You should always be careful what you tell a comedian. You could become more than just a clever bit in an act.
Comedian George Redd learned that lesson when he told fellow comics Joel "Junebug" Runnels and Flo Hernandez about an old parking ticket he planned to pay. Runnels and Hernandez used the information against him to pull off a hilarious prank in the middle of one of Redd's sets at the Arlington Improv.
Runnels and Hernandez picked someone from the comedy club crowd to pretend to be a police officer and arrest Redd on the stage during his set at the Improv's Mucho Funny Mondays show June 11. Redd admits he fell for it.
"I've been around comedians a long time, and I've seen a lot of pranks, but I never saw nothing like that," Redd says. "That took the soul out of me."
Runnels and Hernandez pulled off their perfect prank and filmed Redd's reaction for their YouTube channel, Blaxican Films, and their social media followers, and all three have scored more virtual applause and even a few gigs from the incident.
Runnels got the idea to stage a fake arrest when Redd told them about the traffic ticket he was in the process of paying. When Redd left the conversation, Hernandez told Runnels about a police sting operation once pulled on him, and a light bulb popped over Runnels' head.
"We had just talked that morning because we talk every morning on our next skits or our next gig, and we always pitch each other our ideas," Hernandez says. "I said I remember one time some guys told me to hit them up about a show at a McDonald's on Loop 12, and they arrested me because I had warrants out for my arrest. Then at the show on Monday, which they call Mucho Funny Mondays, Junebug said, 'Hey, your story inspired me.'"
The plan was pretty simple. Runnels and Hernandez would pull someone from the club's crowd to wear a police T-shirt, announce his or her presence to Redd during his set and slap a pair of handcuffs on him while the crowd watched.
"I know comics, and I know they’re kind of cool," Runnels says. "Most are not too uptight with that kind of crazy, and I told the guy if he acts violent or tries to swing at you, avoid him and we’ll let him know it's a prank immediately. George is pretty laid back, but I was ready just in case.”
Hernandez didn't learn about the prank until just before the show, but he says he wasn't worried about Redd doing anything that could cause the prank to backfire.
"He's a pretty cool dude," Hernandez says. "The only thing he gets violent with is his food.”
Redd was onstage for about 10 minutes when a pair of police officers stepped into the club and told him to step away from the microphone.
"The lights are hitting my face and I can't see the front row, but I heard, 'George Redd, we have a warrant for your arrest,'" Redd says. "So when I looked out, I handed the mic back and put my hands behind my back. The only thing I was thinking was I did think to run, but I thought, 'No, I'd rather be a comedian who got arrested onstage than a comedian who got shot onstage.'"
The beauty of the prank is that Runnels could set up a camera in the club and pretend he was filming his set or that another comedian brought the camera to record the show. The "cop" Runnels recruited from the crowd never broke character until the jig was up.
"The guy [from the crowd] executed it perfectly for me," Runnels says. "He was so willing, and he did it to perfection. I wish I clipped the handcuffs all the way, but by that time, we were all laughing so hard, we couldn't hold it in anymore."
The sting of the prank lasted as far as the hallway leading out of the main stage. As soon as the flimsy handcuffs slipped off his wrists, Redd says, everyone started laughing, and he realized he'd been punked.
"As we're going into the hallway, the handcuffs fall off, and as I look back, I see Junebug with a camera and I'm like, 'Is this a joke?'" Redd says. "It just freaked me out."
Hernandez says Redd wasn't the only one who got pranked that night. Even the crowd was hit with some friendly fire.
"The look on his face was priceless," Hernandez says. "I got back onstage, and you could hear them laughing in the hallway and everyone could tell what was going on at that point."
Once he learned he wouldn't have to make bail, all Redd wanted to do was go back onstage and finish his set so he could joke about the prank and give Runnels props — along with a couple of well-deserved "fuck yous."
Although he knew it was a prank, Redd says the scare it gave him took a long time to subside.
"The very next day, I called my lawyer up and I said, 'Find out if I have any warrants,'" Redd says. "Thank God I didn't."
The video of Redd's punking went on YouTube and social media the next day and attracted more than a few interesting reactions. Redd says he also received a congratulatory call from Hernandez, who told him, "Congrats, you're an A-1 comedian now. You're legit now, buddy."
"I even got a couple of jobs out of it," Redd says about the Facebook video of Runnels' prank. "As scary as it was, it was a blessing in disguise."
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Although the prank produced a positive side once the heart palpitations stopped, Redd says he may have some retaliation planned for Runnels and Hernandez, and it could spark an old-fashioned prank war.
"I'm gonna plead the fifth on that, but Junebug and Flo Hernandez know I'm coming back for them," Redd says. "This is gonna be a war."
How did Runnels respond to Redd's declaration of war? Well, to paraphrase former President George W. Bush during the second Iraq war, "Bring 'em on."
"I'm ready," Runnels says. "You're gonna have to really get crafty on it. They're gonna have to be on top of their game to get me."