Comedy Promoter Wins Free Speech Case

A comedy promoter who asked people if they wanted to laugh at a “crippled girl” in a wheelchair and was arrested on a disorderly conduct charge was paid $25,000 by the City of Cincinnati to settle his 2012 federal lawsuit alleging violation of his free-speech rights, his attorney said Feb. 4. 

Photo: AP Photo/The Cincinnati Enquirer, Cara Owsley, file
Forest Thomer poses with friend and comedian Ally Bruener at her home in Alexandria, Ky.

Cincinnati police charged Forest Thomer after he asked people at a park if they wanted to “laugh at the crippled girl,” referring to his friend and comedian Ally Bruener, who has Muscular Dystrophy.

Thomer’s question wasn’t meant to insult Bruener but to promote her next comedy show and her website, the two said.

Bruener said she would approach people after Thomer asked them the question, tell a joke and talk about her next performance.

Thomer would record some of the people’s responses for use on Bruener’s website, showing them saying: “I laughed at the crippled girl.” Bruener said she uses humor to try to remove any stigma about the use of the word “crippled.”

Prosecutors claimed Thomer put his hands on people to get their attention. He was acquitted and filed the free-speech lawsuit, which also alleged malicious prosecution.