Comedian JP Sears Calls For Civil War, Killing of Trans People During Spokane Appearance
"Openly threatening to shoot people, it’s not comedy"
Comedian JP Sears explicitly called for violence against trans people during an appearance earlier this month in Spokane.
“One side has actual military training, the other side has ‘woke’ military training,” Sears said. “There’s that very diverse looking group of them/theirs that I’m about to easily kill.”
Former Spokane Comedy Club staffer Alexis Gallaway-Tonasket, who was working that night, said that in her view, the comment was over the line.
“He's not just making jokes,” Gallaway-Tonasket told me. “They’re instructions.”
Sears, perhaps best known for his videos sending up the wellness and spirituality industries, has taken a hard right turn in recent years, but his latest comments suggest that his extremist views are escalating.
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“Pick your side”
The Spokane Comedy Club is run in part by Adam Norwest, a semi-prominent figure in the Pacific Northwest comic scene. Norwest is a conservative, according to sources in the industry who spoke on condition of anonymity, but most motivated by whatever gets people in seats.
During his nine sold-out sets at the 320 seat capacity club from November 26 to 28, Sears repeatedly poked fun—and more—at trans people.
Sears delivered a rant on the final night against trans athletes that would have been at home on the Joe Rogan show, complete with a shoutout to Dave Chappelle.
“I think Chappelle is truly the greatest of all time,” Sears gushed. “He's not just a comedian anymore, he’s a truth teller. He's helping enlighten society.”
In one segment, Sears appeared to call for a civil war, saying that “it’s your life, do what you want, pick your side.”
Gallaway-Tonasket said that there’s a difference between Sears and the other comics who come through the club.
“Even if it's hit or miss, even if it's not that funny, it’s still comedy,” she said. “The way he's doing it, like openly threatening to shoot people, it’s not comedy.”
“He actually mimicked picking up a gun and making the sound, which made people cheer,” she added. “That was scary.”
Sears first came on my radar years ago for his send-ups of the wellness and spirituality industries. Those videos, which presented Sears as an overly-earnest version of a stereotypically clueless New Ager, were clever.
But, as I wrote at Discontents last year, he’s since moved to the fringe right:
I started noticing a few months ago that his videos, when they were suggested to me on YouTube, were starting to take a rightward turn. Sears was making content less about poking fun at spiritual trust fund kids and more about railing against social justice warriors, censorship, and casting doubt on public health warnings about Covid.
Sears himself claims that the response to the pandemic is what prompted his shift to the right.
“I started realizing our freedoms are being taken away,” he told the Spokane Spokesman Review. “Things are not happening to protect people’s health.”
Today, he’s all-in. His site sells merchandise that caters to far-right memes and his videos have gone full tilt on anti-vax conspiracy theories and transphobic hate.
“I always thought Sears was a crunchy guy which it makes sense that he would do a right turn when the anti-vax stuff really took off,” Bryan Quimby, co-host of Street Fight podcast, told me. “There is something about Facebook comedy that makes people have the same right wing politics.”
Tapping into hate
Quimby thinks that the unique set-up of social media superstars like Sears—figures that don’t get mainstream play but are nonetheless influential and ubiquitous through their use of those platforms—comes with a specific reward system that leads to the right.
“Their fans are conservative by virtue of being on Facebook and they have to chase that audience so they become transphobic or they start denying that racism exists,” he said. “It’s a really strange ecosystem.”
A Washington State comic I spoke to on condition of anonymity believes that Sears’s right-wing shift more about money than anything else, the function of Sears seeing a niche and exploiting it for fame and fortune. Whether or not that’s true is somewhat immaterial, though, when he’s hosting club nights where he’s calling for violence against marginalized groups.
Whatever the case, Sears is tapping into an ugly vein of hate.
“It really felt to me like he was giving permission,” Gallaway-Tonasket said. “He has put himself in this position where people are used to taking advice from him. And this is now his advice.”
I’ll be discussing this article and Sears’s comments with Gallaway-Tonasket this afternoon on my Callin show. If you’d like to listen live and to participate, get the app and subscribe to The Flashpoint Show.
If you can’t make the live show, the full audio will be up later this evening at the link.
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