“I heard he went crazy at his last show.”
“What if he walks off stage tonight? I’d be kind of pissed.”
That’s just some of the ramblings heard from last night, as me and a long line of fans made our way into Dave Chappelle’s sold out Radio City show. It had been well over ten years since Chappelle had a show in NYC, and he’s been famously reclusive ever since. The past two weeks have been the most he’s been seen in public in years. Yesterday marked the first of 10 shows for the comedian, and while the other shows that are scheduled feature exciting musical guests, this one was all Chappelle and rightfully so. Inside The Actor’s Studio legend James Lipton greeted us all on an overhead screen, warning us of Chappelle’s strict show rules. Camera flashes were an absolute no-no, and if we didn’t abide by this, it would result in “confiscation of you motherfuckers” as Lipton politely put it. Comedian Tony Woods warmed up the crowd just enough for the man everyone waited to see.
Finally taking the stage around 9:20pm, Chappelle was met with an anxious crowd, that didn’t know exactly what they were in for. Dressed in all black, Dave casually puffed on cigarettes throughout his act while he ran through jokes like he was talking to family members at a reunion. It was clear he was in a comfort zone. One that the crowd didn’t seem to mind one bit. He poked fun at his comeback, and what it’s like being the outspoken, controversial figure he’s always been. “The only place I feel comfortable talking is at the Illuminati Christmas party,” he quipped.
Long praised for his past shows on current events, Chappelle held no punches as he targeted Paula Deen, Rob Ford, and Donald Sterling. All of which could’ve easily been lost sketches on his defunct Chappelle Show. The comedian painted plenty pictures of “what if’s” that left the crowd in stitches. Envisioning what it would’ve been like for Sterling to break the news to the Clippers in the locker room before the story hits the press was just the tip of the iceberg. “I may or may not have called you guys n*ggers on the tape” he says, before trying to pick the team’s spirits back up. Bits like these, or going on to envision Paula Deen as his personal chef, are chances Chappelle is known for taking, and it’s partially why I was in attendance. Seeing him unravel topics we’ve taken seriously over the past year and finding the comedic timing in it. “Malaysian flight that went missing didn’t crash, it simply landed on “Tupac Island” he says at another point in the show.
What was completely new though, is how open Chappelle was now with fatherhood. He’s now telling stories of his marriage and sharing adventures he often takes on with his kids. “When you’re married over 10 years, there’s not much to talk about anymore.” The comfortability in his tone when he says it, made the joke resonate with the crowd. He shares his tales as not just his personal endeavors, but as noteworthy gems. The guy is brilliant on stage and knows it. He passes off his duds as experiments to see how the crowd will take it, and for the most part passes with flying colors. Who else could confess to randomly writing over 40 jokes that include Lil’ Wayne, with Weezy in each scene saying “pussy juice,” and get a roar of laughs?
No heckling was the rule, but fans couldn’t help themselves. “Bring back Chappelle Show! one of them yelled, to which he replied “Yeah, when I do Half Baked 2, and that’s when ya’ll will really know I’m outta money.” He casually spoke to the crowd as the show began to wine down. “Your 15? Can you believe I made the decision for what I wanted to do for the rest of my life in my teens?” He quipped. We even got the sense that he didn’t want to part from the stage when it was time to go. As we made an exit, the crowd couldn’t stop talking about the high points for them in the show. Suddenly, Chappelle’s back at his royal position.