A rape survivor was heckled at a comedy open mic show Wednesday night as she tried to explain why she thought rape was never funny.
What was intended as a discussion of comedy's most controversial material turned sour when RMIT student Genevieve Stewart, 20, was accused of censorship at Richmond comedy venue Station 59 as she described her attack at a country train station when she was a 15-year-old high-school student.
In an audio recording of the event, her speech is drowned out by audience members, including one yelling "where's the joke?"
Ms Stewart was invited to the venue by comedian Kieran Butler, best known for his Ben Cousins musical, after she took part in a successful Facebook campaign to shut down an all-male comedy debate, titled "There's Nothing Funny About Rape", at the same venue.
"I went because I thought if I told my story then people would realise there is nothing funny about it," Ms Stewart said. She said Mr Butler took the microphone from her as she told her story.
"It was quite intimidating," said Ms Stewart, who reports that someone grabbed her by the shoulder as she left and that another called her a "faggot".
Mr Butler was unapologetic and said he had had good feedback from those there on the night.
"Comedians need to fall and test out their material and this is a venue for that. It is a comedy night for comedians to try out their material and see whether it will work. This is the first time in 18 months that we have had any issue," Mr Butler said.
He said Ms Stewart's friends should have stayed to listen to other comedians talk about comedy's role in recovering from events in their own lives, such as miscarriage, incest and rape.
Venue owner Michael Giacomi said he cancelled the original comedy debate after receiving abusive calls.
"When someone rang me up and started to threaten my kids with rape it got out of hand," Mr Giacomi said.
This is only the latest controversy in a year in which the debate about rape jokes has been particularly raw. At Scotland's Edinburgh Comedy Festival in August, "there are rape jokes and domestic violence jokes bouncing through the town," The Guardian reported.
When American comedian Daniel Tosh jested that a woman in his audience should be raped, his right to free speech was defended by fellow comedians, including US television star Louis C.K.
Comedian Sarah Silverman, a button-pusher who tours Australia in December, opposes jokes about rape, saying that rape "is a comic's dream... Because it seems that when you do rape jokes the material is so dangerous and edgy. But the truth is it's like the safest area to talk about in comedy. Cause who's going to complain about a rape joke? Rape victims? They don't even report rape. I mean, they're traditionally not complainers."
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