SO A SUPERFAMOUS POP STAR walks into a comedy club....
Actually, “walks” isn’t quite right. Rihanna more glides. She slips in through the back door, GoodFellas-style, at 10 p.m. sharp, and makes a beeline for the corner table, sliding into the chocolate-leather booth in her stonewashed Lee jeans with a red cartoon heart sewn on the butt like a tattoo. Her long ombré hair is shaved on the left side, a la Skrillex, and she smells like her own perfume (her third, Nude, notes of guava and sandalwood). “Jack and ginger,” she says to the waitress. “Please.”
It’s Friday night in West Hollywood, at the Laugh Factory on Sunset. Dane Cook is headlining; bros in untucked dress shirts are lined up around the block. Rihanna has no particular reason to be here, other than she’s been working a lot and thought it might be nice to blow off some steam. Often when she wants to do that, she’ll go down to Koreatown and sing karaoke with her girls, down Don Julio shots and slay “Livin’ on a Prayer” or some early No Doubt. But tonight she was feeling comedy club. To be honest, she was supposed to be rehearsing for her upcoming world tour today, but she just got a new musical director, and he’s still getting the band into shape, so she mainly would have just been sitting around – something the CEO of a jillion-dollar global brand
does not do.
Rihanna hasn’t eaten, so she leafs through the menu and settles on buffalo wings. She also asks for a side of ketchup, but the waitress frowns. “I’m sorry,” she says, “but we don’t have ketchup. I can bring you, like, a salsa?”
“You don’t have ketchup?” Rihanna says. “That’s so random!” But she’s easy, so ketchupless it is. The wings appear, and she dives in. She may be a little high.
Soon it’s time for the show. Onstage, one of the opening comics, a fortyish Canadian dude in a hoodie named Jeremy Hotz – one of those sad-looking journeymen who’ve spent the past couple of decades doing middle sets at the Omaha Funny Bone – starts complaining about L.A.’s recent cold snap. “For two f***ing days we had winter!” he says. “I didn’t f***in’ move here for that shit. F*** off!”
“Yes!” Rihanna shouts enthusiastically. “I was pissed off, yo!”
Hotz doesn’t seem to hear her, but he rubs his eyes for a minute like he’s overwhelmed by the world, and goes on. “You ever tell yourself what to do out loud, like an asshole?” Rihanna lets out another whoop. “I do that all the time when I’m high!” she whispers. Then she scrunches up her face, pretends to concentrate. “Like, OK…let’s see…perfume!”
Turns out for a star, she’s a pretty great audience. She laughs at almost every punch line; a lot of times she even laughs at the setups. She likes sex jokes, body jokes, just the sound of the words “tea bag.” Every once in a while she laughs so hard she has to grab something – the table, her knee, her neighbor’s arm. Her biggest laugh of the night comes when another opener makes a goofy crack about his dick being the size of a Cheerio hole, and Rihanna just about dies. “Hahahahahahahaha!” she howls. “Cheerios!” She laughs so hard she literally falls out of the booth, and then spends the next minute catching her breath and wiping her eyes. Her best friend Melissa, one row up, turns and looks at her like, “Are you serious?”
Occasionally, there’s some awkwardness. When Cook is onstage, he does a bit about how girls shouldn’t text nude pictures of themselves, because it’s classless. Rihanna doesn’t laugh. (Googling will tell you why.) Later he does a bit about inappropriate uses of the word “rape” (e.g., after finishing a sandwich), and she doesn’t laugh then, either. He starts one more bit by saying, “Guys, whatever you do, don’t try to beat your girl—” and for a second all the air rushes from the table – but then he adds, “in a text argument,” and she cracks up all over again. “Yo, this guy is the worst!” she says, delighted. “This man is horrible!”
As the set winds down, she gets up to beat the crowd. She heads for the back, where Hotz, the sad-looking Canadian, is standing there in his hoodie, hands jammed in his pockets like a 10-year-old. “Bye, thanks for coming,” he mumbles shyly, looking at the floor. The biggest pop star of the decade fixes her gaze on him. “You,” she tells him, “were amazing.”
Outside on the street, in her spearmint blazer with shoulder pads like a football player’s, she shivers in the L.A. cold. “That was so much fun!” she says. “I had a great time.” She says she’s probably going to go home, try to get some rest.
She climbs in the back of her chauffeured Escalade. Then she goes to a club in West Hollywood and spends the night with Chris Brown.
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