Comedian Jason Robo on Wednesday apparently lost his 5-year-old unpaid radio gig in Humboldt County a day after his crude rant against three county supervisors and racist attack on the county’s public health officer.
Meanwhile, Robo is facing a possible defamation suit by the owner of Roma Mia restaurant in the Gaslamp District.
Restaurateur Sergio Torrisi said Robo, 39, drove drunk into an outdoor dining area a half-hour after the Fourth Avenue eatery closed at 10 p.m. Sunday and later lied about the Halloween night incident that allegedly saw Robo pepper-spray the Italian restaurant’s manager.
Two days later, at the supervisors meeting, Robo said: “You should resign, [Nora] Vargas. I can’t wait for your arteries to clog. They’re not doing it fast enough. And Nathan [Fletcher], you should kill yourself. … A dishonorable discharge would be you blowing your brains out. … [Terra] Lawson-Remer, I like to call you a little monkey. I’d like to see you hang from a tree. And [Dr. Wilma] Wooten, you’re a f—–ing Aunt Jemima.”
After hearing the rant, News Director Lauren Schmitt of radio station KMUD — “Redwood Community Radio” based in Redway — said “immediate action is being taken.”
She issued a statement on behalf of KMUD leadership decrying “several deplorable statements” at the San Diego meeting.
“The volunteer programmer in question has little to no direct relationship to the station, as their pre-recorded show is submitted,” said the statement. “We would like to be clear that their opinions do not reflect our values. While these statements were made on an outside platform, we have begun the discussion into their future as a volunteer.”
The nonprofit community station categorically condemns racism and misinformation, the statement continued.
“While we understand the importance of free speech, we recognize the difference between that and hate speech. KMUD … is dedicated to diversity, acceptance and understanding,” it said. Robo’s two-hour show aired at 2 a.m. Saturdays.
In a brief phone chat Wednesday, the Serra High School graduate (now Canyon Hills High) said he was at a bar with friends preparing for a standup comedy set. He told Times of San Diego that a KMUD cancellation gives him “one less thing to do each week.”
He asked for other questions to be texted him, but didn’t share responses. Finally, Robo said via text: “I do not trust the media and without having the opportunity to write my own statement then I am [hesitant] to participate.”
On Thursday, Robo posted video of his unaired interview with NBC San Diego reporter Dana Griffin who challenged him to justify his “vile and racist” comments. Robo denied being racist and said he was just opposing a “forced vaccination” program. (The station aired a chat with Supervisor Vargas.)
On Instagram, Robo goes by strictlyrevolutionary. He took his account private Wednesday after posting about the Roma Mia incident — and seeing its owner respond via comment that he would sue for defamation.
Robo had posted photos from the scene and wrote, incorrectly, about the “owner of @roma_miasd getting arrested by sandiegopd for being a psycho attacking me over allegedly bumping into his parking space dining structure in #gaslampdistrict after performing #comedy at @madhousecomedyclub apparently he approached another comic with a [baseball] bat before who also witnessed him smashing [my] rear window out. Funny too I was just onstage talking about fearing crazy stupid people more than anything in horror films.”
Roma Mia owner Torrisi told Times of San Diego that it was his general manager pictured in the Instagram shots, not himself.
San Diego police didn’t immediately make available details of the incident.
Robert Lariviere, founder of Mad House Comedy Club next door to Roma Mia, says his records don’t show Robo requesting an open mic spot Sunday.
“We have an ‘alternate list’ for people who missed signups and they can go up at the end of the night so it’s not uncommon for someone to go up on the open mic without having signed up,” he said.
“We are an uncensored comedy club,” Lariviere added in a statement. “We are politically neutral as a business. However, ‘uncensored’ is not a green light to be racist. We have a diverse group of employees we love. We have a diverse group of performers we love. We have a diverse group of customers we love. We stand with all of them and will not allow Mr. Robo to perform on any show at the Mad House including the open mic.”
Kevin L. Hoover is editor-at-large and co-publisher of the weekly Mad River Union* newspaper in Arcata. He says he’s covered Robo for years, including as a City Council candidate last year in tiny Blue Lake, population 1,245.
His paper has covered several police incidents involving Robo, including a concealed weapon arrest (a fix-blade knife) that Robo says led to charges being dropped after his spending eight days in jail. (A Humboldt County Superior Court spokeswoman said Robo has been arrested three times, but wouldn’t immediately share details.)
“He’s not funny — humorless and never acknowledging any fault,” Hoover said in a phone interview. “Always [blaming] the media.”
Robo hasn’t “manifested any physical violence,” however, the newsman said. “It’s no surprise he’s anti-vax. That stands to reason. He’s been a 9-11 truther. … He’s just wired differently. I don’t know how else to describe it.”
Mike Wilson, a member of the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors, said: “I’m shocked and appalled by what I saw, and I imagine the rest of my community would be as well.” And fellow Supervisor Virginia Bass said: “This person’s actions [Tuesday] are reprehensible.”
Robo is a 2009 Humboldt State University political science graduate who was impeached from his student government role for rude and disrespectful behavior, among other things.
Robo depicts himself as an “educated, wise-cracking, fire-spinning, mace-wielding and certified personal trainer.”
In 2002, the San Diego Reader profiled Robo, then 20, in a story about the lives changed by Volunteers in Parole.
Robo talks about starting his “troublemaker” role at age 4, At 9, he began psychological counseling that lasted until 16.
“I just didn’t like listening to people,” he is quoted as saying. “They had a clinical term for me. I was described as being ‘oppositionally defiant.’ ”
“The screws tightened when he was 14,” reported Jangchup Phelgyal. “After punching his brother, his father had him locked up in the holding cell at the local courthouse. He was then transferred to a detention center and from there to a group home. Upon his release to his parents, a counselor was assigned to do on-site intervention.”
He said he repeated his junior year at Serra, and Robo was “eager to make sure that his mistakes don’t define him,” the story said.
Now he reports earning an associate’s degree at San Diego Miramar College, but district officials said they couldn’t release any information about students. According to online references, he is the son of Francine and James Robo and was born in Worcester, Massachusetts.
“Jason Robo is a former college activist turned stand-up comedian, radio DJ on KMUD, and trivia host,” says everybodywiki.com. “Robo is a former college activist from his days at Humboldt State University where he held multiple positions in the HSU chapters of NORML, 911 Truth and student government.
“His activism earned regularly local press coverage, most notably peaking in national news for a free speech act that prevented the takeoff of Delta Flight 1165 in July 2008. He also is the creator and former host of an Access Humboldt TV program ‘Unstacking the Deck,’ formerly a radio show on KRFH-LP during his college days.”
The Mad River Union’s Hoover said he never got the feeling Robo was “a straightforward actor. … He just seems to cherry-pick his causes.”
During his November 2020 council race — where he “emerged out of nowhere” to take fourth out of four candidates vying for three seats — Robo was “full of recrimination, murky weird misdirected responses. Never seemed like anyone who wanted to own his past or deal with it,” Hoover said.
In 2008, Robo drew the attention of conspiracist Alex Jones of Infowars, who had the young man as a guest after facing charges for posting “911 was an inside job! PrisonPlanet.com” stickers on a Delta airline. (Charges were eventually dropped, and Robo recounted the incident in a 5,000-word blog post.)
If Robo is formally off KMUD, it won’t be a first for him.
In May, Robo was banned from the Rampantly Comedy platform after numerous complaints about racist remarks during an open mic, says Joli Reichel, founder of the network calling itself a free performer community “serving thousands of up-and-coming comedians worldwide.”
Reichel said via email: “While our organization offers an open door to aspiring performers to improve their craft, we have a zero tolerance policy for harassment and discrimination.”
She said Robo violated its prohibition of hate speech.
On his Blue Lake campaign site, Robo said he’s part of a three-generation Navy family with a brother stationed overseas.
“My first performance was singing at a Navy Band event,” he wrote. “I grew up with friends who were rarely white, most were Puerto Rican, Filipino, Black, etc. As a result of proximity to ‘people of color.’ I’ve regularly been pulled over so police could harass my passengers.
“I was not even asked for my license or registration while my friends were asked if they had ever been arrested. I vigorously attempted to defend my friends and fortunately have never lost anyone during these incidents.”
He added: “I call these experiences ‘second-hand racism,’ like cigarettes it isn’t as bad for you, but can get you killed.”
He said that after suffering substantial persecution for his opinions at Humboldt State, one African-American student told him: “I think you have some idea what it is like to be black.”
Updated at 11:20 a.m. Nov. 4, 2021
*An earlier version of this report incorrectly referred to Mud River Union.