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American Idiot cast member sacked for inappropriate conduct

An actor has been fired from the touring production of Green Day’s American Idiot, now playing at the Comedy Theatre in Melbourne, for breaching its producers’ “Statement of Zero Tolerance to Inappropriate Behaviour”.

In an apologetic Facebook post today, the performer, Linden Furnell (pictured foreground, above), who plays the lead character of Johnny, said he was sacked for ‘serious misconduct’ which he explained as an inappropriate comment about menstruation told off mic to a co-performer while both were on stage.

I made a crude allusion to menstruation amongst the banter. It was in poor taste and a lame attempt at humour,’’ he wrote.

Furnell said said he apologised to his co-performer later that night and “said that I would do what was necessary to avoid making that mistake again and reassured that I definitely did not intend to cause hurt or discomfort”.

The co-performer, he said, complained of his conduct to the show’s producers, Shake and Stir Theatre Company.

“I wasn’t asked to explain, give my account, dispute it or attempt resolution,’’ Furnell wrote. “The producers had a knee jerk reaction, probably as a form of damage control / prevention and I found myself fired without so much as a conversation.”

Shake and Stir’s artistic director Nick Skubij, said in a statement this afternoon: “Mr Furnell’s dismissal was a consequence of breaching the company’s ‘Statement of Zero Tolerance to Inappropriate Behaviour’ previously communicated to him and all other company members by company management. The decision to dismiss Mr Furnell was not taken lightly. Accordingly, and in the interests of a healthy and safe workplace, the company decided to act. At the time of his dismissal, Mr Furnell advised in writing his acceptance of the termination”.

Yesterday, the peak body representing theatre producers, Live Performance Australia, released a draft of a new code “to provide comprehensive, best practice standards to prevent discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment and bullying in workplaces”. You can read the draft of the new code here.

LINDEN FURNELL’S FULL STATEMENT

Those that know me well, are probably accustomed to my impulsive mind and somewhat inactive filter. The majority of the time it serves me well and makes me the inventive performer that I am. In this particular case it sabotaged me.
There is a scene where the characters Johnny and Whatsername have sex. Needless to say it’s a vulnerable, delicate scene and the actors need to trust each other completely. The director had responsibly monitored the scene and our individual comfort repeatedly throughout the run and any possible points of friction had been addressed and resolved in the spirit of workplace friends. In this climate, I know very well this kind of scene is a minefield and trod very carefully through the physical requirements of the scene. Her and I would intermittently check up on each other outside work to make sure we were comfortable with the scene and a few months into the tour, had become good friends with a great sense of trust.

Ironically, this was not where the misdemeanour occurred.

It happened in the moments following this scene. Johnny and Whatsername are dimly lit while another scene takes place in the foreground. Some off-mic character banter takes place between us in the background.
One night I wasn’t careful and made a mistake. It was a particularly hot night in an old theatre without suitable aircon and we were both comically sweaty. Without thought, I made a crude allusion to menstruation amongst the banter. It was in poor taste and a lame attempt at humour. The kind of thing you say to make your friends go “euugghhh gross”.

I found out later that same night via a text conversation with her that it had made her very uncomfortable and thrown off her show. Naturally, when I discovered the fact I apologised immediately and said that I would do what was necessary to avoid making that mistake again and reassured that I definitely did not intend to cause hurt or discomfort. I made a poor judgement call, assumed too much comfort in a work friendship. I apologised again for the upset caused. Unbeknownst to me at the time, she had also gone to management.

I occasionally make bad judgement calls, assume others are on my wavelength and pick the wrong crowd when it comes to humour. It’s a personal challenge that I come up against. I always apologise and do my best to adjust. That said, I genuinely regret the upset I caused that day.

Apparently she didn’t intend for this to happen, but it did happen and here we are. The climate is a sensitive one and there appears to be little room for nuance, intention, or even an accurate portrayal of events. Once something like this is even mentioned, duty of care rolls in and takes over. The producers had a knee jerk reaction, probably as a form of damage control / prevention and I found myself fired without so much as a conversation.

Now that I am unemployed I’ll have to figure out what to do with myself. I’ll do a little travel, spend time with friends that I trust and try to get some mojo back.

I’ve always wanted to pursue my original music more seriously. I’ll need all the support I can get on that front so if you are interested in continuing to follow my career, that’s where you’ll find me in the immediate future.

Not a call for anyone’s pity or scorn. This is an update on where I’m at so I don’t get a bazillion messages about why I’m no longer playing Johnny in American Idiot. I made a mistake, owned up to it, was immediately fired. That’s hopefully the end of it.

Your pal, Linden”

14 responses to “American Idiot cast member sacked for inappropriate conduct

  1. This is ridonk. This poor bloke makes a stupid joke, immediately apologises once made aware his co-worker didn’t share the same sense-of-humor and took offense and gets fired without any form of mediation or attempt to reconcile the situation by the company? I mean, come on!!! Who of us has NEVER let an unfiltered comment fall out of our mouths in the heat of the moment? We are in live theatre, for goodness sake!
    To think that real life criminals get off with a 100x less severe punishment than this guy! Maybe our justice system should take a leaf!

    Oh, and this rant is coming from a woman.

  2. There is a character in this production called ‘Whatsername’ and yet a joke about menstruation is a larger transgression! The world has gone mad.

  3. I’m honestly what sure what the company’s thinking was here. If they entered mediation or something, the person who reported it (and apparently also accepted the apology) agrees, if true, they are comfortable that Linden has been formally warned and it won’t happen again – I’m not commenting on whether he should be in trouble for a joke misfire – so they can all move on without media attention. If “mediation” failed, THEN fire him. That’s never off the table; but the problem with the current climate is that there is no presumption of innocence and no proportionality to responses, and that is an invitation to major backlash.

    As it is, the company looks ridiculous, the actor looks unfairly ridiculous – I’m not saying she shouldn’t have called him on a crappy, uncomfortable joke, but this looks, fairly or not, like overreaction – and the media attention is mostly negative.

    I see no positive in such a draconian and, most importantly, IMMEDIATE and one-sided response.

  4. Funnily enough I’m not afraid to leave the house because I might offend someone because I try not to offend ppl by using crude jokes insulting ppl on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender etc. All comedians have been sexist ? Yes it’s a Masculinist world& women wanting to be comedians have mainly gone along with that – that doesn’t mean it’s ok. If u think it’s ok then are racist jokes ok if they’re funny? Not too many ppl say yes to that, because racism is a felony but misogyny is just a joke.

    1. Where on earth did you get the idea that Linden was being racist? Or sexist? Or misogynistic? He told an off-colour joke that’s not necessarily any of these.

      This mob’s “Zero tolerance to inappropriate behaviour” edict leaves no room for nuance, and apparently no recourse for the supposed perpetrator. The whole thing saddens me really.

    2. Where on earth did you get the idea that Linden was being racist? Or sexist? Or misogynistic? He told an off-colour joke that’s not necessarily any of these.

      This mob’s “Zero tolerance to inappropriate behaviour” edict leaves no room for nuance, and apparently no recourse for the supposed perpetrator.

  5. We need strong unions! You can’t sack people without strong reason – morally, you can’t! Summary sacking can put people’s lives at risk. I’ve been there …

  6. I’ve got a feeling the Producers wanted the PR. Easy PR to sack someone for a joke that went bad. No mediation at all. Trial by Kangaroo Court and the Media! Sickening BUT our Arts have become so captured by the Middle to Upper Classes what does one expect.

    Now no one can even attempt a joke…its like Nazi Germany, no wonder Trump got elected and Australia’s Nanny Arts Luvvies will do the same for some Right Wing Autocrat who can milk the ugly PC OTT created!

  7. Over the years, I’ve seen many a comedian, male and female, say absolutely foul things in the name of humour. For many of them, talking about menstruation would be reserved for the kids matinee. Some of it has been extraordinarily funny, some of it not, and from my point of view, that’s the real kicker. If we’re going to start sacking performers for inappropriate conduct and/or comments, we’re heading down a very slippery slope.

  8. This is beyond the pale. It leaves ordinary people afraid to go out of the house for fear of treading on someone’s toes inadvertently.

    Linden apologised as soon as he realised. That should have been enough. And perhaps she should have sorted it on the spot? That’s what any normal person would have done. But no, must run and tell Mummy and get Linden into trouble.

    What is with these women? Is this a result of the tittle-tattle bullying program that primary schools run? Write your complaint about a kid who offends you (usually because you cannot get your own way) and put it in the ‘bully box’ little people are told and your teacher will punish the bullier.

    I recall the cheers and nasty commentary by women when Lorena Bobbitt cut off her husband’s penis in 1993. All over radio and TV, female journalists were laughing and cheering. Women are just as crude and nasty, if not worse than men, and their comments are more personal. A joke about menstruation, so what? Who cares. And just look at example of the ABC these days. My elderly parent cannot bear to watch most of the programs after 8pm because of the filthy language and the weird extremism of content.

    That any person can lose their job for an incident so trivial and human is very scary indeed. The feminatzi gender wars have reached a new low. If our laws support this, then we may as well live in a communist country.

  9. Wow. How on earth is this ‘serious misconduct’? That used to be reserved for assault, theft, fraud etc. A bad attempt at a joke in the arts now consistutes serious misconduct.

    I work in a professional field. If this is the standard we are demanding of people, say goodbye to fully staffed workplaces and hello to the workplace version of Salem Witch Trials. This is beyond a joke.

  10. What an injustice this is! What kind of warped feminism punishes a man for talking about menstruation? Why can’t we know what he said? I suppose it is considered too gross, just like periods themselves – surely this must just be more of the usual squeamishness around this topic?

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