Comedy Central comic is brains behind 'Dumb Starbucks'

Comedy Central comic is brains behind 'Dumb Starbucks'

Credit: ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

People wait in a long line to get into a coffee shop named "Dumb Starbucks" February 10, 2014, in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles, CA. The store resembles a Starbucks with a green awning and the Starbucks logo, but with the word "Dumb" added before "Starbucks." All food and drink in the store is free.

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by JEFFERSON GRAHAM

USA TODAY

Posted on February 10, 2014 at 9:31 PM

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.

For days, this replica of the iconic coffee chain has been swarmed with customers.

Fielder spoke to a swarm of journalists late Monday afternoon outside of the shop in the trendy Los Feliz area of town.

Earlier Monday, about 300 people were standing outside the Dumb Starbucks, 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. They wouldn't say who they were working for, but "the owner" promised on the DumbStarbucks Twitter feed to make an appearance at 4 p.m. PT Monday.

Folks on line weren't complaining: They felt they were onto something historic.

"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."

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