Dave Chappelle, ten years removed from his Comedy Central program Chappelle’s Show being the hottest thing in on Hollywood, is touring the country with his standup once again.
Chappelle happens to be my all-time favorite standup comedian. I was excited when Chappelle’s Show was announced and though I loved the immediate success of the show, I fully understood when Dave dipped away from the limelight due to his creative concerns.
Chappelle has resurfaced in recent years, signing on and joining the Oddball Comedy & Curiosity Festival of 2013 but an older, wiser Dave doesn’t put up with the nonsense he would’ve a decade ago.
Most famously, when the Oddball tour made a stop in Hartford, CT, the legendary comic did about ten minutes of standup before the hecklers got so out-of-control, Dave proceeded to stop his set and sit for the fifteen additional required minutes while smoking his cigarette before giving a good night speech and walking off the stage to Kanye West’s Black Skinhead.
While some of the people in the audience boo, I once again found myself supporting Chappelle.
Flash forward to mid-March 2015. I’m winding down a slow weekend and despite my usual disdain for listening to the radio, I turned on my car’s radio on the drive home from a quick run of errands. To my surprise, the local hip hop station is announcing there are still tickets left for Dave Chappelle coming to town in two weeks!
I called up a good friend that I knew loved Dave as much as I and went home and ordered some tickets. Only tickets in the upper deck were still available but that’s fine, I was going to see, in my eyes, the comedy icon of my generation, live and in-person.
As soon as doors opened for the show on Sunday, March 29th, Chappelle’s personal DJ was on stage. I’ve never been to a comedy show outside a club but the DJ put me to ease and a smile on my face as he started spinning Prince’s “When Doves Cry”. I just couldn’t help but think of pancakes.
On the way in, the venue was very adamant that all cell phones must be turned off and not used during the show. It seemed odd at first but every security guard was approaching people with cellphones. Before the opening act came out, Dave’s DJ did a big speech about no tolerance for heckling or for phones, there were to be no cameras or photography during the show.
The opening act for this show was going to be a comic by the name of Mo Amer. Now, to be fair, of all the comedy shows I’ve been to, there really was only one opening act I found myself actively laughing at. A couple years back when I saw Dave Attell, one of his openers was fairly funny. Other than that, I struggle because I am not a very big stand-up comedy fan.
Mo came out and explained that his name was short for Mohammed. As his act went on, it turned out Mo was very focused on race as part of his act. It didn’t come across as poignant and topical racial discussion as was known for the headliner of this. Mo’s gimmick seemed to be talking in wacky accents and stereotypes, more along the lines of a Carlos Mencia type of act.
Without my phone to time it, Mo’s set went from why white people don’t like people named Mohammed to his struggles to get citizenship here, despite coming at a young age. Telling this story though, he went through the motions of doing voices of an African-American woman who worked at a phone job, a Hispanic male that happened to be his teacher in Texas and a Sprockets-like upset German man at customs in Germany.
There was a good section of the audience that enjoyed Mo but he wasn’t for me and when I talked after the show with some of the people I went with, they agreed with me that it seemed more likely the venue found this act and not Dave, though I have been unable to confirm this suspicion.
When Mo left, Dave’s DJ let us know the time was near but it was up to him to get the energy going. Dave’s DJ got the crowd up and singing along to Bell Biv Devo, among other crowd participations pieces. He reinforced the no cameras/no phones policy and before I knew it, there was the man on stage: Dave Chappelle!
Now, some people haven’t seen Dave in a while but Dave is a lot more muscular than he was in his peak popularity. He doesn’t bring this up at all but you could tell some people were surprised by the change in appearance.
At first, his voice was really rough and he didn’t look well, so I was worried there was something deeper going but a few minutes in, Dave was in his classic form.
Early on, Dave hit some of the topics that would’ve been expected from him on his show as almost immediately he hit on the Bill Cosby controversy surrounding allegations of rape that picked up extra attention in recent months. From Cosby, Chappelle went on to talk about the struggles and racial turmoil between the police and citizens of Ferguson, Missouri.
While Dave hit some very tough racial topics and made jokes, they were still done in a way that really inspired thought and found humor than the way that Mo was just doing voices. It just seemed like a master class in helping the world laugh at some of the ugliness in it.
Dave being Dave, he asked the room’s opinion on the officer’s testimony and when there was a woman in the audience who sided with the officer, he brought her up to the stage to not only question her but compliment her breasts – a true gentleman!
One of the most interesting aspects in this show to me was seeing it in a non-club venue. Not just the sheer size, where sometimes I had to check the monitor for Dave’s expressions, as opposed to seeing it directly from my seat, but apparently this show allowed all ages in.
The family in front of me had brought a ten year old kid. Had I thought the highlight was the 40-something white mother helping this kid raise the roof during the pre-show DJ session, I think it was bypassed by how much this ten-year old loved jokes about pussy.
Dave was back in his element with the full room showing him love and responding to his every word. Dave really hit home with a story he shared in recent interviews about a “Twitter war” between himself and Katt Williams from a few years back.
Dave tried to set up Twitter for the first time and found out that there was an imposter, so he watched and appreciated the imposter’s work. He enjoyed it until the imposter started picking fights with other celebrities and started a huge war with Katt Williams, which, the payoff is made much more memorable when Dave details the in-person confrontation he had to deal with thanks to the social media fraud.
Attending or watching a lot of stand up acts, there tend to be lulls or the show just seems to keep going. Dave kept so engaged that by the time he told his big finale, you were catching his callbacks but you didn’t realize the show was ending (or want it to end) as he was giving his thank you and good night.
The ticket to Chappelle was by far the highest price I have paid for live stand-up but far worth it. Now, how the rest of the tour will go is yet to be seen. Despite the constant pleas at every show for the crowd to act like regular human beings, there was another heckler incident.
The day after the show I attended, Dave had a show in Sante Fe, New Mexico. A heckler decided to throw a banana peel at the comedian during the show. It appears Dave has brushed it off. Despite receiving charges, the heckler actually was back in the news for the second time in the week for throwing a banana peel at another black man in public as well, so he is clearly going places.
I can only hope the ignorance of audience members like this gets brushed away, as even ten years after his peak, seeing Dave Chappelle live was truly a great experience and one that you should definitely seek out and pay up for, if the opportunity arises.