The Advocate July/Aug 2022
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Sampson McCormick, Black Gay Comedian, Punched at Live Show

Sampson Attack

A gay comedian was attacked during his stand-up comedy performance at a California casino on Wednesday evening.

Sampson McCormick says that he has performed at Win-River Resort & Casino in Redding, Calif., for seven years, and in that time, he has never been physically attacked. This week, that changed.

"It's definitely Trump country," McCormick, who has been performing  standup for 21 years, tells The Advocate in an interview about the altercation. "But my shows are safe spaces, and I don't really make political jokes. I'll bring the audience with me on the joke when some subjects come up."

McCormick, 36, says that a woman began heckling him about halfway through his set for no clear reason. He, in kind, turned his attention to her and began responding. During his responses, a man in the audience approached the stage and punched him in the face hard, leading to an all-out fight. The attacker appeared to be in his thirties, according to the comedian.

"As a comedian, I'm going to heckle you back," he says. "I started teasing her about the obvious, which was that she only had about three-and-a-half teeth in her mouth." 

In a short video posted to social media, McCormick asked, "How many teeth do you have?" 

The crowd of about 100 people reacted with laughter and McCormick reveled in the audience's reaction for a few moments, joining in.

Next, a woman approached the stage from off-screen, while gesticulating and yelling words at the comedian. The clip ended at this point, and according to Susie Maldonado, who attended the show with a friend, what happened next shocked the audience. 

"We were just sitting there enjoying the show, and Sampson was being funny...doing his thing when this little tweaker girl kept trying to get on stage," Maldonado tells The Advocate.  

"This big heavy-set tweaker guy then just rushed the stage, yelling 'what did you say about my sister,'" she says. "And I don't even know if Sampson had the time to react because the guy clocked him hard, and then they began fighting."

McCormick, who is Black, said that he was taken aback when the attacker, who is white and bigger than he is, punched the left side of his face at full power.

"He was in my face," McCormick says, "I should have kissed him."

But, McCormick says, the man looked at him and said, "I'm going to beat your Black ass."

"He hit me so hard," McCormick said, "I just started hitting him back as hard as I could.”

In the resulting fight, McCormick alleges he hit the unnamed attacker four or five times and slammed him into a table in front of the stage.

"I think he was shocked that this Black, gay guy had just beat him because he stood there like he wanted to throw a chair but thought the better of it," McCormick says. "Then security got involved."

Witnesses say the fight itself took less than one minute.

McCormick says it wasn't clear whether the casino staff kicked the group out of the establishment, but he picked up the microphone and continued with the rest of his show.

Maldonado says that while she doesn't remember the exact words, she wouldn't be surprised if the attacker said the racist thing McCormick claims.

"This is the town we live in," she says. "Very few minorities live here, me being one of them and maybe my two friends."

Maldonado says she's been going to Win-River every Wednesday for nearly two years, and she has never seen an incident like the one with McCormick.

"Sometimes drunk people might get upset and say something, but it has never gotten physical," she says.  

The Advocate reached out to Win-River Casino & Resorts general manager Christopher A. Hart, Sr., to discuss the incident and request surveillance video of the incident, but did not hear back. The Advocate also reached out to Win-River's corporate office and was directed to Redding Rancheria's legal department but could not reach a representative for comment.

"After they got kicked out, he just started roasting them and incorporating the whole thing into his show, and it was hilarious," Maldonado says. "Everybody loved it.

"I give his performance a ten out of ten, and I see a lot of comedians," she continues. "My standard is that if my face isn't hurting by the end of the night, it was just 'meh,' but my face was hurting from laughing so much.”

McCormick does not plan to press charges but says he did have visible bruising, evident in photographs that he shared with The Advocate. He also says he has cuts inside of his mouth from his braces. 

"It sounds corny, but I like to bring love to my audience," he said. "But don't mistake my being gay as weak because I grew up in southeast D.C. and I will kick some ass."

McCormick appears in the Amazon Prime movies Love the One You're With and Party-N-Play, and tour dates for his shows are available on his website.

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