The future of comedy could depend on how much of a sense of humor British judges have when dealing with an unusual defamation lawsuit, legal experts say. Comedian Louise Beaumont says her estranged husband is suing her for mentioning him in her stand-up show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival last year, the Guardian reports. She says he is accusing her of defamation and breach of privacy and is demanding around $42,000 plus legal costs—despite the fact that she removed all mention of him from her "Hard Mode" show after she received a complaint from him last year. The 50-minute show's main focus was on censorship and free speech, Chortle reports. Beaumont says she mentioned her husband to tell the audience "how sad I was that my marriage had broken down recently."
"He has a lot more money than me and he says that I accused him of abusing me in my show. And so he's suing me, which in my opinion is simply an attempt to silence me," Beaumont writes in a GoFundMe appeal. "As stand-up 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." Libel lawyer Mark Stephens says this will be the first case of its kind to go before a judge since juries were abolished in defamation cases in 2013. "It's going to be a test of whether the British judiciary understands a joke—I mean that seriously," he tells the Guardian. He says juries had a long history of throwing "libel cases which were based on humor out on their ear." (This one-liner was deemed the funniest at last year's Fringe Festival.)