NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—On Saturday, March 26, Margaret Cho performed a set at New Brunswick’s Stress Factory Comedy Club that received loud boos, equally loud cheers, and sparked a fight.
She began the night in an unusual way, with a frank discussion of her experiences as a survivor of rape.
The set then segued into several other serious topics, such as white privilege, racism, and the recent death of Cho’s friend, comedian Garry Shandling.
Soon enough, according to the Stress Factory’s official statement on the incident, the “show took a left turn and ended up being a mess.”
A piece later in the show mocking gay men led to a heated argument between two men in the audience, and much of the crowd began heading for the exit.
The set was definitively divisive: the Stress Factory praised Cho for “walking the razor’s edge in bare feet and damning the cuts,” while an audience member, filming an angry Cho telling those leaving that they “will never get a cent of the money back that [they] paid,” yelled that “This is comedy before Easter? Rape? Rape? Rape?”
On Twitter, she reassured her followers in typical Cho fashion that “Actually for ONCE,” she wasn’t high. ‘Twas jetlag!”
She elaborated further in an official statement released on the Stress Factory’s Facebook page that her performance in the wake of her friend’s death shows not a lack of professionalism, but that “it just shows that I am only human.”
The Stress Factory has since apologized for the incident, and has promised to “make it up” to its disappointed customers.
“We want you to know how important this is to us, to me,” wrote Vinnie Brand, the club’s owner. “I want and need my customers to be happy. I also want and need the comics to be the best. I want you to forgive us and let us make it up to you.”
“I also want you to consider this when judging Margaret,” added Brand. “She tried something extraordinary. She bared a truth too difficult for too many people to even talk about privately.”
Margaret Cho’s tour continues in South Florida, and the Stress Factory continues to host comedy shows from its home at 90 Church Street.