The estranged husband of an award-winning comedian is suing her for allegedly defaming him in her show.
If Thomas Reay wins the case against Louise Beamont there could be massive implications for what comedians can and cannot say on stage in the future.
Beamont, whose stage name is Louise Reay, set up a crowdfunding campaign to pay for her defence as she she will be ‘ruined’ if she loses the case, which she is claiming is all about free speech.
The comedian claims Mr Reay also wants to sue her for breach of privacy and data protection, wants £30,000 in damages plus legal costs and an injunction to stop her publishing statements about him.
The 2015 Alternative New Comedian of the Year wrote on her fundraising page: ‘I referred to my husband a couple of times – perhaps 2 minutes’ worth of reference in a 50-minute show.
‘The main gist of those references was to tell the audience how sad I was that my marriage had broken down recently.’
Beamont claims she removed the references from her show Hard Mode as soon as she got a writ from her Mr Reay.
She added: ‘As standup comedians, I believe it’s the very definition of our job to talk about our lives and social issues. So this has become a free speech issue – and free speech means everything to me.’
Within four days of launching her fundraising page supporters had donated over £6,000 of the £10,000 she needs to pay for her legal defence.
Taylor Hampton, solicitors for Thomas Reay, told The Guardian the case was not about free speech and said the show caused their client enormous distress.
‘Beamont repeatedly performed a comedy show which identified our client verbally and in still and moving images, contained private information about him and his relationship with Ms Beamont, and made very serious and inflammatory allegations of wrongdoing against him.
‘These allegations included the entirely false suggestion that our client’s relationship with Ms Beamont was an abusive one.’