Blaze News original: ‘Wokeness has woken people up’: Comedy club owner Mark Breslin once witnessed a judge rule that a woman was fat

Since 1978, Yuk Yuk’s comedy club has been the premiere location to see uncensored acts. Now, as likely the world’s longest-running comedy club owner, Mark Breslin has weathered decades of talent, cancelation attempts, and even a judge calling a woman fat.

At his clubs, whether its clean acts like Jerry Seinfeld, or not-so-clean acts like Louis C.K., no one is censored.

“I was friends with Sam Kinison, and I was very good friends with Seinfeld, and people said, ‘How could you be friends with both of them?’ I don’t feel I have to choose between one kind of comedy and another,” Breslin explained. “I embrace it all as long as it’s funny.”

The funny rule has worked for Breslin his entire career, and, for 48 years, his clubs have garnered the audience that expects no censorship. Breslin has never bent the knee to activists, and “anybody who’s a social justice warrior is probably not going to show up at the club,” he said. “They’re probably not going to show up at any comedy club for that matter,” he added.

“We have this history of pushing buttons and doing controversial things. We brought in Louis C.K. after his media meltdown, we used to bring in Sam Kinison, Andrew Dice Clay,” he listed.

Breslin’s story certainly checks out, and his club has rejected the notion that there was ever a time when woke comedy or political correctness was popular in the comedy scene.

On the Yuk Yuk’s history page, the franchise said that not even in 1976 was anyone taking offense to jokes about ethnicity or lifestyle. Everyone had a voice in an equally offending environment, with no looming political correctness catching the tongue of comedians or patrons.

The latter has mostly changed, of course, with social hierarchy or competitive oppression serving as the backdrop for nearly every mainstream public discussion.

Breslin certainly remembers some of his first battles, though, and how the paradigm has shifted in terms of what can and cannot be uttered, according to the establishment.

‘There’s some lines that you can’t cross. The flash point used to be sex, but now the flash point is race, and it’s very difficult to talk about race because everybody’s organized.’

Different mob, same story

Breslin said while freedom of expression has always been in the company’s DNA, he noted how different groups have come after him at different times.

“What’s interesting, I think, is that the enemies of speech on stage have changed over the years. When we first started, the big issue was we were using four-letter words on a public stage. Now, it isn’t that shocking, and, yet in 1978, we started to get a lot of criticism and hassles from church groups,” he recalled.

“The church was very powerful in the ’70s and into the ’80s, and they would complain or they would picket, and they wouldn’t like what we were saying because we were encouraging young people to f***, and you don’t want to encourage young people to f*** because who knows where that would lead. That might lead to drugs! So, it’s always been kind of a libertarian ethos underpinning the comedy.”

While not every comic takes advantage of a freedom-oriented environment, some clubs will not provide that protection for its comedians.

“It’s unfortunate,” Breslin continued. “It’s not like every single person in the audience gets up and walks out, it’s more like a dozen people didn’t like an abortion joke. But [the club] won’t rehire the comic, which is ridiculous.”

At Yuk Yuk’s, Breslin said if anyone does come to management to complain — he assured that very few do — the person is told that the club doesn’t censor people but is offered some tickets to another show.

“We would never stop the comic for doing [offensive comedy], we would only stop a comic if he wasn’t funny. That’s what is important: They have to be funny.”

That funny rule has never been the case for television networks, Breslin said. When asked about the divide between networks like Comedy Central, or Canada’s CBC and Comedy Channel, he said executives have always yearned for a Seinfeld-like routine.

“HBO was the first company that started to actually put specials for comics on-air, and if you take a look at who they used, they used very smart, bright, clean comics that were not particularly offensive,” he remembered.

“What they were looking for was if not Jerry Seinfeld, anybody who’s like Jerry Seinfeld. They would really like that, and I don’t mean to suggest that this stuff is junk because a lot of it was fairly political.”

Like the revolving door of activist groups, topics too have come and gone in terms of what is taboo. Waves of censorship throughout history, and the aforementioned history of Yuk Yuk’s, proves that different eras come with different faux pas.

“There’s some lines that you can’t cross. The flash point used to be sex, but now the flash point is race, and it’s very difficult to talk about race because everybody’s organized, and all you have to do, if you’re a network executive, is have the intimation of racism in your hire, and that’s very hard to defend.”

“At a club level, who cares?” Breslin clarified. “It just doesn’t matter to me what people think, all I care about is my audience.”

At this point Breslin took a moment to provide a reminder: “For every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction.”

“All this wokeness has woken up people who don’t like the wokeness. You’ll find there’s a lot of comics out there now who really want to push the envelope against wokeism even if they don’t particularly believe in those topics, just because they can’t stand the idea of having their freedom limited.”

Being sure to add that the freedom to make comedy is paramount, Breslin remembered that his club wasn’t the first to put comics on stage. It was, however, the first club that didn’t censor comics or implement a dress code.

“We were the first people to ever do it without a dress code, without a language code, without a content code … and we actually kind of got excited when people would storm out because it meant, well, censorship is a form of relevance.”

‘The judge looked at the woman and said, ‘But you are fat,’ and the case was thrown out. It was sometime in the ’80s.’

Topical controversy

Breslin was captured on video outside of his club in Toronto in early February 2024 receiving a police escort in order to enter the building through the back door. The entrance was blocked by pro-Palestinian protesters who were trying to prevent Breslin, who is Jewish, from entering.

As he made his way through the crowd, a woman appeared to try to stop him from entering by putting her arm out.

“She was grabbing my arm like she was trying to rip my clothes off,” Breslin told the Toronto Sun. “I felt like I was the rock star I always wanted to be.”

The club owner added that he didn’t know who to complain about because all of the protesters were masked.

A woman claiming to be the person in question took offense to Breslin’s remarks and said in a post on X that the joke constituted sexual harassment.

“The owner of Yuk Yuk’s are sexually harassing me when they falsely accuse me of grabbing him & trying to rip his clothes while he boasts he felt like a rockstar,” she wrote.

In the end, the night was still a success in front of a packed audience.

Too fat to laugh

The threat of hate speech laws are a real worry in Canada, but Breslin noted there is a provision for comedy under the latest Canadian hate speech legislation. But the entrepreneur didn’t think legislation was the real reason the government hasn’t been busting down doors to arrest comedians.

“None of this is for moral reasons, it’s for practical reasons. They’d be dragging people into court every other day! It’s hard to take somebody to court, it’s effort, it’s money. You have to really be a true believer to be able to do that.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, that has actually happened.

Breslin recalled that one woman took Yuk Yuk’s to court because a comedian called her fat.

“He called her fat, and she said that he can’t do that, so it actually went to court.”

Then, straight out of a Leslie Nielsen comedy, the judge actually rendered an unexpected verdict in the case.

“The judge looked at the woman and said, ‘But you are fat,’ and the case was thrown out. It was sometime in the ’80s.”

Above being edgy, political, or getting a TV show, what do comedians want?

“I think people want to sell lots of seats in a big theater,” Breslin theorized.

“Sitcoms are basically dead. Things have really changed, so I think that the notion of a massive billionaire comic is maybe one that’s in the past. Maybe Seinfeld and Kevin Hart are the last two of their kind.”

What’s more important now is having a strong fan base, he explained. A big TikTok or Instagram following based off of short clips doesn’t work on stage, he added.

“I can’t think of anybody who’s a TikTok star who’s actually made a dent in real comedy … but comics are making a good living selling out 2,000 seats in whatever city they go to. They may not have more fans than those 2,000 people, but those 2,000 people are rabid fans and want to see what they’re doing and will do anything to see what they’re doing.”

Having a fan base that is willing to pay a babysitter, drive downtown, and pay the cover charge while buying drinks, is worth far more than any social media clout, Breslin detailed. He added that anything under a minute doesn’t translate to a live stage, and he’s seen it fail.

With more than 20 clubs across the country, Breslin said his clubs are an extension of his personality. He acts the same way with his family at the dinner table as he does with his patrons: open and transparent.

In an effort to be consistent with that transparency, Breslin admitted that he doesn’t think Chris Farley is funny.

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