The owner of a comedy spot in Roslindale shut down a series of stand-up sets last night after, she says, she'd had enough of a string of racist, sexist jokes.
Courtney Pong, who owns the Rozzie Square Theater on Basile Street, where she runs improv and lets another group put on stand-up shows, said this morning that the comedian emceeing the 10 p.m. event got off to a bad start by trying to crack a joke about his "segregated" audience - there were two black men in the small crowd of about 17 people, all men.
Then, over the next 40 minutes or so, she said she cringe listened to a number of "this bitch" jokes and finally had enough when one guy told a joke about how he couldn't understand why Uber fired him for making women customers ride in the trunk.
That, she said, is when she realized, "wait a minute, I own this place." Sitting at the sound table at the back of the theater, she hit a button that rang a loud bell, walked to the front and announced the night was over and that she would give refunds to the four paying customers - the other 13 people in the room were friends of the performers.
"It's not OK, and it's not who we are," she told the audience.
"Is this a joke or is this part of the act?" one man asked.
Pong said she chose Roslindale very deliberately as a site for her 49-seat theater to get away from stuff like this, even though she knows she could have made a lot more money someplace like downtown.
She said that she wants a space that is inclusive, not just for audience members, but for comedians, in a business traditionally dominated by men. Pong said there's a place for subversive humor, but male comedians punching down with "old and tired" domestic-violence jokes are not what she wants in her theater.
"No woman [comedian] in the world would have wanted to stand in that room last night," she said.
She said that after she shut things down, most of the people went across the street to the Napper Tandy's bar. She said that after she and the one other woman in the place, working the front desk, closed up, she followed them over and talked to the paying customers to explain why she felt she had to close down the performances. She said one of the paying customers was a BC student and that "it broke my heart" to think he might think that punch-down humor like going after women was OK.
"The comedians never acknowledged me," she said.