TV comedian behind 'Dumb Starbucks' in Los Angeles
Canadian comedian Nathan Fielder of the Comedy Central show "Nathan For You" comes forward as the brainchild of "Dumb Starbucks," a parody store that resembles a Starbucks with a green awning and mermaid logo, but with the word "Dumb" attached above the Starbucks sign. Starbucks Coffee spokeswoman, Laurel Harper says the store is not affiliated with Starbucks and, despite the humor, the store cannot use the Starbucks name. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)
LOS ANGELES (AP) — It was a caffeine-charged Hollywood whodunit: Just whose bright idea was the "Dumb Starbucks" coffee shop that popped up and started serving free drinks from the corner of an otherwise uncelebrated strip mall?
After several days of speculation, the big reveal came Monday: The buzz-generating shop was a comedian's publicity stunt.
Keeping a straight face, Canadian comic Nathan Fielder told a crowd he was pursuing the "American dream" — before acknowledging that he planned to use the bit on his Comedy Central show "Nathan for You."
Soon after, Los Angeles County health inspectors shut it down for operating without a valid permit.
Earlier in the day, and for much of the weekend, a line from the store wound alongside the parking lot and up the block. Some patrons snapped pictures in front of a green awning and mermaid logo that is familiar — except that the word "Dumb" is prominently featured.
They weren't coming for gourmet fare: Their descriptions of the coffee ranged from "horrible" to "bitter," and one parent said his daughter complained that the hot chocolate was like water.
Instead, they were just coming to say they came, and to score a white paper cup with a sticker bearing the curious logo.
"It was a pretty dumb idea to come out in the cold" and wait for nearly two hours to get a coffee, joked Anthony Solis, who lives in nearby Hollywood.
Anthony Solis, left, and Tony Gonzalez prepare their coffee at the Dumb Starbucks coffee shop in Los Angeles Monday, Feb. 10, 2014. The store resembles a Starbucks with a green awning and mermaid logo, but with the word "Dumb" attached above the Starbucks sign. Spokeswoman Laurel Harper says the store is not affiliated with Starbucks and, despite the humor, the store cannot use the Starbucks name. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
Dumb Starbucks opened Friday, and the interest it generated grew over the weekend with a boost from posts on Twitter and Facebook.
Before the rush of the past few days, production crews came to the location several times to film, according to permits taken out with Film LA, a private nonprofit that issues the licenses. The permits were billed to Abso Lutely Productions, which has produced Fielder's show.
Once opened, Dumb Starbucks caught the attention of the real Starbucks.
"While we appreciate the humor, they cannot use our name, which is a protected trademark," Laurel Harper, a spokeswoman for Seattle-based Starbucks Corp., said in an email.
She added that most trademark disputes are handled informally, suggesting the company might not need to take legal action.
At the front counter, a sheet of frequently asked questions said the store was shielded by "parody law."