The Battle of 1739 (Public House)

Amidst almost every monday night in Los Angeles where any expectations have faded under the muted rumblings of never-ending traffic, I wondered to myself, “It’s 10:17.  Should I go to Public House yet?”

For as long as I can remember since going up to Los Angeles proper for comedy, I tended to end my Monday nights late at a comfy little hipster bar known as 1739 Public House for JC Coccoli’s wonderful stand up comedy showcase Keep it Clean Comedy, affectionally abbreviated by those in-the-LA-comedy-know as just “Public House”.  It’s a place where some of Los Angeles’ best, both of the established and up n’ coming variety, go up and perform to varying crowds of hipsters, struggling artists of various media, some celebrities and industry members of varying stature, and a significant and consistent showing of the LA comedy community.  If there were to be a Frommer’s guide to live comedy in LA, they would have to feature Public House as the “secret” late night spot tucked away in the hippest parts of town on Monday nights where comedy really happens.

On the late night of March 7th, 2011, Public House transcended its reputation as it was more than just a night of comedy, but a night that will live on as one of those “were you there…?”, “did you hear…?”, “remember that one night at…?” types of nights.  It was not only the most hilarious and tense experiences of comedy I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of, but it was a rare night where by the end, you can legitimately say, “Comedy was victorious.”

After a quick great 5 minutes from Eric Andre preparing for Lopez Tonight, a fun poking at a group of Green Peace promoters by Dave Hanson, and a lovely and always hilarious delving into the relationship exploits of Abbey Londer, one Sean Green took the stage to a relatively attentive, but packed crowd at Public House.  

As it is a bar comedy show, there is some of amount of talking that happens, which JC does a great job of trying to “shush” as much as possible, but about 2 minutes into Sean’s set, a drunk typical of the Los Feliz neighborhood Public House is located in with his wrinkled plaid collared shirt and jeans, jeered randomly at one of Sean’s jokes. Rolling with wherever the moment takes him, Sean went over to high five him only to, moments later, engage in an unwanted conversation with him, then, shockingly getting dry-humped by the heckler on stage.  After a good 20 seconds that felt like 10 minutes, this heckler stopped the sexually over-suggestive motions, but then resumed the conversation about a book of Russian Tattoos that the heckler just had at his disposal in his pocket.  Despite Sean repeatedly asking the guy to cease talking to which the heckler resumed the dryhumping until Sean forcibly pushed him away to his where his original position.

Despite the behavior on display just a few seconds earlier by the heckler, the crowd found out that he actually had a girlfriend that equally “gave two shits” about the show taking place as she yelled out something along the lines of “You suck!” to Sean.  The manager of 1739 Public House stepped in at this point and only a few seconds later, a rally of “Get Out!” was being chanted by the wholly attentive room.  The heckler responded with a flurry of “fuck you” and stiffly raised middle fingers to anyone in his immediate vicinity including the manager.  He was finally to the delight of everyone in this establishment kicked out. There was some muffled back-and-forth during this portion of the show, but, for whatever reason, there was a distinct shift in chants from “Get Out!” to “Change your hair!” before the tossing of the heckler.

Seeing what just happened, any sensible person could see what would happen if they took on the comedian, which is still Sean Green, on stage.  Any sensible person could see that they would promptly be met with the disgust of at room full of people intoxicated enough to take drastic action if necessary. 

Yet, a 50 year-old looking man wearing cargo shorts, a yellow hoodie, and a craggy face that seemed worn of any sort of compassion for humanity opted to not observe the situation as a sensible person.  As Sean was still trying to set up a bit about Charlie Sheen that has been applauded at other venues, this second heckler shouted, “When are you going to start being funny?”.  

The crowd, as a unit now, collectively groaned as we had chanced upon the one-in-a-million chance where a horribly drunk heckler would be followed by yet another horribly drunk even worst heckler while the same comedian was on stage.  Wanting merely to just go through his material, Sean tried to take the high road by relating to the second heckler through asking, “What’s wrong, man?”

This second heckler who appeared so faded that it was honestly surprising that he was as vehement in his protest of Sean’s comedy would have none of Sean’s reaching out, responding, “I don’t hear any laughs.  I’ve been listening and I don’t hear any laughs. I’m not the one trying to be a comedian over here.  I just want to know when you’re going to do something funny.”  

Through the boos and barbs thrown the second heckler’s way, Sean still try to probe as to why this man took a personal offense to Sean merely setting up material, “What’s the problem, man?”  

The second heckler finally responding by demanding, “Why don’t you do something funny?”

In a move of chivalry, Sean obliged with a worked out joke about Obama that got a big room laugh at the punchline, but was met with a sarcastic gasp of a laugh by the second heckler in the middle of the joke.

Sean snapped, “Hey, see that?  They’re laughing.  They’re all laughing.  You can’t say anything about that. Hey, we get it.  You’ve been stuck being a grip for most of your life and things aren’t working out.  Well, join the club!”  

Uproarious applause and cheers flooded the whole room between every sentence that Sean yelled at the second heckler, “I don’t give a fuck about you.  I’m a man.  I have a podcast that gets over 8,000 downloads a month. We can take this outside.  I don’t give a fuck.  I was born and raised in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania where we made steel that killed the Nazis (Sean proudly pumped his chest at this appropriate opportunity).  This is a man unraveling right before your eyes.  I don’t give a fuck.  You want to take this outside?" 

Lauding Sean as a hero just fresh off a duel as he got off stage, Sean went straight to the second heckler still offering to "take it outside” at which point they both had to be separated by respective parties.  Still within the premises, the second heckler was then given the same treatment as the first heckler by the crowd and was kicked out.

The bizarre events that just filled the last 20 minutes I just described might encourage some people to think negatively of the evening, despite everything before the two hecklers being pretty funny.  March 7th at Public House still had more in store for the crowd at hand.

Taking advantage of the moment and the situation present, comedian Davey Johnson of the Doorknockers duo improvised a sketch with host JC Coccoli’s permission in which he played a drunker brother of the first heckler that fell all over the stage, incidentally breaking the mic for a few minutes.  Comedian Kyle Kinane, fresh off the road and the premiere of his Comedy Central Special, hid amidst the crowd at the table where the second heckler was standing, taking the cue to stall for time while JC fixed the mix, started yelling at Davey as the brother of the second heckler, “You’re brother’s funnier.  Bring him back.”  

You almost couldn’t understand what either of them were saying as there was so much laughter.  With Kyle egging him on, Davey took off his shirt and went off just like Sean, “You wanna take this outside?”, when JC had just fixed the mic and promptly ended the sketch as Davey, by this time, had his pants off.  Taking the cue from his “brother”, the first heckler, he started dry humping JC, which made nearly the entire audience doubled over in laughter.  

Comedian Davey Johnson goes a little further than off the cuff with ’Keep It Clean’ host JC Coccoli [pic taken by Scott Boxenbaum]

Davey left the stage and Kyle resumed his position as an intently listening audience member while JC took her time in settling the show down as best she could claiming, “I don’t know how we can top this,” before she brought up the next comic, in town from Canada, Simon King.  Simon did his best to stick to his guns and got some good laughs throughout his set, especially when a cleaning lady walked right behind him during his set to clean a corner, but everyone at Public House got caught up in verbally processing the events that just occurred.

With the post-fight excitement still very much palpable in the loud whispers throughout the room, JC actually restarted the show with the same routine she always does at the top of Keep It Clean Comedy with greeting the audience then taking the wireless microphone to see who else is talking while she breaks the crowd in for a show.  From this point on, the night resumed relatively according to plan with Lauren Ashley Bishop, Shawn Pearlman, Julia Lillis, and Josh Adam Meyers, pretty much doing their act (save for Chris Gordon who opened up some party poppers) and faring well.  We were well into 3 hour territory when JC finally ended the show, but, for me, it was glaring exception in regards to duration of live comedy shows.  

In short, the night was won and the answer to the question posed at the beginning, “Should I go to Public House yet?” should always be a resounding yes.

Something that can never be and will never be replicated had taken place at Public House.  Even as I’ve taken on the task on trying to provide a reliable picture as to what happened, there is so many tiny quips and nuances that I’m surely missed, but would ultimately be out of context like how amazing it was that a single audience member, Michael Stuart, sat front and center for the entire show, hecklers, poppers, random improv sketches, and all.  

No matter how fantastical and incredible I made any of this sound, I guarantee you it was exponentially better in person.  This is why you go see live comedy instead of seeing someone vastly edited and filtered set on TV even if gas is $4 a gallon because you just might get to be a part of a night like the Battle of 1739 (Public House).