It was Saturday night, and the crowds were beginning to arrive at Uncle Vinnie’s Comedy Club in Point Pleasant Beach, a seaside town in New Jersey.
Comedians Ariel Elias and Gianmarco Soresi were standing at the back of the club, watching patrons enter, when they noticed a group of about 20 people take their seats. The group appeared to be celebrating a birthday, with some wearing stereotypical Mexican-themed costumes, and they looked to be a few drinks in when they arrived at the BYOB club.
Soresi said he turned to Elias and jokingly predicted the group would probably get thrown out for being too rowdy. “I was like, ‘I hope they get thrown out during your set instead of mine,’” Soresi recalled. “Sure enough, it was worse than either of us could have possibly imagined.”
As Elias performed her opening set around 9:30 p.m., she delivered her usual material about body image and being a woman. The audience seemed to be having a good time, but she decided to open it up for a Q&A — something Elias does to elicit laughs and work the crowd.
That’s when a woman in the rowdy group raised her hand and asked something Elias wasn’t ready for: “Did you vote for Donald Trump?”
“Um, fuck,” Elias recalled to BuzzFeed News of what she thought in that moment. “I think it was mostly just like, Why are you asking me this? What's your endgame here?”
As video of the encounter shows, the crowd seems uncomfortable with the politics question, and Elias does her best to bat it away with a joke: “Why would you ask me that knowing I’m the only Jew in this room? Are you trying to get me killed?!”
“So you voted for Biden?” the woman yells back.
“I dunno. What does it matter?” Elias responds.
“Yes, you did!” the heckler replies. “I could just tell by your jokes you voted for Biden.”
“I can tell by the fact that you’re still talking when nobody wants you to that you voted for Trump,” Elias responds, eliciting cheers from the crowd.
As the woman complains that the club owner was asking her to stop talking, Elias asks the crowd to make some noise if they want the woman to shut up, and she’s soon met with more very loud cheering.
But then, as Elias tries to steer the show back on course and begins a story about getting an IUD, a beer can is launched onstage, landing with a thud against the brick wall behind her.
“Oh my god!” people in the crowd shout.
“You can’t do that!”
“Are you fucking kidding me?!”
Elias told BuzzFeed News that she saw the can as soon as it landed — but then made a very fast decision.
“At first I was in shock. Did that really just happen?” she said. “And then I saw the beer can and I was like, I mean, I have to drink this. Like, there's nothing else I can do with this. This is the only way to recover. I have to drink it.
“So I drank it!”
As the crowd continues to reel in shock and outrage, Elias lifts the beer can above her head and drinks what was left inside to applause — and then she continues her set.
Elias said she was overcome with adrenaline, but she was determined to finish her set — if only to hit her final punchline, which is printed on some of the merchandise she sells after her show. “I was like, Well, I mean, I still want to make extra money tonight, so I have to do the joke!” she said.
When she did finally get offstage, Soresi hugged her and asked if she was OK, and then Elias called her husband so she could hear a comforting voice. She said one member of the rowdy group also came to apologize on behalf of their friends, while another gave her $20.
Club owner Dino Ibelli told BuzzFeed News that the heckling woman and her male partner, who he said was the one who threw the can, quickly left the venue, but Ibelli said that he had been in touch with local police on Sunday morning after he was able to identify the patrons.
An official from the Point Pleasant Beach Police Department told BuzzFeed News that investigators were at the club Sunday afternoon to collect evidence, which Ibelli said included security footage.
Soresi, meanwhile, said he was in awe of Elias for her composure — and her comedy.
“There's this idea that the brave comedian is the one saying the thing we're all thinking, and I’m like, just take a look at this video if you want to see what real bravery looks like as a comedian,” he said.
Asked how she was feeling on the day after the incident, Elias said she is still on edge.
“I definitely still have some adrenaline,” she said. “I took two sips of coffee this morning and I was like, That was a mistake.”
But one positive has been the incredible response she received from a bunch of more famous comedians after she posted the clip online, where it soon went viral.
“I've been at this for a long time,” said the comedian of 11 years. “It feels nice to have any positive recognition. Maybe it softens the blow — no pun intended — a little bit.”