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Queen's University Students' Union distasteful rape jokes no laughing matter, but comic Tom Stade says: I believe in free speech

By Kylie Noble

Published 07/10/2016

Canadian funnyman Tom Stade
Canadian funnyman Tom Stade
Student Sarah Wright said skit made her 'uncomfortable'

A comedian is under fire from QUB students for making jokes about rape at a gig at Queen's Students' Union.

Tom Stade, a Canadian who now lives in Edinburgh, played at Queen's Comedy Club on Wednesday evening.

Stade, who has appeared on British comedy shows such as Mock the Week and Live at The Apollo, begins a UK tour next week.

Among those to hit out was Sarah Wright (27), a final year politics student who attended the gig.

As a victim of rape, she felt uncomfortable with some of his jokes.

"He talked about prison rape in a skit about TripAdvisor recommendations for places to visit - Crumlin Road Gaol. Then he talked about two male guinea pigs having sex - one raping the other," said Sarah.

Sarah believes the jokes "perpetuate rape culture."

"For a Students' Union which prides itself on being accessible to everyone, it certainly wasn't accessible for rape survivors, and particularly male rape survivors who already face huge societal stigma when reporting or experiencing a sexual assault," she added.

"Having a room full of people somehow find amusement in how you have been sexually, physically and mentally violated isn't funny. Many around me were visibly uncomfortable."

Sarah-Jane McCloskey (21), who studies international politics, was due to go to the gig but cancelled at the last minute. She has just moved back to Belfast, after a leave of absence which was taken due to being a victim of rape.

"I really can't believe it. I'm so grateful I didn't go. Just as I was going, I received a phone call from home - a family emergency," she explained. "When I heard today I was upset because I assumed the SU wouldn't allow something like this.

"Life is hard enough post-rape - I don't need to be in a supposedly safe space to listen to horrific jokes."

In a statement, Tom Stade apologised for any offence caused but defended freedom of speech.

"I'm a stand-up comedian, and my intention is to make people laugh," he said. "I am sorry if someone in the audience didn't like some of my jokes and I totally respect everyone's individual opinion.

"The majority of the audience enjoyed the show, and the material in question was a very small segment of the show.

"It has been taken entirely out of context - it was a piece about what happens in prison - and another joke about two guinea pigs.

"Everyone is entitled to their own opinion of course, and I am entitled to have mine.

"Being offended is entirely subjective and if every time I walked on stage I had a list of taboo subjects that I couldn't speak about then there would be absolutely nothing to say.

"Talking about a situation isn't necessarily glorifying or advocating it and I firmly believe in freedom of speech."

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