Dave Chappelle’s attack a catalyst of Will Smith smacking Chris Rock at 2022 Oscars, comedy club owners claim

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After Dave Chappelle was attacked during his gig at the “Netflix Is A Joke” Festival Tuesday evening, local comedy club owners are telling the comic community not only do they “stand by” Chappelle, but they are also urging everyone to “protect our comics!” And from coast-to-coast, small business owners are sharing that they have had to rethink security measures at their venues due to recent events involving comedians. 

On Tuesday night, Isaiah Lee, 23, was carrying a replica gun fitted with a folding knife blade when he attacked Chappelle during his performance at the “Netflix Is A Joke: The Festival” comedy tour at the famed Hollywood Bowl, police say. 

Lee is being held on $30,000 bail.

After being tackled, Chappelle doubled down on a joke that the attacker “was a Trans man” – a reference to his recent schism with the community after many called Chappelle transphobic for his jokes during his latest Netflix stand-up special, “The r.” Chris Rock also appeared on the stage after Chappelle was attacked and joked, “Was that Will Smith?” 

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Following the aftermath, Fox News Digital spoke with the Laugh Factory club’s owner, Jamie Masada, who said he believes Smith’s actions at the 94th Academy Awards towards Chris Rock all but opened the door for showgoers to at least attempt to make a statement by attacking whichever performer is on stage at the moment.

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“It’s a sad, sad thing happening right now,” Masada, who runs the LA-based venue which first opened its doors in 1979, told Fox News Digital. 

“People are going on the stage just trying to make a name for themselves,” he shared, adding: “And I think what Will Smith did actually encouraged the violence and that’s a horrible thing.”

“We’ve got to stop violence,” the businessman, who is also a comedian in his own right, said. “We’ve got to bring people together. Laughter is supposed to bring people together. Laughter is supposed to make peace.”

Dave Chappelle’s attack a catalyst of Will Smith smacking Chris Rock at 2022 Oscars, comedy club owners claim

Comedians and stage performers are even more on edge after alleged suspect Isaiah Lee — carrying a replica gun fitted with a folding knife blade — attacked Dave Chappelle during his performance at the "Netflix Is A Joke: The Festival" comedy tour at the famed Hollywood Bowl on Tuesday night.
(Getty Images)

The attack took place toward the end of Chappelle’s stand-up routine. The comedian thanked both Busta Rhymes and Jamie Foxx for helping out following the attack. 

“Whenever you’re in trouble, Jamie Foxx will show up in a sheriff’s hat,” he told the audience.

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Dave Chappelle’s attack a catalyst of Will Smith smacking Chris Rock at 2022 Oscars, comedy club owners claim

Amid the ruckus, fellow comedian Tehran Von Ghasri – who holds a weekly show at the Laugh Factory every Thursday and had even performed during the Netflix comedy festival but was in attendance at the Hollywood Bowl merely as a spectator – told Fox News Digital in a sit-down interview that he attempted to alert nearby security to the individual’s presence before the assailant made his way over a barrier and onto the stage.

“At the Dave Chappelle show, I was merely a fan. I was in the audience in the pool section, which is the st section to the stage that you can possibly be. It was intended for VIP, industry and celebrity guests, and I was fortunate enough to be a part of that selection. And as a person watching this show — this phenomenal show, Jeff Ross as the host, Jimmy Carr, Earthquake, Jon Stewart, then the surprise guest, Chris Rock, the Jabbawockeez performed. And then Dave Chappelle gave an amazing performance, and it was just so wonderful. Such a fantastic, beautiful night,” the writer and performer described of the historic occasion.

Dave Chappelle’s attack a catalyst of Will Smith smacking Chris Rock at 2022 Oscars, comedy club owners claim

Outside of the Laugh Factory in Los Angeles.
(Fox News Digital)

“As it culminated and Chappelle did a roll call with the comedians to come out, and the audience actually thought the show was over. Chappelle was about to introduce Mos Def and Talib Kweli — ‘Black Star,’ which is a hip hop legendary group. And as he’s on stage, I’m sitting from my angle, I see that there is a young person, a young man walks up with intent, slides over the barrier that separates the pool area, which is the st area to the back area, slides over that barrier within three feet of me. I turn to the person to my left and I expressed, ‘That’s very suspicious.’ He agrees and says, ‘That is very sketch.'”

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Ghasri continued: “As the person jumps over the barrier, he then walks directly to the stage front with intent. And because of that, I did my best to alert the security guard who was immediately behind us and expressed with concern, ‘This person jumped over the barrier. This person walked to the front, We should do something. Alert somebody.’ Because it was the end of the show, there was so much going on. 

“I don’t think the security had time. I expressed, ‘At least keep your eye on them,’ to which, to be honest, the security dismissed my concern,” Ghasri alleged. 

Dave Chappelle’s attack a catalyst of Will Smith smacking Chris Rock at 2022 Oscars, comedy club owners claim

The attack took place toward the end of Chappelle’s stand-up routine. The comedian thanked both Busta Rhymes and Jamie Foxx for helping out following the attack. 
(Photo by Jacopo Raule)

Fox News has reached out to Live Nation, who promoted the event, as well as LA Philharmonic – which operates the Bowl – for comment.

Added the “Tehran Thursday” emcee: “Within 30 seconds of all this, the assailant leaps over the barrier to get on the stage, runs aggressively towards Dave Chappelle, and knocks right into him. Now, if it wasn’t for his own clumsiness and Dave Chappelle’s personal strength — he’s been working out — I think it could have been much, much worse. This person, clearly — it was premeditated. It was pre-orchestrated and it was organized. This was an attack on Dave Chappelle, which is an attack on comedy, which is an attack on all comedians, and to be honest, is an attack on freedom of speech. Because what else is liberty but the right to say things that people do not or may not want to hear? And that’s what makes comedy so amazing.”

Meanwhile, a rep for Chappelle said in a statement obtained by Fox News Digital that the actor and writer is cooperating with law enforcement, and added that Chappelle “refuses to allow last night’s incident to overshadow the magic of this historic moment” in which the “Sticks and Stones” orator “celebrated four nights of comedy and music, setting record-breaking sales for a comedian at the Hollywood Bowl.”

“This run ties Chappelle with Monty Python for the most headlined shows by any comedian at the Hollywood Bowl, reaching 70k fans of diverse backgrounds during the first ‘Netflix Is A Joke: The Festival,’” the statement said. 

“As unfortunate and unsettling as the incident was, Chappelle went on with the show,” the memorandum continued. “Jamie Foxx and Chris Rock helped calm the crowd with humor before Chappelle introduced the last and featured musical guests for the evening, hip-hop artists Yasiin Bey and Talib Kweli, a.k.a. ‘Black Star,’ who performed music from their new album – the first in nearly 24 years – which was released on Luminary. Other special comedic guests last night included Earthquake, Leslie Jones, Jeff Ross, Sebastian, Jon Stewart and Michelle Wolf.”

Dave Chappelle’s attack a catalyst of Will Smith smacking Chris Rock at 2022 Oscars, comedy club owners claim

Furthermore, a Netflix spokesperson told Fox News Digital of the bizarre incident; “We care deeply about the safety of creators and we strongly defend the right of stand-up comedians to perform on stage without fear of violence.”

Still, the effects of what has been happening to comedians on stage has sent shockwaves in the community, according to club owners.

New York comedy club owner Dani Zoldan told Fox News Digital that many performers felt as though being on stage gave them a proverbial barrier of separation from the real world – the audience in this instance – but after the infamous Oscars slap, he claims, such isn’t the case anymore. 

Now, comedians are relying more on optimized venue protocols to be set in place as a deterrent to others who might be rambunctious enough to rush a stage, Zoldan said. 

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“I feel like there was an invisible fence around comedians, right? People just didn’t breach the invisible fence. Comedians can make jokes whether they were offensive or not. People didn’t attack the stage.”

— Dani Zoldan, Owner of Stand Up New York comedy club

“Pre the Will Smith incident, I feel like there was an invisible fence around comedians, right? People just didn’t breach the invisible fence. Comedians can make jokes whether they were offensive or not. People didn’t attack the stage,” Zoldan explained. “They were always heckling and actions were taken by clubs when people heckled – they would be given a warning, they would be thrown out of the club. But never did we see before what happened at the Oscars was with Will Smith. That was just insane.”

Dave Chappelle’s attack a catalyst of Will Smith smacking Chris Rock at 2022 Oscars, comedy club owners claim

Like many in and out of comedy have expressed, Zoldan went on to say that every time he thinks about the Smith incident, “it’s just still as shocking as when I first heard it.”

“I don’t think people really know why that happened yet. Maybe over time, Will Smith will explain himself,” Zoldan said, adding the Chappelle tackle “last night wasn’t as shocking as I thought it would be,” and that at this point he’s simply numb to the prospect that similar instances will happen over again.

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Dave Chappelle’s attack a catalyst of Will Smith smacking Chris Rock at 2022 Oscars, comedy club owners claim

“I did a lot of interviews after the Will Smith incident and I said that it’s going to happen again. There are going to be copycats and Will Smith really broke that barrier where people think it’s accessible or acceptable,” Zoldan iterated. 

Zoldan believes that “people think it’s acceptable to attack comedians and Will Smith set that precedent, and it happened last night, and it’s going to happen again, and it’s really unfortunate.”

Asked what measures his establishment might take to combat potential stage-stormers, Zoldan echoed a peril of owning a smaller comedy venue – the lack of payroll to allocate towards hiring a security team.

Dave Chappelle’s attack a catalyst of Will Smith smacking Chris Rock at 2022 Oscars, comedy club owners claim

“I mean, we’re definitely not going to have security. Small venues, most of them can’t afford having that extra payroll. It’s expensive to have security at a small comedy club,” he lamented. “We will have a discussion with the staff about what procedures we need to put in place, so people don’t breach the stage – we never had that conversation before.” 

Masada also shared he’s added new procedures to his comedy club but did not share specific details.

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Added Zoldan: “Again, many people thought that was something that was an isolated incident. Even though I did think it was going to happen again, I didn’t think it was going to happen so soon. But after last night, yeah, that conversation needs to be had where the staff needs to know what they need to do if someone attacks the stage which also gives us that extra liability because a lot of the people that work for me, they’re young, a lot of females, they don’t know how to take down someone that attacks a stage and God forbid, there’s a gun or a knife. I heard there’s a knife in this guy’s hand last night. It’s just unfair to put comedy club staff in that position because of this i—t last night.”

The comedy buff maintained to Fox News Digital that he has been in touch with several comics recently who vehemently “feel like it’s open season for them. Not only on stage physically, but I mean they’ve been attacked on platforms like Twitter for a long time.” 

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“Comedians are here to tell jokes and take some stress off of all of us, and we should all be appreciative and grateful for them,” Zoldan said pleading to the masses. “They entertain us. When we all have stressful days, it’s great to sit back and watch comedy, whether it’s a stand-up special or a sitcom. And yeah, it’s just terrible that people get so offended by jokes. Everyone needs to lighten up. If they don’t like a joke, they don’t have to laugh. They don’t have to support that comic. They don’t have to watch their special or show. But I mean, it’s never okay to physically attack someone.”

Fox News has reached out to a rep for Smith for comment.

Fox News’ Lauryn Overhultz contributed this report. 

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