Olivier gala: Mike Ward the big winner

Quebec's comedians showed their support for Mike Ward by showing up for the Olivier gala wearing face masks with a big red X, symbolizing censorship.

Humorists in solidarity say freedom of expression is the basis of their work

Comedian Mariana Mazza is joined by others at the Radio-Canada/CBC building in support of Mike Ward. (Radio-Canada)

Quebec comedian Mike Ward was the big winner at the Olivier gala, taking the prize for best comedian of the year and web series or sketch, for his Sous Écoute podcast.

But since he boycotted the annual comedy award show, dozens of other comedians took the stage to accept the second award on his behalf.

And they were all wearing face masks with a big red X, symbolizing censorship.

The producers of Le Gala les Olivier — l'Association des professionnels de l'industrie de l'humour (APIH) — decided earlier this week to drop a skit by Ward from the broadcast, reportedly on the advice of a lawyer representing the insurance company underwriting the gala.

Radio-Canada said Friday that it couldn't broadcast the gala unless it was insured. Ward and another comedian, Guy Nantel, decided to boycott the gala in protest.

Finally, Ward also took the highest award for comedian of the year, which is selected by the public.

Before the show Sunday night, comedians filed into the Radio-Canada/CBC building on René-Levesque Boulevard, refusing to talk to reporters, or simply mumbling unintelligibly under their face masks.

One exception was Réal Béland, who showed up late with a makeshift surgical mask with a hand-drawn X.

"It's the base of our profession, freedom of expression," he said. "The driver that makes us do comedy is the desire express ourselves freely. We're here to support that."

Ward and Nantel also performed a version of the skit at a Montreal comedy club on Saturday night, and released the video on YouTube Sunday afternoon.

It garnered close to 10,000 views in the hour after it was posted. 

Here is the complete list of winners.

  • Best comedy show/best seller: Les Morissette
  • Best TV comedy: Les beaux malaises
  • Best sketch or series on the web: Mike Ward sous écoute, by Mike Ward
  • Discovery of the year: Phil Roy
  • Best number of the year: Sable dans le vagin, by Mariana Mazza
  • Best author(s): Jean-Thomas Jobin (Apprendre à s'aimer, by Jean-Thomas Jobin)
  • Best TV series: Like-moi!
  • Best production design: Pierre-Michel Tremblay (Apprendre à s'aimer, by Jean-Thomas Jobin)
  • Best sketch or series on radio: La soirée est encore jeune
  • Best TV show: Infoman 2015
  • Comedy show of the year: Un peu princesse, Stéphane Rousseau
  • Comedian of the year: Mike Ward

With files from Radio-Canada