It’s hard to say whether “Dumb Starbucks,” a coffee shop established in Los Angeles on Friday, was purely a joke or actually a satirical attempt to comment on pop culture–perhaps it was a little of both.
Comedian Nathan Fielder, star on Comedy Central for coming up with whimsical business ideas on television, was behind the creation of a coffee shop that imitated the Seattle-based enterprise to a T.
The logo was the same, except for the word “dumb” in front of it. The menu was similar, and “dumb” as well. Instead of ordering a “blonde roast,” you had to order a “dumb blonde roast,” etcetera. The green and white cups matched the green barista aprons, and mediocre jazz CDs were available at the counter for the taking.
The production was shut down on Monday, but not from ominous opposition by the multi-billion dollar franchise of Starbucks like one might assume. It was actually the health department that took issue with the business for not having the necessary legal permits.
Fielder got away with using the emblem, menu, and overall gist of Starbucks by legally classifying the shop as “parody art”- the coffee and other items for sale being the “art”. He equated it to “Weird Al” Yankovic getting to use other people’s songs because he makes them into parodies, not copies.
Fielder said that he was a big fan of Starbucks. He was simply using the name as a way to gain publicity and success quickly. While he may have been joking, he wasn’t incorrect about the result.
Hundreds of people flocked to the opening of this store, waited in line for hours and snapped pictures with the sign. There wouldn’t have been such a huge response if Starbucks wasn’t such a prominent cultural emblem with a cult-esque following. Dumb Starbucks was only open for a weekend and still received extreme attention on news and social media.
Named after a character from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, it was only about 40 years ago that Starbucks itself was an adventurous, singular store down on the Seattle waterfront. Now as a looming enterprise, the first line of the corporation’s mission statement reads: “Every day, we go to work hoping to do two things: share great coffee with our friends and help make the world a little better. It was true when the first Starbucks opened in 1971, and it’s just as true today.”
Whether Nathan Fielder was making a political comment on the extensive cultural role of big corporations or simply trying to be funny, he certainly had a grasp on one thing that’s changed since 1971: Starbucks caters to a wide audience and that spotlight would draw ample attention to his project. Starbucks, of course, was not pleased with the parody, which is not surprising. Legal reasons aside, an enterprise that started from the bottom would probably not endorse businesses that skyrocket to fame on another company’s coattails.