Comic receives death threats

...over missing girl gag

A comedian says he’s afraid to leave his house after received death threats after using a missing girl as a punchline to a joke.

Protesters have even camped outside the house of Canadian comic Mike Ward, after he mentioned ten-year-old Cédrika Provencher during a show at the Just For Laughs festival in Montreal.

He stand-up, who performs mostly in French, joked that local tax Revenu Québec tax collectors were so ruthless they would kidnap an errant taxpayer's child in lieu of unpaid debt. ‘They’re the ones who have little Cédrika,’ he told the audience.

The gag got a laugh at the time, but the backlash has been immense on radio phone-ins and local TV stations, where the clip of his performance has been repeatedly rerun.

‘I haven’t been able to leave the house since Friday,’ Ward says in a French video message posted on his website. ‘Everywhere I go, I get stared at. I get judged. Christ, there are two imbeciles on my street who have been in front of my house since Friday.’

He blamed the reaction on people who weren’t at the show but still decided the gag caused offence.

And slipping into English, he had a message for the protesters: ‘This is private property, get off my land motherfuckers.’

The family of Cédrika, who was abducted last July, believe Ward went too far – but warned against over-reacting.

‘I’d say it’s no time to make jokes on the topic of Cédrika, but it wasn’t really cruel and wasn’t aimed at her,’ the girl’s grandfather, Henri Provencher, told the local Globe and Mail newspaper.

‘I know it’s the comedian's role to test the limits of taste, but we’ve still got an open wound, and this certainly picks at it. But it's also not the time to react by going overboard.’

Ward, whose last tour was titled Uncensored, is known for his controversial humour, and performed a rare show in English at the Montreal festival, as part of the French Comedy Bastards line-up.

Here is a Canadian TV report into the joke, in French.

Published: 23 Jul 2008

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