Controversial comedy – Or political correctness gone mad? Ex-Veritas columnist in discrimination row


Catie Guitart

In a case of preaching to the unconverted, Scottish comedian The Reverend Obadian Steppenwolfe III has been accused of “grossly crossing a line of decency and respect” by the Stirling University Students Association (SUSA), who are campaigning to have him banned from 16 student unions

The Reverend, real name Jim Muir, joked about the appearance of a transvestite student sitting in the front row of a recent student union gig in Stirling.

Mark Cullen, Vice President Services and Treasurer of SUSA, said: “There is nothing that the student movement takes more seriously than equality and he was essentially a bully. We all accept that comedy will often be cutting edge and controversial but there is a line of decency and respect that was grossly crossed.”

Muir refutes the row, pointing to the fact that the complaint did not originate from the student in question, but from a feminist group within Stirling University and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) officer for Stirling University Mark Charters.

Charters, who proposed the ban, said: ‘Humour is humour but at the point when you base your whole comedy sketch on one specific part of society, the LGBT community, and then victimise one person for being a transvestite that’s just wrong. We believe that the union should place a permanent ban on the comedy act in question and NUS Scotland should inform other unions about this act and how it breaks the equal opportunity policy.”

Charters has not explained how the show broke the equal opportunity policy.

Muir told Veritas he was first advised the row was due to jokes he made about women during his set, and was then informed it was due to the interaction with the student in the front row.

The self-defined transvestite in question said: “I really didn’t mind that much but I suppose he went a bit far. But he’s a comic, he’s trying to get people to laugh and it’s an opportunity. I was more offended by the Islamic jokes to be honest. He was quite rude to a lot of people.”

Speaking to Veritas, Muir said: “It’s just factually incorrect. Outwith the fact [Charters] doesn’t really have a point, because it’s a comedy club, it’s just incorrect. I refute all these allegations.”

Comedian Tom Stade, who also performed at the gig, hit out at the student groups fuelling the quarrel. He told Veritas: “With that frame of mind, you shouldn’t go to a comedy club. Go to a UN meeting. You’re picking on the Reverend, who is an easy target. Your women’s rights are alive and well here. If you want to further women’s rights, go to Iran or Saudi Arabia, where they actually need your help. See how far your letters get you there.

“Just because you are a feminist doesn’t mean you are immune to being made fun of. This is actually getting in the way of free speech.”

Jen Lavery, Assistant Press Officer at The Stand Comedy Club, said: “What is extremely notable about this case is that the ‘victim’ themselves is not actually the person who complained, nor do they seem particularly upset by what occurred. There seems to be a climate at the moment – kicked off by the Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross affair – of people jumping all over comedians the second they say something controversial, despite the fact that that is in part what comedy is about. When comedians are afraid to say something in case they might offend then comedy as an art form and as a cultural force is stifled, and that cannot be allowed to happen.”

Muir has invited the complainants to an open debate at the Stand Comedy Club in Glasgow on March 23rd. Frankie Boyle, Tom Stade and Raymond Mearns, all classically trained debaters, will be lending their support. Muir has stated whoever wins the debate can lay claim to the ticket money.

When approached for comment on the debacle, the Ministry of Steppenwolfe stated: “The greatest trick the devil ever played was convincing the world that he didn’t have tits.”





1 Comment

  1. […]  Published in Veritas Issue 103 Monday 9 March 2009 […]

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