Standups including Suzi Ruffell, Paul Sinha and Lee Peart reveal how hecklers, bookers and ‘the gay slot’ have affected their appearances in the spotlight

The comedian Stephen Bailey was hosting an Instagram Live earlier this year when he got a message that shocked him. One of his followers, an open-mic standup, described “experiences of blatant homophobia when it comes to booking,” Bailey says. “One venue wouldn’t book him because, according to them, their audience ‘wouldn’t like the gay stuff’.”

In the past, Bailey has had homophobic heckles shrugged off by venues and been turned down for jobs because there was already one “camp comedian” booked. “Imagine all the people we’ve lost over the years, these beautiful queer artists and performers, because of attitudes like that. They’re saying: we don’t think our audience will like you – not because of your talent, because of who you are.”

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