Man on the Street: KRON's Stanley Roberts has Watched People Behaving Badly His Whole Life

Man on the Street: KRON's Stanley Roberts has Watched People Behaving Badly His Whole Life

Cover photo by Josh Edelson.


The cops are waiting when he steps, blinking, out of the confines of Gunter's Family Restaurant and into the sizzling parking lot. They lean on the black-and-white cruiser, arms crossed in front of their oversize, flak-jacketed chests. The older of the two uncurls himself at a leisurely pace and ambles over at an even more leisurely pace before, with a touch of the showman, whipping off his sunglasses.

The words ooze out of his mouth: "Staaaaaaaaaanley Robertsssssssss."

And then he smiles. A bouncy, even goofy energy overtakes him: "At last! I get to meet you!" He bounds over to shake the hand of the stocky cameraman in the red flannel shirt. "I heard 'KRON' on the dispatch. I just knew it had to be you."

It turns out the aggrieved manager of the adjacent Pacific Market on El Camino Real wasn't merely phoning a heated complaint to the South San Francisco Police Department. He was making dreams come true. Any Bay Area police officer harboring a desire to meet Stanley Roberts need only pine away by the radio and await the inevitable.

Per the complaint, Roberts, creator of the five-time-a-week Channel 4 news segment People Behaving Badly, "refused to leave the premises." This was untrue, but a somewhat milder variant of the standard dubious report relayed to police when Roberts inserts himself where he's not wanted: A suspicious black man with a camera is filming children! Or: A suspicious black man with a camera is casing our store!

Roberts, however, is anything but suspicious. He makes no effort to hide his presence or his intentions. He is not a subtle man.

On this day, Roberts is dropping in on restaurants and markets, camera in tow, to ensure they are, per the letter of the law, posting their most recent health report in plain view. Demanding to be presented with this form, Roberts insists, is your right as a citizen. When proprietors ask why he wishes to review the documents they invariably squirrel away in back rooms and hidden folders, he calmly replies, "Because I can."

On KRON that night, viewers will tune in to observe a procession of slightly bewildered shopkeepers and restaurateurs affixing yellow health reports onto walls and windows with long strips of masking tape. "I don't want a ticket for something like this!" one blurts out. "I never read the rules! I didn't know!"

The voice behind the camera remains monotone: "I'm just trying to help."

Yet people Roberts films behaving badly often don't desire help. He's been assaulted on numerous occasions. (Once, memorably, with ski poles.) Three separate attackers have made off with his press credentials. A flamboyant BMW-driving carpool cheat wearing an Elmo T-shirt elevated Roberts to late-night fodder and meme status two years ago following an extended profane rant about the cameraman's oversize girth and undersize worth.

Thus, Roberts is on a first-name basis with an ever-expanding retinue of law-enforcement officials summoned by those who can do without his kind of help.

That's what happened at the Pacific Market 20 minutes before the rendezvous with the South City cops: After producing his store's health report (a lackluster "Fair" grade) from a private back room, the grocer assured Roberts the necessary paperwork was properly posted on the exterior doors.

It wasn't. And, once outside, he declared the interview to be over: "You need my permission to film me."

Roberts let the camera roll. "We are in a public place," he said. "I do not need your permission."

"You need my permission!"

"I do not need your permission."

"I'm calling the police!"

"Okay, so call the police."

The police were called. When they arrived, they informed the manager that, no, Roberts did not need his permission. Then they waited for Roberts outside Gunter's Family Restaurant.

They wanted to take a picture with him.

Carpool cheating. Urinating in public. Cycling through a stop sign. Drinking Rainer Ale in the park. Failure to post a health report — a satisfactory health report, mind you — in a prominent place. These aren't crimes befitting a criminal mastermind. They aren't exactly crimes at all. "I don't do crime," Roberts says. "I do the quality-of-life issues that affect us all."

He refers to the misbehavior he's been seeking out for nearly eight years as "minutiae ... there are always more important things." But this, for his own reasons, is what he's compelled to film. And, God help us, it's what we're compelled to watch. Footage of city workers dozing on the job or men hurling buckets of human filth onto one another on Seventh and Market are wildly popular, even in far-off lands where, perhaps, this may qualify as normal behavior.

Roberts' inbox is constantly full. KRON established a hotline just for his segment. When he's on BART, fellow riders monopolize his commute with People Behaving Badly pitches; his minor adventures have earned him celebrity status. In a moment of unintended irony, Roberts was asked, "So, is someone behaving badly here?" by a tone-deaf guest at a funeral both were attending.

He receives missives from viewers in Asia, Europe, Australia, even Greenland. A Scottish man told him that weekly People Behaving Badly parties are held there, in which the three-minute, jauntily narrated clips of societal misconduct are consumed in marathon sessions. One aficionado matter-of-factly informed Roberts that he watched every People Behaving Badly segment on YouTube. He did this in alphabetical order, from "AC Transit vs. Stop Signs" to "You Should Never Grab a Reporter!" — and all the 1,197 videos in between.

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23 comments
eddiev1220
eddiev1220

Stanley Roberts is condescending, self righteous and delivers the news like it's a monologue or soliloquy. "I'm Stanley Roberts & I'm a d-bag" Hard hitting journalism. lmao

eddiev1220
eddiev1220

Stanley Roberts is a snitch, plain and simple. An annoying tattle tale and rat. I don't know who was worse; the oblivious old lady speeding in Daly City, the gay Elmo shirt guy in carpool lane or the oreo snitch named Stanley Roberts. I think he was cast as the orangutan ape in Planet of the Apes.

zarifsoulye
zarifsoulye

Good Read! Congrats !!! your story has been printed and is in circulation around the office. ALACO loves Stanley :-)

vance1936
vance1936

Mr Roberts sounds like a fine fellow ... and the article was of the quality of a classic New Yorker profile of years past. Congratulations to both the writer and the subject.

Vance

davismt_2
davismt_2

Raise your right hand and repeat after me: "It is hilarious to see... thank God that it's not me!" I love you Stanley. That camera is like a mirror and there is no denying what we see in it. Kudos for your work! If we could just learn to accept our own faults and act accordingly, a better world would be in the making; but some just choose to act up even further. Keep that camera rolling! 

Misty Gandee
Misty Gandee

does going to work in a painted on dress to do the weather considered behaving badly?

amarrie
amarrie

Can't stand him. AND YES, I UNDERSTAND HE NOTHING SHORT OF A JOLLY GOOD FELLOW.

Funny thing is, he comes off like a petty nag , the high school hall monitor with a stick lodged sideways.

Glambertgranny
Glambertgranny

I happen to Love Stanley,I wish all people would follow the laws,It seems like today you give people an inch and they keep wanting more.Most laws are put in place for a good reason.If you don,t agree write your congressmen ect and give a good reason to have them changed. I also do think no one is perfect and I sometimes daydream of catching Stanley behaving Badly. Then again I am old and amuse easily

Glambertgranny
Glambertgranny

Love Stanley ! Wish more people would follow the laws , It would be a better world. (But yes I would love to bust him once for behaving badly ) We are all human

塞繆塞繆
塞繆塞繆

Lol I'M sure he has shit in his closet! I'm sure he behaves badly while not at work!!!!!! They should follow him around to see how he likes it!!!

Yasmina Points At Him
Yasmina Points At Him

I actually met him a few times at my restaurant and honestly he's hella cool, laid back and intelligent. I didnt even know he was famous till now. My manager told me to give him free dessert cause she knew who he was, I didn't at the time, but he was extremely humble and didn't even want anything. He was one on my best costumers, really easy going great tipper super nice guy. Cool to see him again.

MrrobertsTV
MrrobertsTV

@eddiev1220  Maybe one day if we meet in person,  you can see that all your misconceived notions about me will be unfounded.  Sometimes when people disagree with a segment, unrealistic conclusions are drawn.  Hey I can't please everyone.

MrrobertsTV
MrrobertsTV

@davismt_2 Amen! Oh you said raise your right hand, My bad.


MrrobertsTV
MrrobertsTV

@Glambertgranny Me too, I wish more people would follow the law, and I wish pedestrians would look both ways before crossing the street.

MrrobertsTV
MrrobertsTV

@塞繆塞繆 Never claimed to be a saint, however if you followed me around you would really get bored. 

MrrobertsTV
MrrobertsTV

@Yasmina Points At Him My daughter asked about you the last time we ate there.....  Thanks for the great service :)

 
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