British performing arts union Equity have launched a Comedians’ Charter at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
The charter details a range of policies that aim to improve the lives of comedians, who are increasingly suffering harassment and abuse during performances.
Most famously, Chris Rock (pictured above) was slapped by Will Smith during the Oscars ceremony in March. In May, Dave Chappelle was also assaulted on stage.
Writing in the Guardian in April, British comedian Dani Johns wrote there had been a marked deterioration in audience behavior during gigs. “Since we’ve come back after lockdown, it’s become increasingly apparent that a small but noticeable percentage of audience members have forgotten how to behave in public,” she wrote, detailing an incident in which a man jumped out of the audience and grabbed her top.
The charter calls on venues to implement a set of standards including:
- Posting clear anti-harassment and discrimination warnings on their websites and at their venues stating perpetrators will be removed without refund;
- Providing acts with information about public transport and safe passage home in the evenings;
- Setting out the type of facilities available in the venue and who they’re shared with;
- Pay transparency.
The charter was launched at comedy venue The Stand in Edinburgh on Sunday and is part of a push by Equity to unionize comedians.
“Equity members working as comedians put together this charter through our Comedians’ Network, and we’re delighted that The Stand have agreed to become the first U.K. venue to sign up to it,” Rob Lugg, Equity’s organiser for comedians, said in a statement. “In the months ahead, we’ll be reaching out to venues and promoters across the country and seeking to work with them to make the Charter the industry standard. Our members will also need the support of audiences to help us achieve this by making sure that they only attend comedy gigs that carry the Comedians’ Charter Mark once it is rolled out.”
“However, the Charter is only one part of our strategy to improve the working conditions of live comedians. As the cost-of-living spirals out of control, adding to the enormous pre-existing pressures of accommodation and transport costs at festivals like the Edinburgh Fringe, the time to act is now. We’re calling on every working comedian in the country who isn’t already a member to join Equity – and just as importantly, we need many more of our members to get active in their trade union through our Comedians’ Network, and through our campaigns in the months ahead to roll out the Comedians’ Charter across the U.K.”
“By coming together and acting collectively through their union,” he added, “comedians have the chance to push for real change and for a fairer and more sustainable industry.”
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