It was a joke about a mother, cocaine and Walmart scaring the man off.
He was sitting with a woman at the Laugh Factory in Chicago this winter and yelled enthusiastically in response to a drug joke when, after being bullied about his relationship with the woman, he said she was his mother.
So when Joe Kilgallon, the next comedian, picked up the microphone, a joke popped into his head.
“That’s healthy—cocaine with your mother on a Monday,” Mr. Kilgallon joked. “This is where you get real Walmart vibes.”
The man jumped from his seat, cursed and walked to the podium, club officials and Mr Kilgallon recalled. A guard grabbed the man before he could get on stage and pushed him out of the club through an emergency exit.
It ended up being little more than a minor showdown, the kind comedians have been dealing with for years, since laughing at people and mixing it up with scammers is basically part of the job description. But a couple of recent high-profile physical assaults on comedians — Will Smith punching Chris Rock onstage at the Oscars in March and a man taking on Dave Chappelle while performing at the Hollywood Bowl last week — has caused some comics to turn their backs. wonder if the stage is less safe, and has led some clubs and venues to take measures to bolster their safety at comedy shows.
Laugh Factory officials say that as a result of the recent unrest, they have added cameras and metal detectors and increased the number of guards at some of their sites. They’ve made a few additions: “This is not a UFC match!” “We don’t care about your political affiliation!” — to the standard monologue about the two drink minimum people hear when they walk in the door. The Uptown Comedy Corner in Atlanta last weekend hired an off-duty police officer to bolster security, moved one of its guards closer to the stage, and began using metal detector bars to check customers and their bags at the door. And the Hollywood Bowl said it had taken its own “additional security measures” after the Chappelle attack.
“When a comedian takes the stage, what is their sole purpose?” asked Judy Gold, the comedian and author of “Yes, I Can Say That: When They Come for the Comedians, We Are All in Trouble.” “To make you laugh. That is it.”
“If you take the comedian’s intent out of the formula and you decide, ‘I’m going to take this joke the way I see it, rather than the way the comedian intended it,'” she said, “and then I say, ‘I have “If I don’t like that joke, I want that person canceled or silenced or beaten up, ‘I mean, it’s just devastatingly sad.’
In interviews, comedy club owners and comedians themselves expressed varying degrees of concern about the recent events. While some spoke of a worrying surge in public outbursts that predate the Oscars, others warned of what happened to Mr. rock and mr. Chappelle happened not to confuse and draw too broad conclusions.
Trevor Noah discussed the situation with comedy last week, when he gingerly walked onto the stage of his Comedy Central program, “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah,” under the watchful eye of a man in a black windbreaker that reads “Security.” seemed to mutter into a Secret Service earpiece as Mr. Noah opened the show.
Noam Dworman, the owner of the Comedy Cellar in New York, said he viewed the confrontation between Smith and Rock as a very specific “one-off event” in which Mr. Smith seemed to embarrass Mr. Rock more than physically hurt him. Watching an audience member approach Mr. Chappelle was alarming, but it could be part of a broader trend.
“It seems like the violence is sneaking up on us,” Dworman said, referring to recent riots and protests that have turned violent. “We have many people who equate words with violence. And the logical extension of equating words with violence is to say that it is reasonable to answer words with violence.”
Some comedians brushed aside concerns about their personal safety, noting that for the most part they aren’t big names like Mr. rock and mr. chappelle. Several made it clear that they had no intention of making their material softer. But some feared that societal forces, including the bitter debates of the Trump years and the difficulties many faced during the pandemic, may have made people increasingly on edge — and less willing to joke.
Jamie Masada, the owner of the Laugh Factory, said he advised his comedians to be aware that some onlookers have spent much of the past two years in their apartments during a debilitating pandemic. mr. Kilgallon said he believed that after so much time alone, “people don’t know how to behave in public” — be it in comedy clubs, bars or sporting events.
Comedy clubs have long employed bouncers and security guards to deal with the occasional patron who was over-served or who complained a little too much. And long before Mr. Smith took the stage at the Academy Awards to meet Mr. Giving Rock a punch in retaliation for a joke about his wife, there have been scattered instances of people confronting comedians during their sets, or in some cases physically attacking them.
In the wake of the Oscars blow, some comics warned of the… potential for copycats† mr. Not only was Smith not removed from the Dolby Theater after meeting Mr. Rock had hit, but received a standing ovation shortly after when he received the Oscar for Best Actor. (He was later banned from the Oscars for 10 years.)
“These people gave him a standing ovation and no punishment,” Ms Gold said of Mr Smith. “We all said there will be copycat attacks. And there was.”
The attack on Mr. Chappelle was darker. A man with a gun tackled Mr. Chappelle onstage at the Hollywood Bowl, where he was performing as part of ‘Netflix Is a Joke: The Festival’. The Los Angeles city attorney charged Isaiah Lee, 23, with four felonies in connection with the attack, including battery and possession of a weapon with intent to attack; mr. Lee has pleaded not guilty.
The Los Angeles Police Department has not released any information about Mr. Lee’s motive for the attack on Mr. Chappelle, whose comedy has sparked controversy in the past. Chappelle discussed the meeting later that week on another Los Angeles comedy show, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Mr Chappelle told the public that he had spoken to Mr Lee after the incident, saying that Mr Lee had said he was doing it to draw attention to the plight of his grandmother, who was out of her vicinity due to gentrification. expelled. reported the journal.
“More than the incident itself, it’s the reaction people are having and saying — saying this is a recurring thing,” said Angelo Sykes, co-owner of Uptown Comedy Corner, which tightened its security after the attack on Mr. chappelle . “When you hear those things, you say, ‘Okay, we can’t take those risks. We have to be on the safe side.’”
In phone interviews last week, several comedians in Los Angeles said the attacks were a topic of conversation between comics after shows. Ms Gold described some of her fellow comedians as “tired and tired” and said others were “paniced”.
Comedy, she noted, is often a work in progress. “We don’t know where the line is until we bring up our material,” she said. “The public informs us.”
Tehran Von Ghasri, a Los Angeles comedian, was among those who said an increasing number of “oversensitive” spectators seemed to be coming to shows and either appearing to be confronting, “looking to be offended” — or both.
mr. Kilgallon said social media was also to blame. He notices that onlookers now quickly pull out their phones when a controversial topic is discussed or when a tense moment occurs. But he said the basics of comedy remained the same.
“Over the past five years, people would come up to me after a show and say, ‘It must be hard to do comedy these days – everyone is so sensitive,'” said Mr. Kilgallon. ‘And I say, ‘No, it isn’t.’ I perform in the bluest parts of the country and some of the reddest parts of the country. If you’re funny – whatever the joke, people laugh.”