Australian comedian Isaac Butterfield announced he has been summoned to “court” over offensive jokes told during a performances in Perth, Western Australia in 2022.
The Queensland Human Rights Commission requested Butterfield’s presence after a single person made a complaint on the grounds of public vilification based on race, religion, sexual identity, sexuality and gender identity.
In a video discussing the situation, Butterfield, who is not a Queensland resident, expressed his frustration and anger.
“I guess you could say my style of stand up is one where I don’t pull any punches, I don’t censor myself. I really do believe that you can do any type of joke about any subject on stage as long as it’s funny,” he said in a video uploaded to his YouTube channel.
“One person didn’t like a joke. Then, on the 20th of April at 9:30, I had to be there to appear in a ‘conciliation conference.’ That one person has enough power to compel a comedian who told a joke that they didn’t like go to in front of a commission of people and work it out. They’re jokes! This is mad. This is madness,” he said.
Butterfield stresses that comedians often tell jokes that they don’t necessarily believe or mean, but are intended to make people laugh regardless. He said this often applies to him, especially in this case.
With that said, he goes onto explain that the offending jokes were designed to be offensive. They were part of bit where the comedian explains how to “trigger cancel culture” by building what he calls the “cancel culture cake.”
The “cancel culture cake” is essentially the action of telling a series of progressively more offensive jokes.
Butterfield demonstrated this during a routine where he made comments about Australia’s aboriginal population.
“In that section of jokes, in that bit, I went through the five, in my opinion, most offensive jokes that I had written about aboriginal people. Now, bear in mind, I write jokes about everyone. One of the jokes that preceded this was about white people in Bali dying in the Bali bombing. It is not just people with dark skin that I go after, it is everyone,” Butterfield explains.
He added that nobody at the shows themselves had any problems with the jokes. However, the issues arose when he posted clips of his routine to TikTok and Instagram.
In a matter of hours, he had reportedly received countless threats of death and other physical violence.
The offended party also viewed Butterfield’s routine on social media. According to the complaint, the individual was “traumatized” and made to feel “unsafe” by the comedian’s comments.
The complaint specifically draws attention to Butterfield’s joke about the “stolen generation,” a period in Australian history where indigenous children were taken from their homes and placed with white families.
It also mentions Butterfield’s comment that he thought he had never seen aboriginal pornography until he realized it actually goes by the name “National Geographic.”
Butterfield acknowledged how serious events like the stolen generation were and are, but believes in the right of comedians to make jokes about any topic.
The complaint ends by requesting Butterfield apologize and receive unspecified “training.” The comedian has unequivocally rejected both.
However, he has raised concerns about other comedians and how this system is being abused by those with fragile feelings.
“What a position our country is in where a comedian can’t even tell jokes without being pulled in front of a government body,” he said.
He referenced several situations, including his own, where Australian comedians had been subject to protest because their jokes had caused offense.
Butterfield closes out his video by saying that the future of this situation is unknown. He says he did not attend the original “conciliation conference” because his child was due to be born around that time.
Because of this, the complainant now has 28 days to either apply for an extension of this time, or make a written request that would put the matter before the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
If nothing happens, the Queensland Human Rights Commission will close the matter and no further action will be taken.