LOS ANGELES — No joke: Comedy Central comic Nathan Fielder is the guy with the smart idea to open a quickie pop-up parody of Starbucks called Dumb Starbucks.
Fielder, who stars in a Comedy Central series called Nathan For You, spoke to a swarm of journalists late Monday afternoon in front of the Dumb Starbucks storefront.
He played it straight as a small businessman trying to keep his shop open before finally admitting that he opened up Dumb Starbucks to shoot segments for his reality show.
Was Comedy Central aware of what he was doing when he had Los Angeles and the Internet aflutter for four days of wall-to-wall coverage of his shop?
"They weren't," he said. "But they are now."
Going into actor-mode, he claimed he was going to open a second Dumb Starbucks in Brooklyn next week and that he hoped to keep the Los Feliz location "open forever."
The press conference came to an abrupt stop when he said the local health department had just arrived and told them to stop serving coffee. The Los Angeles Health Department proceeded to close the Dumb Starbucks for operating without a permit.
"We've been wondering what this was about for four days," said Los Angeles resident Rebecca Metz. "I wish it was a political statement or a kooky artist, but it's a really smart marketing stunt."
For days, this local replica of the iconic coffee chain has been swarmed with customers.
Earlier Monday, about 300 people were standing outside the store, braving two and a half hour wait times to get in for their free cup of coffee and pastries.
Two baristas were struggling to keep up with the demand—accepting payment only via "donation," in a tip jar.
Folks on line felt they were onto something historic.
STORY: Starbucks responds to Dumb Starbucks in L.A.
"We just wanted to get a really good Instagram" shot, said Blair Romer, who is moving to Chicago Tuesday. "It's what everyone's been doing, so we wanted to check it out." She knew she'd be on the line for two hours-plus and plotted out her smartphone shot: "Me holding the Dumb Starbucks cup, saying, `Look where I am."
Christine Conin, on vacation from Boston, came out to see what all the chatter was about. "It's been fun," she says. "You don't get anything free in Boston."
Price sheets listing "Dumb Lattes" and such lined the walls, along with coffee mugs that would be for sale if this Dumb Starbucks was accepting payment. There's no free wireless Internet and few places to sit.
With the "Dumb Starbucks" branded coffee cups going for as much as $50 on eBay, customers were grabbing anything they could, including an official FAQ sheet.
On the FAQ, Dumb Starbucks claimed what it is doing is legal "under parody law," and that with the word "dumb" it is technically "making fun" of the company, and thus allowed to use the trademark under fair use, just like other parodies of music videos.
Dumb Starbucks says it is a real business, a fully functioning coffee shop appearing as an art gallery. And it claims it doesn't think Starbucks is dumb. "We love Starbucks and look up to them as role models. Unfortunately, the only way to use their intellectual property under fair use is if we are making fun of them. So the `dumb' comes out necessity, not enmity."
Real Starbucks says it is evaluating how to proceed.
"While we appreciate the humor, they cannot use our name, which is a protected trademark."