Whoever says comedy is a victimless crime is probably right. Actually, it isn't a crime at all — I was thinking of jaywalking. But if comedy were a crime, today's verdict in the case of Olson v. Universal proves it wouldn't be a crime you could easily prosecute someone for. Yesterday, a California Court of Appeals officially closed a case filed in 2009 by Richelle Olson against Sacha Baron Cohen and NBC Universal, alleging the "Bruno" routine he performed (is that too strong of a word?) at her bingo hall in 2007 left her crippled for life. As a footnote in the verdict explains:
"Cohen, acting as 'Bruno,' was invited up to the stage to call out the numbers. The film crew was present, and all of the elderly people in attendance had signed a 'Standard Consent Agreement' to be filmed for a 'documentary-style film.'"
Once he was on stage, Cohen started the Bruno routine — basically just a lot of gratuitous gay jokes in quick succession. Most people agree that Bruno's not as funny as Borat, but surprisingly, that wasn't Olson's objection.
"As Cohen continued… Olson became alarmed at the vulgarity and concerned for the other Bingo players. So she approached the stage area and told Cohen to stop." As security officers escorted Cohen and his crew to the exit, she announced to the audience: "I will not have anyone make a mockery of this bingo hall." After that, Olson began to sob uncontrollably. She left the stage, lost consciousness, and hit her head on the concrete floor.
Maybe she wasn't right in filing a lawsuit, but you can't help but feel a little sorry for this woman. And, to add insult (to insult) to injury, the court ordered Olson to recoup Universal the $17,000 for their lawyer's fees. Score one for comedy?