Threatened by a Celebrity

Published by Rick on Tagged Uncategorized

I would have opted to save this story another year and a half for the 20th anniversary of the incident, but when I found out yesterday that it was the 18th anniversary of the murder of rapper Biggie Smalls, aka Notorious B.I.G., né Christopher Wallace (and had he lived longer, no doubt he’d have stockpiled names the way his mentor P. Diddy did), I figured that was enough of an impetus. Theories abound on his murder, most indicating retaliation for the murder of West Coast rapper Tupac Shakur about six months earlier. Interesting how neither murder has been solved, and probably neither will.

My encounter was not with Biggie but with 2Pac (his professional name), at the Comedy Store, late August 1996. I was on in the 300-seat Main Room of the venue, and having what I considered an excellent set, probably a 9 (out of TEN, wise guys!). When I finished and brought up the next act, the doorman met me at the back of the stage with the words, “I can’t believe you did all that 2Pac stuff when he’s in the room.” I felt safe enough to say, “Wow, he’s really here? I’d love to meet him.”

I was confident that the material I did where his name was mentioned was a pretty safe slam at me more than anyone else. I used to do a mini-diatribe about Gangsta Rap and its practitioners, first asking, “Now who’s this guy, Tooth-Pick, Six-Pack, whatever,” fumbling about with his name before broadening the discussion to say, “These rappers sing about killing cops, robbing stores, raping women, then they wonder why the cops are following them everywhere. Well, Duh!” It seemed pretty clear that it didn’t single anyone out, so I felt safe being introduced to someone I’d just mentioned onstage. It had only happened a handful of times that one of my targets was present, but I’d never had a problem with any of them.

Until now! As I was introduced to 2Pac, and we shook hands, I immediately complemented him on a couple songs of his that I truly liked, but he was having none of it. “Were you the guy that was just onstage?” I said yes. He replied, “Well, I realize you just doing your jokes, but I never shot nobody, I never robbed nobody, and never raped nobody, and if I thought you was serious, I got four guys here who make sure you don’t leave the room!” The “four guys” were basically “coke machine” in size. I remained calm in the face of that ridiculous threat, saying “Well obviously, you weren’t really listening, because I never said you did those things, and certainly wouldn’t implicate you unless you were actually convicted of those offenses. No, I was commenting on Gangsta rappers in general and their choice of subjects.”

I was amazed how quickly he backed down. “Yeah, OK, that’s cool,” he said, and we had another obligatory handshake before I dismissed myself. Actually, I couldn’t wait to get away to tell any interested comic or staff member how I just met one of the most humorless assholes ever to get famous. I understand why famous people get defensive and don’t take kindly to being publicly ribbed, but gee, if you’re going to get upset, at least do so for the right reasons. It came as no shock to me when three weeks later he was shot and killed in Las Vegas. It was life imitating art.

I also wonder how he’d have behaved if his posse hadn’t been with him. Would he have heard me correctly and not decided to be so hostile? I’ll never know, but given how quickly he was willing to threaten me, it’s very likely he went all gangsta on people much more dangerous than this little guitar comic, and paid the ultimate price. I’ve seen his morgue photos.

It never ceases to amaze me that no matter how hard I’ve tried in my career to be accessible but not condescending, to be satirical without being callous, to have an edge while not sounding bitter, to be intelligent in my intentional dumbness, there’s always going to be a portion of the audience that either interprets me wrongly, or just flat out doesn’t like me for any number of reasons. The fact that I offended someone as hard-nosed as Tupac Shakur, who must have heard plenty of worse things said about him, still baffles me to this day. Bottom line is I don’t have the time to interview my audience beforehand to find out what they want me to say. If someone’s offended by MY jibes, they just didn’t hear me correctly.

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