It's not easy to find Michael Rapaport's stand-up comedy. The 53-year-old actor and podcast host will be most familiar to audiences as a seasoned side character—most notably from the fifth season of Friends, or recently on Amy Schumer's Life & Beth.

The main thing one discovers, when searching for Rapaport's comedy, are his testimonial-style videos. Rapaport posts several hot take testimonials a day to his millions of followers—2.1 million on Instagram and 4.6 million on TikTok. Those numbers alone could explain why Rapaport is scheduled to headline Helium Comedy Club for five shows on the nights of January 12-14.

In reaction to Rapaport's Helium dates, local comedians, business owners, and activists put out a call to action, telling comedy fans to demand Helium's management cancel the shows. The reason: Since the October 7 attacks on Israel by Hamas, Rapaport has said disturbing things in his videos, supporting and even calling for Israel's continued violence in Gaza.

And in response to the Portland call to action, Rapaport engaged in a flame war with local business owners, sharing the fliers that accuse him of supporting genocide, and using the attention to try to sell more tickets.

Related: "Free, Free Palestine": Portlanders Rally for Gazans, Ask Local Politicians to Support Cease-Fire

Related: Portland’s Palestinian Diaspora Says Gaza is ‘More Than Its Suffering’

Before the October 7 attacks, Michael Rapaport's videos ranged from multi-part rambling commentary about Taylor Swift's dating life to rants about former President Donald Trump, delivered in a tone very similar to Trump's own rhetoric. Since October 7, Rapaport's videos have been almost exclusively about Israel, Hamas, and Israel's invasion of Gaza. He begs for the release of the October 7 hostages. He issues long streams of insults aimed at Hamas. He wishes strength to Israel's military.

In mid-November, Rapaport posted a video titled "10 Black People from America have been taken hostage!!!!" where he argued that if the hostages taken by Hamas had been "20 American civilians, all African Americans, all Black," then no one in the US would be entertaining a ceasefire until those hostages were returned. In a befuddling twist, that post is tagged with the name of an American professional basketball player, Brittney Griner, who is Black and who was imprisoned in Russia for over ten months, in 2022, on exaggerated charges.

In late December, one of Rapaport's rants turned disturbingly violent. Following a string of insults, Rapaport tangented, "eradicate—and when I say eradicate—you must kill every single hostage or they must surrender with their hands up. And yeah we gotta strip these motherfuckers down to their underwear, and if there's kids around they need to be stripped down to their underwear also. They've been brainwashed into thinking they're martyrs." [Rapaport later clarified to the Mercury that he meant "eradicate all the terrorists (Hamas)."] His comment about strip searching children caused alarm. 

Activists within Portland's comedy community circulated call to action fliers on social media, spreading the word of Rapaport's shows at Helium PDX, and asking Portlanders to "let them know that we do not want comedians who call for the [genocide] of an entire people (including children) performing in our community." The fliers accused Rapaport of mocking the murder of children and making propaganda videos for Israel's military, along with racist, Islamophobic, and pro-genocide statements. 

As word spread, local comedians and fans stepped up to respond.

"Given recent commentary from Mr. Rapaport about the ongoing violence in Gaza, we do not support the platform being provided for him," Reese Hendrik of local comedy blog LaughsPDX wrote on December 28. "While it is not our place to police the scene or individual clubs, we find it necessary to voice our stance and solidarity with the Palestinian people." Hendrik, who is Jewish, expressed condemnation of the October 7 attacks on Israel and called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

"I'm not, like, a big proponent of cancel culture," comedian Mx. Dahlia Belle said in an Instagram video, explaining why she had shared the flier. "I don't really care about offensive jokes. But what I do care about, and what I will never waver on, is that if there is ever an armed conflict and there is a call for peace, I am always going to support a call for peace." Later in the video Belle stated: "We don’t want our local comedy stage used as a podium for apologetics for indiscriminate slaughter."

Rapaport posted the call to action fliers on his own account, calling them the "best live show promotion ever." Shortly after he responded to the first flier, he also singled out the owner of Portland floral shop Coy & Co, sharing her photo and name. "This woman is inciting violence against the Jewish community and at my upcoming Portland show. Report her page," he wrote.

Coy & Co's Yelp page has since been placed on pause, after it received 20 one-star reviews from people who overwhelmingly did not appear to live anywhere near Portland. Another local business, Erica's Soul Food, also recorded a negative review they received after they posted about boycotting Rapaport's show.

As of now, Rapport's shows are still on Helium PDX's schedule. Activists plan to protest the weekend shows, even as the city also prepares for unseasonably cold weather. The Mercury reached out to Helium Comedy for comment and received no response. 

Helium is Portland's only comedy club dedicated to stand-up, and while the city has a number of smaller improv and comedy theaters, the reach of Helium as a national chain has long afforded the club the ability to host mid-to-big name comedians. This allows Portland audiences access to touring comedians, in addition to giving Portland comedians opportunities to open or host for national names.

"It bothers me," Tyrone Collins told the Mercury, speaking as a longstanding Portland comedian and co-founder of the NW Black Comedy Festival. "Some of the things he's posted on his social media—it's been hateful. For some reason, Helium just tells us it's okay to back this man and the hateful things he's spewing. They have no idea what he's gonna get up there and say, you know, and they're willing to take that chance. It's just—it's not a good look."

The next stop on Rapaport's calendar after Portland is Royal Oak, Michigan, which is located in the Detroit metropolitan area—an area that, according to the 2010 census, is home to the largest concentration of Arab Americans in the nation, and where Palestinians have made historic advances in representation. As an example, the 12th district, which neighbors where Rapaport will perform, is represented by Rep. Rashida Tlaib, the first Palestinian American woman and the only current Palestinian American serving in Congress.

[UPDATE: Michael Rapaport responded to the Mercury's request for comment, answering a question about what ticket buyers can expect at his Helium PDX show: "I will always do my Act," Rapaport wrote over email. "You always do the Act. Obviously every show is different and I talk and discuss some current events with the audience at every show. The Act is personal & disruptive… I’m a long time Trailblazers fan & love the weed in Portland."]