But a recent corporate gig in Toronto took on a darker tone — one she says was obviously sexual harassment — prompting her to walk off stage and eventually take her story public.
“I’m not the type to just complain for no reason, I’ve done a lot of hard gigs with hecklers,” said Grant, who now lives in Toronto and has performed at comedy festivals across the country. “Even though it’s not something comics like necessarily, people are vocal sometimes and you’ve got to deal with it when they come at you. But this was beyond heckling. This was harassment.”
Grant was hired to deliver a 45-minute comedy routine at the Ontario Printing and Imaging Association’s Excellence In Print awards at a country club in the neighbourhood of Toronto on May 13.
Unlike typical nightclub gigs, where comics are uncensored, there are performance guidelines at corporate shows that implore comedians to “dress classy,” as Grant describes it, and avoid talking about sex, politics and religion. Breaking those rules can cost a performer their pay and future jobs. So when Grant was faced with a hostile heckler making lewd comments, she said she felt like she was “at a gun fight with a knife.”
I was publicly humiliated
“I get introduced to the stage and within about three minutes I am interrupted by a male in his late 30’s/early 40’s saying to me ‘There’s a 51 per cent chance that my buddy here will have sex with you, and I will take the other 49%,’” Grant wrote in a Facebook post about the show.
She told the Citizen on Wednesday that she tried to maintain her composure. But when the heckler’s abusive language took on a “rapey” tone, she looked around and said, “Is this really happening?”
She said she found some solace when she made eye contact with a seemingly empathetic woman in the male-dominated audience. However as the man continued harassing her, she became too emotional and walked off the stage in tears.
“I was publicly humiliated,” she said.
Since writing about the experience on her Facebook page, Grant has been getting a lot of public support.
That’s a relief, since she knows those who speak up often find themselves being criticized. “You can be seen as a troublemaker even if it’s stuff that needs to be said.
She said that the next day the vice-president of Montreal printing firm TC Transcontinental called her to apologize on behalf of the employee, who the company says has been suspended with pay pending an internal investigation.
Sexual harassment of women on the job fell into the spotlight this month when Toronto television reporter Shauna Hunt called out several men who shouted lewd language at her while she was trying to interview soccer fans after a game. The incident prompted a social media backlash that resulted in one of the men being fired from his job at Hydro One.
In Grant’s case, she says TC Transcontinental’s swift response to the situation shows the society’s tolerance toward sexism is wearing thin.
“The vice-president was very apologetic and taking it very seriously,” said Grant. “I think the incident with the Hydro One employee saying that (sexually explicit) phrase to the CityTV news reporter shed a light on how serious people take these kinds of things now.”