Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Pardy Pooper: Man with asparagus allergy ridiculed by comedian seeks justice

As noted lesbian, Lorna Pardy, takes a comedian before the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal for casting jokes and insults upon her for being gay, an Ontario man is readying launch similar action.

Following what he called a "humiliating, traumatizing, demoralizing" evening at a local comedy club, London, Ontario resident, Wince Wipplestan, claims one of the comedians performing that night learned he, Wipplestan, was allergic to asparagus, and thus ridiculed him mercilessly about it.

"I have a number of food allergies," says a visibly shaken Wipplestan, "but for some reason people always latch onto the asparagus allergy as being so strange."

"He's used to people asking questions about his allergies," Wipplestan's sister, Wendigo, comments. "He's always been patient and open about it. But then this Giacometti character just nailed Wince to the wall about it!"

Vincent Giacometti is a professional comedian who has toured the country for a decade. Although it's not known at this time how he learned of Wipplestan's particular food allergy, what is abundantly clear is that, in the minds of many witnesses, he "crossed the line."

Some of the details of the verbal altercation are still in dispute, but everyone agrees that Giacometti was doing a "bit" about people with food allergies, and asked the audience to shout out the strangest they'd ever heard.

"And this lady screams 'asparagus'," Giacometti says. "That's the craziest thing I've ever heard. So, I started riffing on it. I don't even remember what I said. It was spontaneous."

What seemed like a joke at the time has now turned into a legal issue. Mr. Wipplestan has taken his case to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal seeking redress against Mr. Giacometti.

"No amount of money can restore my dignity," says an emotional Wipplestan.

As his case waits to be heard, a group of Wipplestan supporters and groups representing persons with food allergies have banded together demanding allergy-safe comedy clubs.

"Jokes are supposed to make people laugh!" says Raith Banwell, leader of the London chapter of the Food Allergy Alliance For All Canadians (FAAFAC). "Nobody goes to a club hoping to have their soul turned into toilet paper and used by some insensitive comedian right there on the stage!"

FAAFAC is just one group demanding that all comedians performing in the greater London area sign a "Dignity Declaration," promising they will not tell jokes that degrade or mock any individual or group.

Nut Allergy Suffers of Ontario (NASO) leader, Angela DeConstruito, says this protest already appears to be an uphill battle. "We've had reports that comedians are, in fact, not signing the Declaration of Dignity, but instead are choosing to exacerbate the problem by ridiculing the Wipplestan case. We don't think this is very constructive."

"What it may come down to," says Raith Banwell, "is a group of brave allergy sufferers taking over a comedy club and each consuming the food they're allergic to. The tragic results will be on the heads of every comedian who mocks our Declaration of Dignity. This fight is now bigger than Wince Wipplestan!"

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