Updated after the jump: A witness confirms the girl-in-the-front-row story. Meanwhile, Kagan, who sounds like he's having the worst week ever, gets really, really mad at us. He also calls his attacker a “fucking lunatic felon” and the Improv a chicken-wing factory.
Originally posted at 12:05 p.m.
General etiquette at any Hollywood comedy show: When the stand-up comic on the stage derails from his script to poke fun at you or a loved one, you grin and bear it. (Are we right? Stand-up is not for the sensitive at heart!)
But L.A. comedian Randy Kagan apparently called out the wrong audience member last Friday night at Hollywood Improv on Melrose.
Kagan “made a comment towards a female in the front row, and the boyfriend didn't like it,” says Peter Banachowski, office manager at the club. Although he wasn't there to witness the mauling, Banachowski got a play-by-play from sound guy “Jake,” who was also the one to break up the fight.
Kagan's comment may have had to do with the way the woman was eating her food, says Banachowski.
The club seems unimpressed that various media outlets have angled the fight to have been about California pride, seeing as Kagan was in the middle of a set about the Golden State. (Riding off L.A.'s butthurt obsession with recent SNL skit “The Californians,” perhaps?)
Kagan tells CBS LA: “I was doing a bit about California. Then I got a little applause and then out of nowhere, literally out of nowhere, I was blindsided, bum rushed.”
The comedian says the audience member completely plowed him off the Hollywood Improv stage, and that he was bruised during the fall.
Oh, also — his wrist hurts from fighting back so hard. “I was able to pummel him in the face more times than I ever have anyone in my life,” Kagan
brags complains in the CBS LA story.
The funny guy also alleges that no Improv staff came to his rescue. In contrast, Banachowski tells the Weekly that the club's sound guy was tearing the two apart within 30 seconds — as quick as is possible “when somebody bum-rushes a comic like that.”
Security guards were “still seating people” during the bum-rush, says the office manager.
After the sound guy's heroic save, security did briefly detain the attacker. However, they later released him while waiting for the LAPD to show up, because “at the moment, we were unsure of our rights.”
Banachowski claims that LAPD officers were able to get the guy's name from lingering patrons. We've contacted detectives at the Hollywood Station to confirm.
Anyway, y'all, going forward — comedians are totally allowed to make fun of your girlfriend for eating weird. Don't be the douche who takes his own insecurities out on the talent. First Amendment, etc.!
“In my two years at the club, I've never seen anything like that,” says Banachowski. “Even at open mics with all the crazy people.”
Update: An LA Weekly commenter called “Everstar33,” who says he was at the show, claims that…
“… Not only were security talking to trashy girls outside the club, Randy had to defend himself for that full 30-40 seconds until Rick Overton and another comic came to his rescue.”
If anyone else was there and saw what happened, please let us know! Better yet, VIDEO.
UP NEXT: Kagan rips into LA Weekly, the Improv and the psychopath that bum-rushed his set on Friday night. Also, a witness account.
Kagan kindly emailed us his phone number this afternoon so we could get his side of the story. He now tells LA Weekly of his attacker: “I never saw him, never spoke to him, never spoke to anyone he was with.”
The stand-up comic argues that Hollywood Improv officials, even after years of hosting Kagan free of charge (“I'm part of their family,” he says), are lying through their teeth about what went down Friday night.
“They of course are immediately circling the wagon,” says Kagan, noting that Improv has every corporate interest in painting him as the aggravator.
He recounts the bit he was doing right before the attack: “I was saying, 'California's the greatest state in union, but people mock us. They say we're going to have a big earthquake and snap away — but I can't wait for that day.”
And the next thing you know — “I feel this presence come over, and he throws me on the ground.”
Kagan says he has a welt on his leg from being thrown down. But after the first move, the comic regained the upper hand: “I begin to pummel him in the face like I was channeling someone, because this is not who I am,” he says.
Punchlines have taken on new meaning.
— Randy Kagan (@randykagan) April 24, 2012
Although most of the fight is a blur, Kagan remembers “bloodying the guy's face” and “screaming something about free expression” before two security guards pulled the two apart. He says he even “kicked him in the head as they dragged him off.”
Kagan says that if security guards had been paying attention, they wouldn't have treated him like he was the aggressor. And it's indicative, he says, of greater negligence at Hollywood Improv:
“We are not chicken wings. That's exactly how I feel. The way they handled it during, and afterwards, is like I'm a chicken wing.”
As for Kagan's beef with LA Weekly: He says we shouldn't have focused on anything the comic might have done to instigate the attack, but instead on the fact that the attacker is clearly insane and Improv needs to treat its talent like humans.
“Crazy is crazy,” he says. “I don't know what this crazy guy was thinking. But I'm not an instigative individual. Whatever the sound guy says, he doesn't know me and he doesn't know anything.” (At other points in our conversation, he calls the mauler a “stoner” and a “fucking lunatic felon.” Awesome.)
Meanwhile, Hollywood Imrov is backtracking a little on the girl-in-the-front-row story.
“It's all speculation on our part,” says an anonymous spokesman at the front desk who will not give his name. “We have no comment.”
Calling all witnesses! Did anyone see what this dude in the audience reacted to, or — better yet — know his name, so we can sic the LAPD on his humorless arse?
Kagan, for his part, is fully prepared to press charges.
Until then, says the war-torn comedian, the message becomes, “OK America, he's out there, don't say this joke! [And if comics] feel like they're going to get their shit jumped, you're not going to have another Adam Sandler, another Robin Williams.”
Update, 6 p.m.: A verified witness of the assault (who cannot reveal her identity for personal reasons) says she and her daughter were seated at a table nearby.
“The only thing we could figure out is that [the attacker] was with a woman who made snappy comment to Randy,” says the witness.
When Kagan asked the woman to repeat herself, according to our witness, “food came out of her mouth. So Randy said something like, 'You cant even respond without spitting on yourself.'”
Cue bum-rush: A man at the woman's table “literally took Randy backward like three feet in the air and crashed onto the piano. Glasses were breaking; I got hit in the face with a piece of glass.”
How very Hollywood, no?
The witness describes the attacker as an apparent “sociopathic maniac” in his 60s with long, stringy gray hair resembling George Carlan's.
What infuriates her most is that five minutes after the fight, she says she watched Improv security allow Kagan's assailant to “get up on his own accord, walk off stage and sit back down at the table like he was going to continue watching the show.” When patrons reportedly raised a fuss, security did escort him out — but not in time for the LAPD to arrive.
We smell a rat.