5 Times Jokes Got Real Violent, Real Quick

Get ready for some very literal punch lines
5 Times Jokes Got Real Violent, Real Quick

Comedy is supposed to be about laughter, fun and momentarily silencing your acute awareness that the world is a complete and utter dumpster fire. But occasionally, some joke-tellers’ humorous material has inadvertently inspired acts of actual physical violence — literal punchlines, if you will — even at events that aren’t lavish award ceremonies, like how… 

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The Ending of ‘Brüno’ Resulted in a Real Riot

After pushing buttons with characters like Borat and Ali G, one would imagine that Sacha Baron Cohen is no stranger to random violent outbursts. However, the risky climax of 2009’s Brüno saw hordes of angry Arkansas fight fans rioting at the sight of Brüno and his boyfriend in the ring, passionately kissing instead of passionately wrestling.

The drunken freak-out was actively stoked by the production, who arranged to lower the price of beer from $4 to $1, then announced that the promotion would soon expire (it didn’t) so that “attendees got drunker and drunker.” What no one was expecting was a legitimate threat of bodily harm to the actors. While Cohen and his co-star hoped to be protected by the cage, audience members “managed to saw through” the “metallic stakes” holding the chairs to the ground and hurled them into the ring. 

Then, as Cohen has recounted, despite security assuring him that “no one is getting in that ring,” one guy scaled the fence and flipped over the barbed wire, forcing Cohen to escape through a trapdoor. 

4/num]One of the World’s Most Offensive Comedians Was Knocked Unconscious for Mocking… Canada?

Controversial Scottish stand-up comedian Jerry Sadowitz is known for his offensive material. A prime example being his getting banned from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2022 following “accusations of racism, homophobia and misogyny” (before, oddly enough, being invited back the following year).

It’s perhaps not totally shocking then that Sadowitz was once decked on stage. But what is surprising is the joke that led to the attack. In 1991, he opened his set at the Just for Laughs festival in Montreal by stating: “Hello moose-fuckers. You know what I hate about this country? Half of you speak French, and the other half let them.” Instead of simply repressing their rage and/or apologizing themselves, a disgruntled Canuck audience member stormed the stage and knocked Sadowitz “unconscious.” 

Jackie Mason Was Nearly Assassinated, Possibly Due to a Joke About Frank Sinatra

Famed rabbi-turned-comic Jackie Mason (aka Krusty the Clown’s old man) made jokes at the expense of a lot of different folks throughout his long career, but one bit clearly pissed off the wrong person.

In 1966, while appearing at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas, three gunshots were fired at Mason’s hotel room, which thankfully just hit the headboard instead of his head. Although the “assassination attempt went unsolved,” some have pointed to the fact that, shortly before the shooting, Mason made some jokes about the age difference between Frank Sinatra and his new wife Mia Farrow, quipping: “Frank soaks his dentures, and Mia brushes her braces.” 

It’s no secret that Sinatra had ties to the mafia and, perhaps not coincidentally, shortly after the attack, a Catskills club received a threatening phone call warning that the bullets meant for Mason “will kill you instead if you book him.”

Jim Jefferies Was Assaulted on Stage (And It Made His Career)


In 2007, a young Jim Jefferies seemingly offended an audience member who promptly stormed the stage and started brawling with the comedian as if it were a common Philadelphia sporting event. Weirdly, the guy wasn’t even a heckler; as Jefferies recalled, “He just ran on stage and starting having a go.”

Thankfully for Jefferies, the club’s security camera not only caught the attack but the follow-up performance, in which he joked: “I actually hired that bloke to liven up my set.” The clip quickly went viral on YouTube and even aired on CNN, bolstering Jefferies’ stand-up career. “I owe that guy a lot,” he later admitted. 

There Was an ‘Unexplained’ Wave of Violence at Theaters Showing Eddie Murphy’s ‘Raw’

While even Eddie Murphy admits that much of the material in Raw was “ignorant” and regrettable, it was an undeniable cultural juggernaut at the time. Today, most stand-up specials simply pop up on streaming services (occasionally with awkward after-shows), but back in 1987, Eddie Murphy Raw was released in actual theaters, quickly becoming the number one movie at the box office.

However, according to reports from the time, the film’s massive popularity, coupled with the “raucous” nature of the show, led to multiple instances of violence at theaters showing Raw. In Baltimore, a woman was shot in the leg after arguing with someone who was blocking her view. This followed several other incidents in Los Angeles, which included another shooting, a stabbing and a “fracas” involving 1,500 people outside of a Westwood cinema, which resulted in the arrest of four UCLA football players. 

The “unexplained” wave of violence connected to Raw even made headlines in multiple newspapers. Thankfully, this didn’t become a trend for Eddie Murphy films, as displayed by the lack of assaults at the half-empty theaters showing The Adventures of Pluto Nash.

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