Pub Pummelling – When Comedy Goes Very Wrong

Last night I went three blocks from my house to go watch the consistently solid weekly show that Phoebe Robinson runs at Manchester Pub at 48th and 2nd.  I had no intention of performing.  Just wanted to watch and relax with some of the free nachos that Phoebe gets for the comics from the bar.  The show was set for 7pm but when I arrived at 6:59pm I saw no other comedians.  As it turned out, because of the UN doing UN things this week, and Obama doing Obama things, midtown east side was and is a mess.  So Phoebe was unable to make it past Park Avenue and the other comedians were coming late.

Rather than let the show be cancelled I figured, I will host the show and do some comedy community service.  Granted the crowd did not seem at all inclined to hear comedy, but all comedians have worked reluctant audiences.  That audience had an interesting cast of characters worth noting:


  • 3 regulars sitting close to the stage, fairly tough guys and good supporters of the show.  If Manchester Pub is Altamont and the Comedians are the Rolling Stones, these guys would be our Hells Angels
  • A pair of women who did not seem to want comedy, but importantly were open to comedy. These are the swing audience members who will join in to whatever vibe the room adopts.
  • The comedians: Harriet Hallway, Ryan Johnson, Andrew Schwartztol  and Alex Carbano


  • Group of three men talking loudly near the stage – European
  • Group of three men talking loudly in a foreign language in the back – Asian


  • Ginger dude and his chubby friend with sunglasses on the crown of his head in the back of the bar

I did 8 difficult minutes where half of the time I could barely hear myself and the other half getting individual laughs that were drowned out by all the talking.  I brought Harriet up first and she tried valiantly, but like all efforts last night, failed to shift the room’s attention fully to the stage (with the exception of when she mentioned porn, which apparently is the universal language to men, both domestic and foreign).  Ryan went up next and cut his time about two minutes short.  Then Andrew went up and a show that was a shaky ride at best turned into this:

Before Andrew went up I asked the crowd to settle down and that the show was going to be very short.  All we needed was 15 minutes of their attention and they might even end up enjoying the remainder of the show.  Andrew got up and the crowd was as quiet as they had been all show.  But then the European table started chatting loudly again and Andrew broke off what little momentum the show had built and did a touch of crowd work with that table.  They ignored him, as they had everything else that was not a comment about porn from a female comedian.  And then the chubby dude from “THE UGLY” group interrupted.

For back story, to give you an idea of how physically intimidating Andrew Schwartzol is – imagine Woody Allen banged Ellen Degeneres and they had a kid.  Pretty easy prey for a heckler, especially in a show that is already fraught with difficulties.  As Andrew worked through a set, with the crowd calmer than they had been all show, a douchebag in the back (sunglasses resting on the crown of his head guy) yelled out, “We are having a drinking game – whenever one of your jokes bombs we have a drink, so we are getting drunk.”

The crowd quickly lost interest as Andrew and Chubby Sunglasses had an awkward heckler-hecklee conversation.  I got back on stage and with only one comedian remaining I thought I could diffuse the situation so I said, “Hey guys we only have one more comedian and don’t worry Andrew, that dude has to leave soon so he can anonymously post hateful YouTube comments at home.”

Now, on a scale of 1-10 of cruelty, that insult was a 3 at best.  But apparently it was enough for sunglasses’ ginger friend to start making “you wanna go” faces.  So I asked Ginger was his problem was, since his friend was being a “piece of sh*t.”  Ginger and I had the following exchange (approximation:

Ginger: Why don’t you try sounding out anonymously?

J-L: Why are you guys being assholes?  So the show is not going well and you decide to be jerks?

Ginger: Your show is going terribly and then you start talking sh*t to my friend?

J-L: Your friend interrupted the show you idiot!

Ginger: Just keep trying to say anonymously.

J-L: This has no place here, but I have a law degree from Georgetown so don’t talk down to me like your are smarter than me because you are not.

Ginger: Well my Dad was a DA in New York so your law degree doesn’t impress me.

J-L: Wow – dd you just play the “My Daddy is an important man” card?  What is this fifth grade?

After some more mumblings and curse words I brought up Alex to close the show.  He did his best to interact with the crowd and change the tone, but people had completely given up on the show by then.  So I got back on stage and ended with the following speech, worthy of Henry V:

“Well thanks to everyone for almost listening.  We are here every week and the shows aren’t usually this awkward, but hopefully we don’t have the two fu*king pieces of sh*t sitting in the back next week. (brief interruption by Ginger) You are lucky this is not my show and better yet, not my bar, or else I’d cut your fu*king face open with the broken end of a bottle.”  And on cue the three tough guys who support the show and look like swarthy pirates in modern day clothing yelled in support of me, “We love it – we got your fu*king back!”  Now nothing happened and one of the guys tried to make amends afterwards (I think on seeing me too close for comfort) and I just told him to have a modicum of respect for people trying to entertain.  Of course I was disappointed the evening did not go like this (though verbally I played the role of both DeNiro and Pesci – I guess Andrew would have been Ray Liotta):

I told Andrew after the show I am no fighter, but I am big and a comedian, which means I can cause damage and have nothing to lose.  Comedy, ladies and gentleman.  Comedy.