Threat of $10,000 fine, jail time shuts down outdoor comedy protest

Did you hear the one about the outdoor comedy concert at Toronto’s Queen’s Park that ended up being cancelled under penalty of hefty fines?

Alas, folks, it’s no joke.

Indeed, Ben Bankas, a Toronto-based professional stand up comedian, has been staging comedy concerts at Queen’s Park for the last few weeks. He was shut down from making people laugh at Christie Pits and Bickford Park earlier this summer due to Toronto’s ever diligent bylaw enforcement officers. Apparently sharing a few laughs in the park is strictly verboten in Hogtown  — but feel free to erect a filthy tent city in a public park. That kind of illegality is always tolerated, no muss, no fuss.

In any event, last Friday, Ben Bankas was planning on staging yet another Queen’s Park comedy night. But just before showtime, the funnyman (understandably) had second thoughts. You see, at 12:01 a.m. that day, Ontario’s new social distancing regulations kicked in, limiting indoor gatherings to 10 people and outdoor gatherings to 25.

Since Ben’s comedy shows have attracted a few hundred people in the past, he didn’t want to risk getting nailed with a minimum $10,000 fine as the organizer (attendees would be subject to $880 fines — Ben didn’t want that to happen, either).

So, just about an hour before showtime, Ben pulled the plug on the outdoor show, making this comedy festival more of a tragedy than a laugh-fest.

To our knowledge, this is the first fatality of those harsh new regulations announced last week. So take a bow, Premier Doug Ford: your fear tactics were successful in shutting down the show.

Oh, and be thankful, Mr. Premier, that the new regulations did not kick in last month when you attended the wedding for an MPP – otherwise you’d be subject to one of those hefty fines. But hey, that was then and this is now.

I know what you’re thinking folks: what a joke! Yes, what a joke indeed, although a joke that is apparently missing a punchline.