No joke: comedians should not be silenced

Comic Louise Reay is being sued by her estranged husband for revealing details of their marital breakdown on stage. Kathy Griffin went into hiding after her Trump joke. But without artistic freedom, we’d all be poorer

My lover has left me” I announced to the 300-strong audience. “I know I made my mark on him though, because the last night I was in his sheets, I had a really heavy flow.” It was the only period joke I’d ever make in the only standup set I’ve done. I was a student and had spent the Christmas holidays soothing a heartbreak by crafting painfully intimate jokes. I had waited, terrified, in the wings, for a group of boys to finish their sketch on Samuel Pepys and then blasted out in a minidress to the sexually explicit lyrics of a song by Peaches.

Later, at the bar, I was congratulated by everyone, including my ex, who had been sitting in the audience with his new girlfriend. He smiled at me in that very attractive way of a man who knows a woman has made a “fair point” at his expense. Part flattered muse, part noble sportsman, he took it so well, it made getting over him all the more difficult. It had been a damn good gig. And I hated every minute of it.

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