Bobby Slayton: Not in my city #everydayhomophobia [UPDATED]
It’s 2017, and technically I live in Oakland now. But that’s not the point. The point is that I have a reasonable expectation of not being sexually harassed when I attend a comedy show.
Last Saturday, it was a good friend’s 40th birthday. As you can imagine, it’s a big birthday, and we wanted to do something special to celebrate (but we’re doing so well at the planning thing). The day before, my wife and I had decided to meet her and some other friends for dinner and drinks, and then see a show at Punch Line, a comedy club in San Francisco. I’ll be honest that we didn’t even look to see who was playing — we were just looking to spend time together.
All went smoothly (air quality in SF notwithstanding), and we headed off in two cars to the show. My wife and I had to wait a bit, and our friends had already gotten a table (Oh fuck, in the front row) by the time we got there. In a move that would prove quickly unfortunate, the last open seats were the two directly in the front row, far stage left.
The first couple comics were fine, but we weren’t in stitches. Then the headliner comes on. He opens with a joke making fun of rape victims.
Substituting hate for intelligence or comedy
Let me be clear: I am a rape survivor. Jokes poking fun at rape victims are not funny. They are the mark of a comedian too stupid or cowardly to poke fun at the powerful.
Predictably, both myself and my wife didn’t laugh. We folded our arms. But that was far too much for him. Immediately, he turned to her:
“Look at this dyke. She didn’t even laugh.”
Now, if you’ve ever met my wife, she’s smart, funny, and deeply uncomfortable with being the center of attention. But she would have suffered a few cracks thrown her way at a comedy show. But being addressed with a hateful slur?
She was red and shaking. Her response: “Fuck off.”
He continued to call her a dyke, and make homophobic jokes. I yelled “Stop. That’s my wife!” To which he responded with transphobic jokes. When I set my glass down, it cracked.
When I complained to the Punch Line bouncer about the comedians use of slurs against us, I was told “Hey, it’s comedy. Get out.” Graciously, the bouncer leaned out a side door after we had left continuing to yell his homophobic defense at us. Punch Line is perfectly comfortable being complicit in homophobia and hate, it seems.
He continued to make homophobic jokes (and was joined by a woman at the bar) as we left with our friends. I’ve heard only four other patrons left.
This is unacceptable
This is absolutely unacceptable. It is unacceptable in a time where LGBT* people are losing the hard-won gains we have in this country. It is unacceptable in a city that has historically been one of the only places where we have been accepted to be openly who we are.
It is unacceptable at a time when we are having collective national dialogue about how pervasive the sexual harassment of women is in our public life, through the alleged crimes of Harvey Weinstein.
Shame on you Bobby Slayton (@pitbullofcomedy).
Shame on you, Punch Line (@punchlinesf)
And shame on every other audience member who sat there, complicit in hatred and homophobia.
Apparently, he continued to refer to us using slurs on his public Facebook page.
I was also contacted by a former employee of Punch Line, who informed me that the management allegedly put “vulnerable” people in the front row for him to ridicule. Based on both our experience and the profiles of the guests in the front row (there was at least one other interracial gay couple, from what I could tell), this outcome was planned. How horrific.
I’m reaching out to Punch Line parent company in the hopes that they can prevent it from happening to another patron.