Stand-up comics have been targeted often on stage by out-of-control audiences in the months since Will Smith struck Chris Rock at the Oscars. The latest incident came over the weekend when the comedian Ariel Elias literally found himself under fire on stage in Point Pleasant Beach, NJ.
Elias was doing a Q&A with the audience as part of her act when a woman in the audience asked, “Did you vote for Donald Trump?”
After trying to deflect, the comedian joked: “Why would you ask me that question when you know I’m the only Jew in the room? Are you trying to get me killed?”
The woman went back to her.
“I can tell from your jokes that you voted for Biden,” she said.
That made Elias take off (the verbal) gloves.
“I can see the fact that you’re still talking when no one wants you that you voted for Trump,” the comedian responded to loud cheers from the audience.
Just a few seconds later, a beer can sailed across the room and splashed against the wall behind Elias, whose jaw dropped. It was what she did next that prompted great comedians and others to call her a “hero” and “a class act.”
Jimmy Kimmel later said online, he let Elias make his late-night debut on his show — Deadline confirmed Monday with a spokesperson for Jimmy Kimmel Live! that producers are in touch and are looking to find a date for her.
“As soon as I picked up the beer and felt that there was still liquid in it,” Elias said Newsweek today: “I knew I had to chug it. It felt like the only way to recover. Also suddenly I really needed a drink, so it really worked out.”
The Jersey crowd cheered, and since then Kimmel, Whitney Cummings, Patton Oswalt, Jim Gaffigan and many others have joined in. See their tweets below.
The owner of the club said that it was not the woman who had thrown the beer, but her husband, who so bravely fled the scene.
“The club is pressing charges against him,” the comedian said. “I’m not, because to do that, I’d have to go back to Point Pleasant Beach, and I’m not unless somebody pays me.”
Comedians across the country expressed concern about copycats almost immediately after the Oscar slam heard around the world.
“Now we all have to worry about who will be the next Will Smith in comedy clubs and theaters,” said comedian Kathy Griffin two days after Smith’s public attack on Rock.
The intervening months have proven Griffin’s prescience as Dave Chappelle was physically assaulted at the Hollywood Bowl, TI stormed the stage in Atlanta and grabbed the microphone away from a comedian who was poking fun at him, and stand-up comic Sampson McCormick was flung by an audience during his show at the Win-River Resort & Casino in Redding.
Asked specifically if she felt her incident was a result of the Oscars, Elias said, “No. I don’t think the reason people in this country are on edge and prone to violence has anything to do with a celebrity punching another celebrity during an award show that almost no one saw. Just as Trump is a symptom, so was the ‘slam’. We as a society are so deeply traumatized, from mass shootings to Covid to climate disasters, and we have a lot little access to mental health. We bury this and then act on impulse, looking for the easy answer to why violence happens when it’s so much messier than that.”