Mike Ward: Freedom of Speech Isn't Free

Undoubtedly funny but unashamedly offensive

Mike Ward: Freedom of Speech Isn't Free

Mike Ward has a very particular sense of black, and often dirty, humour. At best this won't appeal to everyone, at worst it got him sued by Canada's Human Rights Commission for $35,000. His response? Run a show at the Fringe called 'Free Speech Isn't Free'.

There is no denying that Ward is funny, he has the ability to make people laugh on subjects they really shouldn't. His material is highly contentious and his goal would seem to be to make his audience as uncomfortable with laughing as possible. This became evident when he tells an embarrassed woman 'I love that you feel bad you are laughing.'

The content of Ward's show was varied, with jokes hitting pretty much every contentious, topical and uncomfortable issue that you can think of, with nearly every joke relating to either paedophilia or necrophilia. At some point during his set, I can guarantee that everyone in the room laughed at at least one thing, but also hated at least one thing. Ward's mission would appear to be to reclaim the ability to be offensive within comedy, and he sets up an interesting question - surely if art, and comedy in particular, is meant to be emotive, then it has to shock us and surprise us, pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable? Unfortunately, the intellectual debate the show sets up was for better than the comedy itself, which was pushed from the kind of naughty gag you might hear from a wayward comedian on a late night panel quiz show, to simply being tasteless. The point at which tis occurred is dependent on where you draw the line as an individual.

On leaving the show, I overheard another audience member describe the show as 'raw', and that is exactly what it was. Much like an open wound, there are some people who are just too squeamish for material like this, others who can cope but don't find it pleasant, and some who absolutely love the gore and unpleasantness. Ward is an astute comedian,and good at poking fun at himself as well as others. However, by so adamantly holding on to the right to offend, he often steps well over into tastelessness; ensuring that he will only ever be some people's cup of tea.

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Mike Ward: Freedom of Speech Isn't Free is on at the Gilded Balloon at Teviot at 20:45 until 28 August (exc. 25 August). For tickets and more information, visit the Fringe website.


Ellen Orange

Ellen Orange Contributor

I am a 24 year old Marketing Officer from the North East with a passion for arts and writing. I did a BA in English Literature and an MA in Twentieth and Twenty First Century Literature at Durham University, because I love books and reading! I have experience in writing for a variety of student publications, as well as having contributed to Living North, a regional magazine and Culture magazine, a supplement to regional newspaper, The Journal. I have been part of a Young Journalists scheme writing for NewcastleGateshead's Juice Festival, a young people's arts and culture festival, and have since become a Team Juice member. As well as reading and writing, I love theatre, photography and crafts.

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