Fiona Walshe was going out to dinner and a comedy show for a friend’s birthday last week, and before she knew it, she was being chased out of a nightclub with the crowd hurling drinks at her and her partner. On Friday, July 13, Fiona and partner Leslie Champlin went to Tommy T’s Comedy Club in Pleasanton, California where Eddie Griffin was performing. Fiona said he announced that he was drunk when he took the stage, continuing to drink champagne and a shot as the show went on. It wasn’t long before Eddie took notice that his act, which Fiona notes was misogynistic and full of putting people down, was not amusing to Fiona, who was seated near the front of the stage. That’s when things got ugly.
“It was fairly early on. He made some comments stating that I looked like a librarian, that I looked rigid but it continued throughout the night and was escalating each time. It really wasn’t until he noticed I was there with my partner that everything changed,” Fiona said. “My girlfriend, who was sitting behind me, had her right hand on my shoulder and it’s like a light went off. As soon as he realized we were a gay couple, he was almost given license to unleash and to justify why I wasn’t laughing at his jokes.”
Fiona (front) with her partner Leslie
Eddie Griffin, a comedian known largely for his 1990s stand-up and film work, began to target Fiona with comments about her sexuality, saying: “Oh, l see what’s going on here: You’re a lesbian. All you need is a good man. I’ll volunteer my services to get in between the two of you to show you a good time you won’t be needing any strap-ons or vibrators with me.”
“I was like a deer caught in headlights,” Fiona said. “He just unleashed on me and then he was actually pumping his hips at a sexual manner at my face and that’s when I threw my drink at him, because I honestly felt absolutely — I felt sexually assaulted. He was thrusting his genitals at my face and it felt like I was the only defense i had — to throw my drink at him to stop.”
Someone took a video of the moment after Fiona splashed her drink in the comedian’s face, and as you can see, the crowd went wild and cheered him on.
“They were all laughing until I threw that drink and then everything changed dramatically,” Fiona said. “It just went from a comedy night to absolute violence. We turned to leave after I threw my drink as I knew I had to leave and the whole crowd started to cave in on us. As I turned, that’s when Eddie Griffin jumped onto our table from the stage and began to grab anything in his path at me. I had at least five drinks hit my face. I’ve never seen so much anger and hatred in someone’s face like I did in Eddie’s.”
Fiona said that the only security available in the club were those who held Eddie back from further assaulting her, as you can see in the video clip. They urged people to stay where they were and settle down, and they would make sure Fiona and her partner left the club.
“Me and my partner literally tried to get to the exit and we had drinks being thrown at us from every direction,” Fiona said. “Even from the balcony. We had no escort. Even when we got outside we were still being abused. We ran to our car, absolutely drenched and, in fear, we kept looking behind ourselves. We thought we’d get jumped in the car park.”
Fiona felt embarrassed about the incident, saying she’d hoped it would just “go away.” But when she found out Eddie posted a Facebook status saying “that dyke bitch threw a drink in his face about a dyke bitch joke,” she knew she had to say something. “It highlighted to me this is absolutely how he feels,” she said. “He has so much hatred toward us as a community and me directly because of who I am as a person.”
Three days later, TMZ and The Huffington Post got wind of the incident and reported what they knew, which prompted Eddie’s publicist to speak out and say that he is not homophobic, and he removed the derogatory status from Facebook. But Fiona said the reports were wrong, and wanted to let everyone know the full truth.
“Unfortunately it’s this kind of situation that gay people have to endure constantly,” she said. “I’m hoping some change would occur from this because being personally assaulted for laughter is not OK, especially when they have a platform that influences so many people. I saw the reaction of the crowd and it was primarily because of how Eddie Griffin responded. Management should have stopped that.”
Fiona is hoping for an apology from both Eddie Griffin and Tommy T’s Comedy Club, as neither have reached out nor publicly acknowledged the incident other than Eddie saying that he was using the word “dyke” as “slang” and not as something “derogatory.” But it’s not as if Fiona has no sense of humor; it’s that Eddie Griffin’s sexually assaulting and homophobic actions made her feel uncomfortable and threatened and none of that is funny at all.
“I understand that point and yes, when you go to a comedy show you expect making jokes about particular groups at some point,” Fiona said, “but he literally just honed in on me with eye contact and, again, that line was grossly crossed, picking on me and really just having no filter. He didn’t stop, especially when he jumped off the stage, if it wasn’t from management pulling him back, I’d hate to think of him making contact with me, that’s what his end result would be.”
With comedians like Tracy Morgan and Daniel Tosh being taken to task for making inappropriate and offensive jokes about gays and women, this incident further highlights what can happen when things escalate and become violent. Fiona and her partner are lucky to have gotten away with minor injuries, but their emotional wounds are going to take some time to heal. No one deserves to be made fun of in that manner. That isn’t comedy.
“It was invalidating, degrading to our love and the people that we choose to love,” Fiona said. “It’s’ not just the words — it’s the violation he put on me through his actions and thrusting his hips into my face. that is totally unacceptable and the only way i could possibly stop him was by throwing my drink at him. He wasn’t going to stop. He was on a roll and he targeted me like ‘This is why you’re not laughing and I’m going to get you.’ I don’t think it was going to stop.”
Fiona is seeking an apology and compensation from Eddie Griffin and Tommy T’s Comedy Club. She has retained an attorney but is waiting to file suit against both parties because she wants to give them “the opportunity to make amends without litigation.”
We sincerely hope both Eddie and the comedy club will apologize for the ridiculous way Fiona and her partner were treated and that other clubs will make sure to take these things into consideration when booking the comedian in the future.