Denver comedian Kevin O’Brien, who hosts the popular Arguments and Grievances show at Vine Street Pub, took to social media on Saturday night to complain about being forcibly ejected from a venue he was performing at as part of Westword’s annual Artopia event.
O’Brien said the staff at South Broadway wine bar the Living Room, one of the venues hosting Artopia-related events, kicked him out after an escalating series of stunts that started with him trying to bring down the noise level of conversations that were drowning out the stand-up sets throughout the night.
“I then convinced everyone watching the show to stand up and join me to get the bar side to shut up,” O’Brien told Reverb when contacted on Sunday. “I set down the mic, ran over to the bar side, jumped up on a table, knocking over every drink on the table, and chanted ‘Shut the fuck up!’ with everyone that stood up.”
According to O’Brien, he went back to the stage to perform and was confronted by someone identifying herself as the manager, who got into a yelling match with O’Brien and attempted to shut down the show after he kicked another glass. With two comics left to perform, host Nate Balding tried to reintroduce O’Brien, but the staff turned on house music. O’Brien and Balding jumped on tables and started dancing when a bouncer dragged O’Brien out of the club. The show then finished with its last two performers.
“From her perspective, I was some rowdy asshole that was jumping on tables and kicking glasses,” O’Brien said of the manager. “From my perspective they were a bunch of pretentious jag offs that were dismissing my chosen art form when they were supposed to be at a venue for an event called Artopia. It could have easily been avoided if the venue actually wanted to have comedians performing there.”
O’Brien said he was ejected again after sneaking back inside for some unfinished business.
“I realized I hadn’t finished filling out my (tax documents) and I wasn’t going to get paid,” O’Brien said. “So I jumped the fence and went back inside to fill (them) out. The bouncer saw me and attempted to throw me out again. To his credit he let me finish filling out the paper work before he dragged me out a second time.”
Tension between comedians and bar patrons at non-traditional comedy venues is not unique to this venue or event. Local comics have complained about performing at South Broadway venue Sobo 151, for example, during The Denver Post’s annual Underground Music Showcase due to loud, inattentive patrons that had not shown up expecting to see comedy. And for O’Brien’s part, he seems to acknowledge that his antagonism toward the staff at the Living Room played a part in his ejection.
But it’s unusual to hear of that tension leading to the comic being ejected mid-set from a venue, or the show being threatened with cancellation. O’Brien was highlighted on Westword’s website last week as one of the “ten stars” of Artopia 2013.
“@DenverWestword named me one of the stars of #Artopia,” O’Brien said on Twitter Saturday night. “@thelivingroomco decided I was a white dwarf instead.”
Westword and CoClubs, which operates The Living Room, were unavailable for immediate comment when we reached out to them on Sunday, but we’ll update this post with any responses.