Organizers of stand up parties, do not try to hire Sonia Bélanger, she does not exist. The prank made by a Gatineau bar using artificial intelligence to tease the founders of the Instagram page pasdefillsurlepacing has taken on proportions… not at all fictitious and raised eyebrows in the humor world.

For six weeks, the establishment Le Troquet, in Gatineau, announced on its posters and its social networks the presence of a certain Sonia Bélanger among the batch of weekly guests of Thursdays Julien Dionne and his friends. The smiling face of the young woman, who was supposed to be an up-and-coming talent, appeared alongside, for example, those of Pascal Cameron, Charles Brunet or host Julien Dionne. The concept of Thursdays Julien Dionne and his friends has existed for less than a year at the bar Le Troquet and aims to shine artists still unknown to the general public.

During the night from Saturday to Sunday, the administrators of the pasdefilleurlepacing page, Coralie LaPerrière and Emna Achour, were alerted by a friend, who wanted to hire Sonia Bélanger, that she was a pure creation of Le Troquet. Pasdefillsurlepacing works to denounce the absence of female comedians in evenings and comedy festivals across the province, and to decry the male predominance (“boys club”) in the middle. Le Troquet had been one of the targets of pasdefillesurlepacing for some time, because no women had been invited to his parties.

Joined by La Presse on Monday, Éric Gaudreault, owner of Le Troquet, defended his fully assumed joke, launched in the virtual sphere to tease the creators of pasdefillsurlepacing. He admitted that the image of his Sonia had been fabricated with ChatGPT artificial intelligence technology, with the avowed aim of giving his coin to the LaPerrière-Achour duo. Which, he maintains, pointed the finger at with “a little too harsh and false accusations”.

“We responded with a laugh in our beards. They were trolling [taunting] us by implying that we were five or six guys sitting in a circle, a big boys club that was doing everything in its power to prevent women from taking their place in humor in Quebec. It bothered us every time our posters appeared on their page. Since they conveyed false information, we found it funny to convey false information too, by inventing Sonia Bélanger, “explains Éric Gaudreault.

He vehemently refuted the reproaches of wanting to cheat his customers. He maintains that he has always worked to promote diversity within his laughter happenings.

“But on our side, I don’t have a hat to wear in terms of misogyny and the disrespect of female comedians in Quebec,” he says.

Would it have been too easy to invite more women into his bar, instead of building one from scratch? “If there hadn’t been an AI-generated person, there wouldn’t have been a woman, because there weren’t any booked those weeks,” replies bluntly Eric Gaudreault.

Coralie LaPerrière, from pasdefillsurlepacing, comedian and activist for various causes and “used to stir up shit”, was also amused on Monday by the controversy caused by “Sonia”. Acknowledging that the Troquet band “succeeded well”, she nevertheless pointed out that, “for many comedians”, the joke “did not pass”.

“It’s not the first time that Le Troquet has taunted us, but we still think it’s a joke in bad taste. We find hypocritical the fact that they know that it is not correct not to invite a woman, and that instead of inviting one, they invent one, ”explains Coralie LaPerrière.

The pasdefilleurlepacing movement has officially existed since the spring and first appeared at the recent Les Olivier Gala in March. Emna Achour, a former sports journalist and comedian, then showed up on the red carpet of the event with a sign that read: “Not enough girls on your pacings [programs]”.

As evidence, the duo began to publish on its forum pasdefillesurlepacing the information collected – some 150 captures of programs where no woman appears – as well as screenshots of hate messages received to raise public awareness.

Pasdefillsurlepacing was talked about at the beginning of the summer for having announced in broad daylight that the ComediHa! Fest-Québec had not included any women in its August 13 gala, hosted by Michel Courtemanche. ComediHa! President Sylvain Parent-Bédard responded by being upset.

“We are sensitive as an individual and as an organization to the diversity and representativeness within our teams and our content. I want to assure you that we have programmed this gala with all the professionalism and rigor that this type of project requires, always keeping in mind the greatest possible balance, “he detailed in a note sent to his employees at the time of this little media storm.

The rumor of the arrival of a “fake newcomer” to the industry raised eyebrows in the comedy community on Monday. The reactions collected by La Presse oscillated between mockery and amazement.

At Just for Laughs, the director of programming, Junior Girardeau, did not want to minimize the situation. “It may be clumsy what has been done, especially with regard to comedy evenings in the regions, where comedians go to run in numbers. Be careful. »

At Le Bordel cabaret, thinking about the place of women is constantly evolving, says founder Charles Deschamps, who talks a lot with female colleagues of his age like Maude Landry or Mélanie Couture to understand their reality. “The idea is not to have one girl per show to save face, but to offer them an environment where they have fun and feel safe,” notes Charles Deschamps. For example, Rosalie Vaillancourt pointed out to me, two or three years ago, that at the Brothel, there were no trash cans for tampons, since the comedy evenings are often attended by guys. »