The Stress Factory released an official statement today after video of an incident at the club was posted on TMZ.com. TMZ had reported that a fight broke out during Margaret Cho‘s performance Saturday night and that many patrons left the club after Cho got a little heavy into some sensitive topics including rape. Cho, who is a victim of childhood rape herself, blamed jetlag for the incident which was partially recorded on video by an audience member.
In the statement, Stress Factory owner Vinnie Brand thew some support to Cho, noting that she is a “well respected” as well as “brash, accomplished outspoken comic,” and that he admired her for “walking the razors edge in bare feet and damning the cuts.” But the greater thrust of Brand’s statement apologetic to his customers and a promise to make things right. Brand admitted that the final set of the weekend went badly, saying “the show took a left turn and ended up being a mess.” He apologized for the show, and promised to make it up to those who attended the last show on Saturday night, which was when the incidents took place. “I will make it up to my customers. I will let them know that The Stress Factory cares about them more than any other club cares about it’s customers and I will do this quickly and with great concern.”
Brand stressed that the club supports Cho. “We will also encourage our friend Margaret. We will help her get on with the process. We will applaud her and support her and we will let her know what so many other artists know, The Stress Factory loves you,” adding, “We know that the comics are also one of the most important aspects of our business.” He asked patrons to consider that Cho tried something extraordinary. “She bared a truth too difficult for too many people to even talk about privately. I suspect that when the piece is finished, it will be funny, poignant and brilliantly Margaret Cho,” he said, referring to the fact that she was working on some new comedy, that will evolve. “At that point you can look back and say you were there when it started, you saw it at the genesis and that is something special too. In the meantime, I will make it up to you.”
Accompanying Brand’s Facebook post, was a statement from Margaret Cho that was both apologetic and unapologetic. “I love the Stress Factory and I love comedy,” she said in her statement. “I’m sorry that I wasn’t at my best, but maybe in a way, I was. I bring the real me and my truth to my work. It’s not perfect, it’s not manufactured, it’s real. Everyone has a bad day at work. I was also upset because one of my heroes (Garry Shandling) just died. That doesn’t excuse my behavior, but it just shows that I am only human.” Cho didn’t comment on her promise to audience members that they would not be getting their money back. She had earlier said on facebook that she was not high, and that jetlag played into the content of her set Saturday night.
Comedians have had differing reactions Brand’s statement. We got a few chuckles from people who didn’t want to be quoted for Brand’s statement that “comics are one of the most important aspects of our business.” Joe Matarese, who grew up in New Jersey but has lived in New York for the past 25 years has performed at the Stress Factory. He said what happened with Margaret Cho is not unusual or out of line, particularly given that she was dealing with the death of someone she cared about. “Jetlag really can throw you off,” he said. Matarese said he found Brand’s response to the incident to be pretty fair on the whole. Kurt Metzger also thought the response from the club was a good one. “Vinnie wrote a great response I think,” he said. About Cho, Metzger said, “I only met her once, I really liked her a lot. If she had a shitty set so what? It happens. It’s weird it’s a national news story. Do people think if you’re famous you never bomb again? Also if you went to see Margaret Cho you should expect some experimentation. Without being there I can’t tell you whose fault it is or what she did wrong. Nobody is too big to bomb.”
We also spoke to Patrick Milligan, who is one of the owners of The Stand comedy club in New York City and asked him his take on the incident, and the club’s response. “It’s always an unfortunate situation when a venue garners bad press for a performer’s actions,” he said. “However after watching the incident, the room should have been policed more strictly. The customers actions were completely out of line and a performer should be allowed to take risks without a civilian literally getting into his or her faces.” He added, “here at The Stand, we always side with the comedians. Customers come & go and will leave bad reviews, but you always remain loyal to the performers that bring in revenue.”