at Zesty's during the incident, posted a second-hand account of it on myspace.com a few days later. In it, she alleges that Earle uttered anti-gay slurs against her friends and quotes him as telling the women: "You're fat and ugly, no wonder you're lesbians, you can't get a man that's why you're dykes. You must be on the rag, you stupid dykes."
Earle admits he "literally said some offensive things to them." He says he was "pissed off" and "lost his cool," but contends he should not be "in this position of having to defend myself."
Earle says he challenged the women about being "rude" from the stage, but was heckled. "They were doing the standard drunken heckling stuff like 'you're an asshole, you're not funny. Get off the stage,'" Earle alleges. "I was like, 'Who the hell are you guys coming in at the end of the show?' I snapped, and I shouldn't have... and yeah, I unloaded offensively like I do to any heckler.
"People booed me, people were upset with me," he continues. "That's the price I have to pay. That's what happens when you do a comedy show like this."
Following what he calls his on-stage "tirade," Earle says he walked past the table where the women were seated and was doused with a glass of water. After the show, he says he went back to the women's table to make peace with them, but more water was thrown at him.
Frigon's account confirms that the women threw water in Earle's face. It also alleges that the comedian later returned to their table, took one of the women's glasses and broke them.
Earle does not deny it. "I took the sunglasses off her head and broke them in half," he admits.
He says he regrets breaking the glasses, and offered "publicly" to replace them. But he argues that he was "assaulted" twice before reacting.
He says the women's sexual orientation is not an issue. He alleges that they were drunk and obnoxious. "It was disrespectful any way that you cut it. The sexuality has nothing to do with it."
Zesty's manager Sal (who refused to give his last name) says he remembers seeing the women on the patio "drinking from 5 until 12 almost." He says he was out walking on the Drive at the time of the incident, but was told about it when he returned to the restaurant later in the evening.
Sal says no one complained to him on the night, but the following day he received a call from one of the women who told him Earle broke her sunglasses.
"I say, 'Don't worry about how much [the glasses cost], I'll pay for it," Sal recalls.
But when the woman came to see him, Sal says she began "pointing at me."
"I told her, 'Don't point at me. The way you speak to me is not nice.' I said, 'The way you talk to me, maybe it is your fault.'"
Sal says he retracted his offer to replace the sunglasses.
"I told her I am not paying for the sunglasses or whatever, because she threw water in the guy's face, you know. Two times. He got mad."
Accounts of the incident have been making the rounds on the internet, with some calling for a boycott of Zesty's, while others say any action should target the comedian, not the venue which has played long-time host to queer artists like the comedy troupe Laff Riot Girls.
"We're collateral damage," says Lee Ann Keple of the lesbian-run comedy troupe that has held its shows at Zesty's for the past seven years. Keple says she has always had a good relationship with Zesty's management, and does not support the call for a boycott.
Still, she says, Laff Riot Girls is now looking for a new venue.