Ari Shaffir is no stranger to controversy, but his latest comments on social media have him in some hot water in the court of public opinion. Shortly after the shocking death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant, Shaffir took to social media to post a since-deleted tweet, praising the death of Bryant.
Shaffir stated, “Kobe Bryant died 23 years too late today. He got away with rape because all the Hollywood liberals who attack comedy enjoy rooting for the Lakers more than they dislike rape. Big ups to the hero who forgot to gas up his chopper. I hate the Lakers. What a great day! #Fuckthelakers.” Additionally, and probably because that’s how a comedian’s brain operates, Shaffir joked that his Twitter account was hacked and then shot a video doubling down on his joke.
While those unfamiliar with Shaffir might’ve seen this come from left field, fans know he’s been known to make sendoffs such as this when many public figures pass on. Usually those do not catch backlash since they usually stay within the ecosystem of Shaffir’s immediate social fanbase. However, with the incredible popularity of Kobe the comedian’s words went much, much further than he probably expected.
While many, many people around the world are mourning the tragic helicopter accident that took the life of 9 people including Bryant and his young daughter. Others, including celebs on social media have attempted to capitalize on the opportunity on social media to drag Bryant because of his 2003 sexual assault allegations. Perhaps the great irony in this is that Shaffir’s jokes in many ways echoed ones who aligned with the victim in the assault case. However, in the age of Cancel Culture, rational thinking doesn’t always apply when people are looking to focus anger and disbelief about the entire situation. The next day, Shaffir posted a lengthy statement about this process in an effort to clarify his motives but it was too late for some.
Last night Shaffir was previously scheduled to perform at The Stand Comedy Club in NYC, his first since his statements went viral. Like clockwork, a smattering of outraged people took to the club’s social media with the usual statements of racism, demanding his cancellation, calling for a boycott of the club, and demanding his firing – which should be noted that Shaffir is not an employee of any club so firing a non-employee is not even possible. Like many clubs, The Stand is no stranger to controversy of comedians and appeared to handle it as professionals even as some of the statements were downright threats to Shaffir’s personal well being and the club itself.
All of this turned out to be hallow internet posturing, staff from The Laugh Button were in attendance at the club last night and not only were there no incidents at the sold out event, it didn’t even appear special security measures were taken. Shaffir was spotted in the club but he didn’t take the stage for the show, perhaps cooler heads are prevailing here and a bit of a time out is needed. Many comics have been threatened over the years because of jokes made on social media, guests they’ve had on podcasts, or controversial bookings, yet we cannot recall any times when those threats come to fruition in the real world. Which is great, because in this case adding violence onto a national tragedy like the death of Kobe Bryant just seems misguided and diametrically opposed to celebrating the life of a revered icon.
Unfortunately for Shaffir, he will continue to be public enemy comedian #1 (a title he took from Shane Gillis) for a while until the next one comes along. We’re hearing reports that he’s being dropped by a few of his representatives. Who, after all of the antics the comedian has done, a joke about the passing of a celebrity is pretty tame in comparison. But such is the business of entertainment that Ari Shaffir is dealing with right now.
If there are any lessons to be learned in this perhaps it’s that nobody is perfect, mourning loss sucks, joking about loss happen, and until we all acknowledge that we’re all flawed we’re destined to repeat this cycle.
Rest In Peace Kobe Bryant. Your death affected many people in many, many different ways.