david heti - thoughts

David Heti - thoughts

post-fiat set number one

Earlier this year I had the emotionally draining, profoundly demoralizing and just plain terrible experience of being forced to choose between my job [1] and my stand-up. Though a surprisingly long and indeed quite equally entertaining backstory, much less need really be explained here for the situating of the clip.

Essentially, several months into my contract I received a letter from high up [2] to the effect that, with respect to my obligations under the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector [3], I’d been found to be in a conflict of interest on account of my stand-up activities. I was told that I failed to meet the highest standards of integrity and fairness [4] and that unless I agreed to refrain from using a certain type of material—specifically, for example, sexual abuse of children, abortion, violence against women and war crimes [5]—I would leave myself open to appropriate disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment [6].

The fact that I do stand-up, and of a particular kind, was always something about which I was entirely up front, from the time of my applying for the job. For whatever reason, however, the very same jokes which, during my interview, were appreciated for their intrinsically ethical nature, only later gave rise to significant concerns with respect to my work obligations [7].

(Much more fun, really, to read Kafka than live it [8].)

The letter came to me on a Wednesday, hours before I was scheduled to perform, and I had little idea as to what to do. In the end, as opposed to simply cancelling the set and going home; rehashing non-violence against women, etc. material; or continuing, apparently, to violate the terms of my employment, I decided to go up on stage, in quasi-bewilderment, and do the following.

Anyway, perhaps the rest of the story another time.

(As well, I believe that the emcee that night—the ridiculously hilarious Graham Kay—introduced me by saying something about how much he enjoys my writing. I add that only because I make a quick reference to the comment during the set.)

[1] Articling Student with the Ontario Regional Office of the Department of Justice and Public Prosecution Service of Canada.

[2] A/Assistant Deputy Minister, Management Sector.

[3] Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector, online: Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat.

[4] As per the Department of Justice Canada Mandate, Mission and Values, online: Department of Justice Canada.

[5] Outside Employment Conflict of Interest Determination, Office for Integrity and Conflict Management in the Workplace (March 6, 2012) at 1. [But what is this type of material? Why is abortion lumped in with the rest? I asked and I asked, so as to know just what kind of speech exactly I was being asked to confirm I would cease to use during any performances, but to no avail. I thought, perhaps, it’s a jurisdiction issue? (For instance, might it be ok to speak on provincial matters?) But, apparently, after months of committee deliberation and external consultation, this was the only solution that could be envisioned. (One option considered—as explained by straight-faced senior management—was for me to submit all my prospective jokes for screening. And I would have loved that. I would have figuratively killed for that, almost. What a colossal, tremendous waste of time that would have been.) And it was flattering, in one sense, I suppose, that a colleague made the effort to google my name, watch a set of my stand-up, tell others about it, and then rustle around some complaints. (Because certainly, I mean, yes, perhaps I am a wife-beating, child-fucking, fag-hating anti-Semite. But, then, what about the Ghostbusters joke? What about the Ghostbusters joke? (Not to mention, the funny thing is, is that I really do believe in most equality rights for differentially treated, etc. groups. But, then, I guess, stand-up really is about rhetoric and language and communication and all such other sorts of things with which, apparently, one cannot expect lawyers to be accustomed.) Anyway—stage names. That’s really the moral of the footnote. Or, maybe, it isn’t? For instance, if actor-government litigator Al Pacino were to come/have come to me, hypothetically, I’d say/have said, sorry—sorry, Al—no—but we just can’t have it. Reasonable persons are going to think that you’re actually the fucking Godfather.]

[6] Ibid at 2.

[7] Ibid at 1. (This was the Department of Justice for which I withdrew from my Masters of Ethics Programme?)

[8] The worst part is the constantly feeling as if you’re about to throw up.