In February 2010, four Baltimore musicians and housemates appeared on Judge Judy in a dispute over a dead cat. Kate Levitt and Andrew Burt, both formerly of Teeth Mountain, were there to accuse Jonathan Coward, aka Shams, of killing Levitt’s cat by throwing two TVs across the room at it. Appearing with Coward as a character witness was Brian Blomerth, aka Narwhalz.
Don’t worry — the cat didn’t actually die. The event never happened. It was a story cooked up after Coward had heard that settlements from television court shows are not paid out by the defendants, but by the shows themselves. It was an open secret at the time that the dispute was a sham, but only yesterday did Coward publicly acknowledge it in an interview at Vice.
When the segment originally aired, City Paper‘s coverage hedged its bets, guessing that cat story was probably a put-on, but staying a little too cool to actually enjoy the prank. It’s true, credits sequence with soundbites from the plaintiffs and defendants is hilarious — and rightly went viral on YouTube — but the whole segment is gold. The incident itself strains credulity — two TVs?! — and caricatures youth culture for a daytime television audience. At one point Coward says, “I was pretty wasted, but I don’t think ever killed a cat.” Plus, there’s the incredible exchange between Blomerth and Judge Judy.
Blomerth repeatedly asks to speak in his friend’s defense because, despite not being a witness to the event, he’s “got rationale.”
Judy tells him once and for all, “I don’t care about your rationale, and I don’t want you to say anything.”
Blomerth puts his hands in the air and, almost inaudibly, replies, “All right, mama.”
In case, you were wondering what they did with the money, here’s a bit of Vice‘s interview with Coward:
So how much money did you guys end up getting?
Well, I think Kate was rewarded $1250, and my appearance fee was $250.
Did you all get appearance fees?
No, I did because I was the defendant. It was compensation for my loss of character. Which is a pretty low compensation.
What did you guys do with the money?
We divided it between us. After we left the taping, we took our food stipend, went to a dispensary, rented a next-year model convertible red mustang, and we drove that past the studio and sat outside for a second, just like, tempting fate, flicking off Judge Judy for a moment. Then we went to Musso & Frank’s and used our money to have a lavish, silly lunch, then took the convertible to Malibu and hung out in a hot tub with friends and drank champagne all day.
Here’s the entire segment:
Here’s the celebrated ending: