UPDATE: July 15, 12:15 pm ET
We’re still waiting for the Jacksonville, Fla Sheriff’s Dept. to respond to our request for comment.
Last night at the Comedy Zone in Jacksonville, Fla, a seemingly drunk woman in the audience assaulted comedian Tammy Pescatelli, who was on stage. By the end of the night and despite a room full of witnesses all willing to give statements to the police, according to Pescatelli, officers made no arrest. As of late this afternoon an arrest was still not made. Below, is Pescatelli’s statement:
Performing at the Comedy Zone in Jacksonville, FLA, I celebrated my 18th year in comedy on stage last night. 40 minutes into the show, while teaching the audience how to “Find the Funny” & regaling stories from “What the hell is Wrong with YOU?!!,” I had a drunken customer, in the front row, texting on her phone. I said, “What are you doing? Reading a book on your nook?” she said, “No, I’m watching porn!” I said, “Didn’t you hear what I said about the Save-a-Ho project? You have to carry yourself with class and dignity.” The customer retaliated by heckling me with, “Your jeans are cheap and you make fun of your husband!” I then said, “I was trying to be nice to you, I am a professional at this. Your blonde and you were reading a book!” The audience clapped with delight. The drunken woman said, “Ha. I’m not really blonde!” I replied, “Tell us something we don’t know. Did you think you were fooling anyone?” The audience erupted. I then turned to the crowd and called back my bit, “See. Don’t you think “What the hell is Wrong with YOU?!” will be the number one show on television?”
At that moment the woman threw a wine glass at my head. I turned in enough time to duck, as the wine got all over me and the glass shattered into the wall. I stopped the show and asked that the police be called and the woman be removed. The audience clapped their approval and shouted jeers at the intoxicated patron. A customer handed me a napkin. I began not only to calm the audience down but continued my show for another 20 minutes to end with a standing ovation. Coming back on stage for an encore, I asked the audience if anyone wanted to stay and give the police their statement, to please wait. NO ONE LEFT.
Jacksonville Sherriff’s Department told me, after only taking 2 witness statements, one being the club manager, that they could NOT arrest the woman, even though it was battery because the wine hit me, because they didn’t see it. It didn’t matter that an entire audience witnessed that a glass became a weapon. The drunken woman would not be charged with public intoxication nor disorderly conduct. The feeling from the officers was, “these things happen at a comedy club”.
In order to pursue any further, I was told to go to the State’s Attorney’s office this morning – which I did, after I got medicated drops for my eye that was red and swollen from the alcohol hitting it directly. At the Office of the State’s Attorney (of Duval County – which coincidentally has taken over the George Zimmerman case) a representative told me that because the officers hadn’t arrested the woman, (and they could have based on eye witness statements) and the fact that the club called the non-emergency police line, that they probably were not going to pursue it either. I said, “Will you at least take my statement?” The representative then asked me if I was drunk when the incident occurred. I said, not only was I not drinking – I was at work. To wrap up the meeting, the representative told me, “If I ever come to one of your shows, I won’t text on the phone”!
This is bias. The prevailing feeling I am getting from the justice department is that I should expect this because I am a comedian. I expect hecklers. I can handle heckler’s – and I can handle them very well. But never in my 18 years have I ever experienced something like this. My weapons are words. She turned a glass into a weapon and assaulted me in front of a crowd, who were more than willing to stand in my behalf, but because it was in a comedy club it is not as serious? If I worked at Macy’s and someone threw a bottle of perfume at me, they would have been arrested! This is a society where heckler’s disrupt a comedian’s act and then are shocked at what comes out of that comic’s mouth! OUR LIVELIHOODS ARE PREDICATED BY PERFORMANCE!!
If I (or any other comedian) allow a heckler to best me, it will not only be knowledge of those in the room – but those people will, now because of social media, be able to tell “thousands” of people and effectively take away my respect on stage. When you interrupt a comedian-whether you believe you are right or not, you MUST BE ABLE TO HANDLE WHAT A RAPIER”S WIT RETALIATES WITH! Sometimes it may be offensive-but a comedian will always win in a verbal battle.
I am not in anyway defending Michael Richards’ use of the N word or Tracey Morgan in his homophobic rant. Perhaps Daniel Tosh (and Richards’ & Morgan) could have used a different examples. BUT THEY DIDN”T! They had no idea that the heckler even EXISTED until they, in the word’s of John Rambo, “Drew first blood”, and then find themselves in situations that they have to apologize because thinking on their feet they chose the wrong verbiage! Jokes are cultivated over time. Repeated again and again before it becomes a true joke. Hecklers forget that the person they attack does what is considered the number one fear of the average person- that being public speaking. What society has to remember, that any good therapist will teach you, “You don’t get to choose how another person reacts”. Comedy may be good enough to seem as though it is improv, but the best of comedians know where they are going and will be damned if they let a patron win.
Now, you can throw a glass at a comedian with no ramifications? George Carlin was made famous by his “Seven Words” bit. Maybe in this day and age society, you can get together and let comedians know the 7 topics that you won’t censor. How about if we talk about lint? Oh no. I am sure that there is a lint society. What about clouds then? Absolutely not, cumulous’ have been through too much!
And as far as heckling is concerned- consider a professional sporting event. If I don’t like how the team is playing and I think I can do better, do I just jump down on the field and take the ball? NO – because I will get arrested. Thrown out of the stadium and fines imposed.
Comedy is or maybe WAS the last bastion of free speech. Who will standup for the standups?