Yuk Yuk’s Winnipeg bows to pressure after calls to cancel comedy group

“They’re not welcome. Their racism isn’t welcome." Community advocates in Winnipeg want venues supporting the comedy group Danger Cats and its members to cancel upcoming shows. Joanne Roberts has the story.

The show at Yuk Yuk’s comedy club in Winnipeg has cancelled a comedy group many in Winnipeg have labelled “racist”.

A show by the group Danger Cats and solo shows by one of its comedians has been cancelled, according to an Instagram post Thursday from The Fort Garry Hotel management, where the club is located.

“The Fort Garry Hotel does not support Danger Cats’ content,” it said.

CityNews spoke to community advocates Wednesday as calls were mounting for shows by the troupe to be cancelled.

“They’re not welcome. Their racism isn’t welcome. We pride ourselves on being inclusive but also at the same time, we have zero tolerance for this type of racism,” said Sadie Lavoie, a community advocate in Winnipeg.

“Saying, I have free speech, I have free expression, I can be racist, when we’re in this era of reconciliation, how is this tolerable, and how is a venue still allowing this to happen if it deems itself a respectable establishment? At some point, it’s regressive and moving backward by allowing this to continue.”

Lavoie was among many who called for the cancellation, for Danger Cats members have jokes about Residential Schools and unmarked burial grounds for Indigenous women and children.

“When you’re talking about things that have historically proven to be genocidal, it’s dehumanizing,” they explained.

Sadie Lavoie, a community advocate in Winnipeg, says any venue welcoming racist acts are complicit and also racist. (Photo Credit: Joanne Roberts, CityNews)

“Is that where we are as Canadians? Is that where we’re maintaining this culture of racism and that we can excuse settlers for laughing about it?”

Lavoie said racist comedy is “tasteless”, and it’s damaging for Indigenous people to have to call out what they say is hate speech.

“It is retraumatizing for us to having to defend ourselves and defend that we deserve to exist and we should be respected as people who have contributed to Canada. We have our own humour, it’s not to say that we don’t make fun of ourselves and what we’ve gone through but that’s for us. It’s not settler’s place to make fun of our own abuse.”

After seeing the post by hotel management, they say they’re glad the shows have been cancelled.

“The important part that needs acknowledging is that this whole situation shouldn’t have happened in the first place,” said Lavoie. “The cancellation only came about after the immense pressure from the Indigenous community including survivors of Indian Residential Schools.”

“Are they really funny? Because first of all, they’re punching down all the time. Real comedy punches up. And they have laugh tracks on their podcasts. Who needs a laugh track on their podcast except for people who aren’t funny?” asked Kat Greer, a community advocate.

Greer says it’s clear the group — including solo shows from any of its members are not welcome.

“This community has a large portion of vocal and active Indigenous people. It has a large community who support Indigenous people.”

Community advocate, Kat Greer, says Winnipeg’s Indigenous community and its allies do not welcome the Danger Cats comedy group or any of its members. (Photo Credit: Joanne Roberts, CityNews)

“They want to be Danger Cats? They’re putting themselves in danger. They don’t really have a big audience outside of Alberta. Which, shame on Alberta for supporting such a group,” said Val Vint, a Métis elder whose family includes many residential school survivors.

Vint says she believes any venue welcoming these comedians is indicative of a larger problem of racism that doesn’t end at Canada’s borders.

“I think it’s an infection and hopefully we can clear it but we can’t behave like that ourselves because I don’t want to be them.

CityNews contacted Danger Cats but did not receive a response.

“They have no place in this world,” said Vint. “All the things they’re joking about are the heartbreaking history of our country’s abuse of its First Peoples. I don’t see where you can find the humour in that.”

“These people are very obviously racist and have no conscience. Obviously brought up very entitled, like white is right and all of that ridiculous stuff. Not making any room for any other people in the world which, it’s 2024. It’s time to get over that and start being human.”

Métis elder and residential school survivor, Val Vint, says there’s no humour in the treatment of Canada’s Indigenous Peoples. (Photo Credit: Joanne Robers, CityNews)

In an email statement to CityNews, Yuk Yuk’s Founder and CEO, Mark Breslin, wrote the following:

“Yuk Yuks has always been a free speech environment and no matter if the comic is talking about sex or race or politics there’s always the danger that they will go too far. We may not agree with what they say but we defend their right to say it.  But a comic will only do a joke if it gets a laugh. Sometimes jokes veer into the tasteless. But as Lenny Bruce once said ‘good taste is for interior decorators, not for comedians.’ The Danger Cats show was at the Niagara Falls club this past weekend and sold out five shows. Not one complaint.”

Vint says not only does she believe any venues hosting Danger Cats will be seeing long-lasting impacts on attendance, she also believes people who attend the shows will feel impacts from standing by racist content.

“Your kids are probably going to hate you because kids are a lot more open-minded. They learn the truth in schools now that they never got to hear before …. There’s more that they’re learning. We aren’t born racist, we learn that,” said Vint.

“Kids are standing against that right now. Look at all the protests around the world. Look at how many young people are there, look at how many children are there. They have a voice and I’m glad they’re using it. I have faith in our future because of the way our young people and our children are having a different worldview.”

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