ROYAL OAK, MI–Stand-up comedian Tony Campanelli confessed Monday to the Feb. 26 killing of 180 comedy-club patrons during a performance at Crack-Ups in Royal Oak.
"Man, I killed 'em," the 33-year-old Campanelli told Royal Oak police interrogators. "You shoulda seen them rolling out there. I really knocked 'em dead."
Among Campanelli's victims were seven employees of Johnson Control Auto Parts, a bachelorette party consisting of 12 Dearborn women, and 20 members of a University of Michigan fraternity. All were absolutely slain.
Police arriving on the scene minutes after the killing found the club's showroom a mess of split sides, busted guts, and three or four blown minds. Campanelli was arrested an hour later at a nearby Denny's restaurant, where he was discussing the show with emcee Mike Berman, who may have acted as an accomplice by "setting up" the crowd for Campanelli's performance.
Forensic investigators say Campanelli repeatedly hit the audience with his best stuff throughout his 25-minute killer set, unleashing a deadly arsenal which included "extremely sharp observations about the differences between men and women" and several barbed quips questioning the deal with bad toupees.
"From the bit about The Clapper to the whole 'What if Captain Kirk were ordering from Jack Nicholson at McDonald's?' thing, they never had a chance," comedy-forensics expert Jim Edmonds said. "He really brought out all the big guns."
Weapons found at the scene included a battery-powered bullhorn and a large photograph of President Clinton with the mouth cut out.
It is believed to be the worst comedy killing since 1996, when 67 patrons of The Giggle Hut in Kansas City were slain by noted prop-comic "Party" Marty Schiafo. Another 141 people were killed when the incident spread to local streets, escalating into a full-scale laugh riot.
Though details of the incident are still emerging, a taped 911 call reveals a panicked audience member desperately shouting, "Oh, my God, I can't breathe!"
Survivor Stephanie Bogen, a 22-year-old Southfield paralegal, described the comedy carnage.
"It was horrible," Bogen said. "[Campanelli] was mercilessly spraying the place with one-liners. All around me, people were falling out of their chairs. When he did the bit about Michael Jackson as Dirty Harry, I thought I was done for."
According to Royal Oak police chief Tom Pryor, the killing may well have been a "copycat" crime.
"Not only is his methodology and psychological profile extremely similar to that of fellow stand-up Bobby Greenfield," Pryor said, "his Mike Tyson-on-Gilligan's Island bit is pretty much exactly the same."
"There's still a lot more to be learned about Campanelli, but we do know that his basic profile is that of a drifter, traveling from city to city, having one-night stands with a string of audiences," Pryor continued. "We also know that he has a history of mental problems, having spent a weekend in May 1996 at The Funny Farm in Stockton, CA."
Speaking to reporters from his Macomb County Jailhouse cell, Campanelli expressed no remorse for his deadly act.
"Yeah, I killed them," Campanelli said. "And I'll do it again. Friday night at the Laff Factory in Livonia at 8:30 and 11, opening for Tommy Chong."