After attacks, comedians wonder: Can people still take a joke?
A couple of recent high-profile physical attacks on comedians — Will Smith slapping Chris Rock onstage at the Oscars in March and a man tackling Dave Chappelle as he performed at the Hollywood Bowl last week — have left some comics wondering if the stage is becoming less safe.
Written by Matt Stevens
It was a joke about a mother, cocaine and Walmart that set the man off.
He had been sitting with a woman at the Laugh Factory in Chicago this winter, shouting enthusiastically in response to a joke about drugs when, after being needled about his relationship with the woman, he said that she was his mother.
So when Joe Kilgallon, the next comedian, took the microphone, a joke popped into his head.
“That’s healthy — cocaine with your mom on a Monday,” Kilgallon recalled quipping. “Getting some real Walmart vibes here.”
The man leaped from his chair, cursed and made a beeline for the stage, club officials and Kilgallon recalled. A security guard grabbed the man before he could climb onstage and hustled him out of the club through an emergency exit.
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It wound up nothing more than a minor confrontation, the kind that comedians have had to deal with for years, given that making fun of people and mixing it up with hecklers is basically part of the job description. But a couple of recent high-profile physical attacks on comedians — Will Smith slapping Chris Rock onstage at the Oscars in March and a man tackling Dave Chappelle as he performed at the Hollywood Bowl last week — have left some comics wondering if the stage is becoming less safe and have led some clubs and venues to take steps to beef up their security 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 security guards at some of their locations. They have made a few additions — “This is not a UFC match!” “We do not care about your political affiliation!”— to the standard monologue about two-drink minimums people hear as they walk in the door. The Uptown Comedy Corner in Atlanta last weekend hired an off-duty police officer to bolster its security, moved one of its guards closer to the stage and began using metal detecting wands to check patrons and their bags at the door. And the Hollywood Bowl said it had implemented its own “additional security measures” after the attack on Chappelle.