May 19, 2022

After Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle Attacks, Comedy Venues Increase Security

Comedy clubs have long employed bouncers and security guards to deal with the occasional patron who has been overserved, or who is heckling a tad too much. And long before Mr. Smith strode onto the Academy Awards stage to slap Mr. Rock as retribution for a joke about his wife, there have been scattered instances of people confronting comedians during their sets, or in some cases, physically assaulting them.

In the aftermath of the Oscars slap, some comics warned of the potential for copy cats. Mr. Smith was not only not removed from the Dolby Theater after hitting Mr. Rock but was given a standing ovation soon afterward when he was awarded 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 assaults. And there was.”

The attack on Mr. Chappelle was murkier. A man carrying a weapon tackled Mr. Chappelle onstage at the Hollywood Bowl, where he was appearing as part of “Netflix Is a Joke: The Festival.” The Los Angeles city attorney charged Isaiah Lee, 23, with four misdemeanors in connection with the attack, including battery and possession of a weapon with intent to assault; Mr. Lee has pleaded not guilty.

The Los Angeles police have not released any information about Mr. Lee’s motive for the attack on Mr. Chappelle, whose comedy has provoked controversy in the past. Mr. Chappelle discussed the encounter at another comedy show in Los Angeles later that week, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Mr. Chappelle told the audience that he had spoken to Mr. Lee after the incident, and said that Mr. Lee had said he did it to draw attention to the plight of his grandmother, who had been forced out of her neighborhood by gentrification, the trade publication reported.

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