The Comedy Vault really did cave!

The Comedy Vault really did cave!

Comedy always works best when it is mean-spirited. – John Cleese

To eliminate the suspense, not only did the Comedy Vault cave to your garden variety protest possibilities, but once the story of their Michael Rapaport show cancellations went viral, it certainly appears as if they lied about the nature of those threats to mitigate the backlash.

To say this sad scenario is beyond disappointing doesn’t do it justice.

But before we continue, I want to thank the Batavia Police, and particularly Chief Shawn Maza, for one of the fastest and most thorough FOIA responses of my illustrious 18-year journalistic endeavor. I could really get used to this kind of thing.

As previously promised, the links to that FOIA response will be prominently posted below.

For background purposes, after receiving a slew of anonymous emails promising protests, the Batavia, Illinois Comedy Vault canceled controversial comedian Michael Rappaports June 6, 7, and 8 shows. Rappaport, known for his in-your-face rapid-fire style, has been a staunch defender of Israel and harsh critic of Hamas.

In The First Ward’s previous column on this issue, I surmised that some of those U.S. Palestinian Community Network incited missives contained a little more than just protest promises. But they did not. They were essentially the same email closing with a “Fuck Michael Rappaport” tagline, which only proves the underlying issue was butthurt feelings and not any grand political proclamation.

Poor babies! Perhaps if they redirected that two-year-old temper tantrum energy towards resolving the rampant Gaza gender apartheid, Palestinian women might actually be able to see where they’re walking.

Should you avail yourself of the FOIA email threads, I’m sure you’ll be similarly struck by the Batavia Police Department’s proactive approach to this potential protest situation. No department likes it when someone messes with their town and the BPD made it quite clear they would extend whatever assistance The Comedy Vault required.

But despite those constant communications, The Comedy Vault inexplicably left the BPD hanging, failing to inform them of the shows’ cancellation until the very last minute. How to win friends and influence people, right?

Only after the national shit hit the fan did club owners Mike Knuth and Liz Valaitis issue a dire public statement containing the following paragraph:

Given the escalating violent threats towards our staff and performer, including recent death threats, we have decided that we cannot, in good conscience, proceed with a show that poses such a significant safety risk to our staff, audience members, and the community as a whole.

But here’s the rub! Despite my previously stipulated belief that those threats had turned violent, there’s absolutely no evidence to support my prediction or the club’s claim.

Again, please review the emails and you’ll note there was a plethora of the protest variety, but   there isn’t a single death threat in the bunch. There’s a BPD email reference to “They have some additional communications they want added to the record,” But as far as I can tell, that never happened.

Furthermore, in his May 1 police report, the responding officer writes:

They are receiving emails, voicemails, and noting social media posts stating protests will result absent cancellation. R/O confirmed that there are not any threats of physical harm or damage to property.

Granted that report was compiled in early May and a lot can happen in a month. But if you’ve willing to provide the police with those basic threats, you think they’d swiftly submit the more dire variety. It’s not too terribly difficult to transmit the purported emails, voicemails, and social commentary, either. That lack of evidence calls the entire “violent threat” possibility into question.

It would seem the Comedy Vault was caught short by their sudden infamy and the owners felt like they had to do something to salvage what was left of their reputation. You can read the BPD’s response to my FOIA request right here:

Comedy Vault Police Report

Comedy Vault – City Emails

Regardless of the rest of this insanity, the last person we should weep for is the comedian himself. Rapaport’s popularity has skyrocketed since the attempted “cancellation” to the point where he’s booked solid, including a show at Chicago’s 1,400 hundred seat Vic Theater. That’s a far cry from the small clubs that previously dominated his tour.

As for the venues that refused to cave, as anyone with two connected brain cells could’ve predicted, most of the promised protests failed to materialize and no violence occurred. When was the last time a parents’-basement-dwelling chickenshit anonymous emailer ever followed through on anything except collecting unemployment?

So, just when you thought this comedy kerfuffle couldn’t get more disappointing, it does just that. Not only did the club owners capitulate to hateful morons, but failing further proof, they appear to have lied about the death threats.

The disappointment didn’t end there, either. We were thrilled to have a comedy club open in such close proximity to our residence and my wife and we were planning on attending a show when this controversy erupted. But now we wouldn’t set foot in the Comedy Vault because principles actually matter to some of us. 


Leave a Reply