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In her 11 years of doing standup, this was by far the worst heckler Ariel Elias had ever encountered.
The comedian’s gig at the Uncle Vinnie’s Comedy Club in Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey on Oct. 8 started like any other, so she never anticipated becoming the subject of a viral video and the latest example of the comedy stage becoming the scene of an unsettling incident.
Elias had spent the majority of her 20-minute set talking about female body image before launching into a pre-planned question-and-answer portion of her set. A joke she ends on appears on some merchandise she sells after the show.
That’s when a woman in the audience, seated at a large table of people attending a raucous birthday party, yelled to her on stage: “Did you vote for Trump?”
“I wasn’t talking about politics,” she tells CNN. “I think I was honestly talking about my period. It just felt like she was looking for a fight, and I really don’t think I did anything to like elicit that.”
The woman was kicked out. Then the man seated next to her hurled a beer can – fast – at Elias’ head.
In the aforementioned video of the moment, many in the audience react with shock.
Elias says she didn’t see the beer fly by her head, but she heard it loudly thump behind her.
“I just like heard it against the wall and then I felt the back of my legs were wet, and I was trying to figure out what happened,” she says. “And then I looked down and I saw the beer can and put it together and people were furious that that had happened, which was nice. So I’m glad a mob mentality didn’t take over against me.”
In the moment, she picked the can up and found it was still heavy with beer.
“I remember thinking, ‘Don’t let the adrenaline win. Take a sip. Be brave,’” she says. “When I thought that there was still beer in there, I thought, you know what? I’d never needed a drink more in my life. And I think this is kind of the only way to get out of this because I still have five minutes left of my set.”
She knows that she had the option to step away from the stage and that “nobody would’ve been mad at me.” But, she thought, what about her stickers?
“I sell merch after the show, and my my best-selling sticker is based on my closing joke. I was like, ‘Well, I have to do the joke if I want people to come and buy stickers afterwards.’”
So she finished.
Later, Elias says, “it was much scarier once I got home.” She had to watch the video to realize how hard and fast the beer had been thrown.
“To be honest, I’m not the best at processing my emotions. So I think probably just like in six days I’ll cry while watching ‘Man vs. Food,’” she says, laughing.
Her friends and family have been supportive; her parents told her they were proud and her fellow comics keep checking in on her.
“Last night, I did a couple of spots in the city and everybody asked like, ‘Are you okay?’ Which I think is very much the question that I need to be asked,” she says. “Because the answer is, I don’t know yet.”
While Elias has decided not to press charges, the comedy club is. And although she doesn’t want to back to the town where it happened, Elias says she absolutely loves doing standup and will continue on.
“Please don’t throw things at me,” she says. “I love stand up so much. It’s my favorite thing in the world. I love traveling and being in front of people who are different from me.”