In late March of last year, comedian Margaret Cho told several controversial jokes that apparently caused a fight among audience members and turned the crowd against her. When the New Brunswick, New Jersey comedy club attendees demanded their money back, Cho exclaimed they would “never get a cent of the money back” while a patron caught it all on video. The viral video and the ensuing hoopla inspired Jerry Seinfeld to intervene on Cho’s behalf when he offered to mediate a meeting between her and her angry hecklers.
No such intervention has been announced on the behalf of comedian George Lopez, whose expletive-filled shouting match with a female audience member during a Saturday night show in Phoenix, Arizona went viral after TMZ posted the video. However, considering the vitriolic nature of the exchange and Lopez’s subsequent Instagram post alluding to the incident, perhaps the involvement of a comic luminary like Seinfeld, Chris Rock or Dave Chappelle is warranted. After all, the post did include a clip from an infamous YouTube video depicting a stand-up smashing a heckler’s head in with an acoustic guitar.
“There are only two rules in the Latino family. Don’t marry somebody black, and don’t park in front of our house,” Lopez told the crowd on Saturday. According to the Huffington Post, the racial nature of this particular joke elicited a response from a woman sitting in the front row — a middle finger. Lopez saw her gesture and responded, albeit not in kind:
“Sit your f**king ass down,” Lopez repeated three times. “I’m talking, bitch. You paid to see a show. Sit your ass down. You can’t take a joke, you’re in the wrong motherf**king place. Sit your f**king ass down or get the f**k out of here.”
“You have two choices,” he continued. “Shut the f**k up or get the f**k out. I’ll tell you what. I’ll make the choice for you. Get the f**k out of here. I’ll make the choice for you. Bye. Bye. Bye.”
TMZ’s video and the Internet’s response sent Lopez’s name to the top of Twitter’s trending list, but aside from the initial reports and social media’s predictable round of reactions, no one tied to the incident provided any official comment. The comedian’s representatives did not return Huffington Post’s request for comment, and by early Wednesday morning he hadn’t said anything about it on social media.
That is, until Lopez posted the aforementioned Instagram clip of comedian Kenny Moore bantering with a heckler at a 1990 show in Bossier City, Louisiana. In the video, which took place at Jodie’s Comedy Shop, the performer loses his cool and smashes his 12-string guitar on the man’s head. Along with the video, Lopez wrote: “‘Get on up here motherf*cker.’ This happens when you try to become part of the show , you catch a Ibanez to the side of the dome.”
Unlike Cho’s discussion with her fans, Lopez’s followup — albeit indirect — doesn’t bode well for any kind of civil discourse. Especially since, as Moore’s interviewers found out 25 years after the incident took place, the Vietnam veteran was immediately fined, jailed and stuck with severe anger management issues after his outburst. “This guy, he was kinda quiet, and he was stepping on my lines. I just kept getting madder and madder,” he said. “That was kind of a wake-up call for me. It wasn’t long after that that I checked into my local VA clinic. I urge all the veterans out there that are having anger issues to do the same.”
As Amy Schumer more recently proved, comics can address hecklers — be they Trump supporters, misogynists or both — without resorting to violence. And while Cho’s initial encounter in New Brunswick weren’t as nice, violence never entered the equation. Nor did it during Lopez’s show on Saturday. But invoking the memory of Moore’s infamous guitar-smashing? Probably not the best idea for comedy.