Last night Audra Schroeder, the Observer's music editor, and I went to Dave Chappelle's last-minute show at the House of Blues. It had been a decade since we'd last seen the comic -- we caught him at the Jackie Gleason Theater in Miami back in '02, so we were curious to see him now, after walking away from everything.
Jamie Laughlin: I don't know about you, Audra, but when we first got there I instinctively covered my drink. For some reason I wasn't expecting to walk into the House of Bros. Then it clicked: Chappelle is universally loveable, but he's also a cornerstone of every dude's weed-smoking college years, so most men feel they have an intimate friendship with him.They all left the wives at home: We crashed bro date night.
It's interesting to see someone as brilliant as Chappelle evolve over time, I feel like when we saw him in '02 he leaned more heavily on lengthy narratives, like some really funny friend sitting on the couch with you, killing an afternoon. Here I feel like he had more developed stories that could have played well into a sketch. I'd love to see an acted-out version of The Devil Plays Coachella, "That mother fucker had a laser show!" Oh my God, and the bit he did about Lil Wayne as a television detective was gold.
Audra Schroeder: He seems to have gotten a bit more existential in his delivery, or at least the material. The bit about the "time traveling" he does, where he went back in time to a concert he thought he had missed in '96, but it turns out he was just really high and was actually at the show. The joke ends with him jerking his younger self off. It was a hit. But you could also see that in a Chappelle's Show sketch. Yes, I want the Lil Wayne detective show to be real too, but he almost seemed like he was testing out new material, covering a lot of "safe" joke territory: brunch, minorities, homosexuals, weed. Yes, when he asked the crowd what we did in Dallas, someone up front said "brunch." And everyone cheered. I think we were both thankful Dallas shut the fuck up tonight and didn't heckle or yell at him. Do you think he seemed comfortable up there?
J: I think so, but he had a built-in safety net by opening with "Who shot J.R.?" That audience didn't need another excuse to love him, but they got one. Also, by designing a show that went up in 24 hours, you don't get half-assed fans. Everyone there changed their Monday plans around and spent some cash to spend an evening with him. They were invested. More so than if he were touring in a traditional fashion. Also, I don't think those softball topics are new to him -- and I mean that in a good way. Hippies. Weed. Homosexuals. These all came up on Chappelle's Show too, but there if he wanted to get a little more direct or raw, he had a cast of friends for support. Here doing stand-up, he's all alone. In a conservative Texas hub, no less.
I think the most culturally sensitive area he touched on was when he gently teased guys for wearing flip-flops, which he immediately apologized for. That's part of why we love him, he isn't out to crush anyone. He's a kind, relatable human -- also, one of the naturally funniest and weirdest people that I've ever seen. That in itself is something to cherish. So no, I don't have a problem with the topics that he chose. And yes, you're right about the existential lean. I think a lot of that comes from getting older; how many times did he mention that he's 39? Three? Four? You can tell it's on his mind.
A: Yeah, he talked about more mature themes than in 2002: the fake Twitter version of him getting in a feud with Katt Williams. The long ramp-up to his gay terrorist story. His story about his wife. He remains a great storyteller; he knows how to set up a joke from a mile away. Towards the end, we got Chappelle "riffing" with the crowd, which was a departure from the more narrative part of his show.
J: A few of my absolute favorites from tonight: He went into a long-winded joke about buying a $15,000 house in Shanghai, only to get there and find that it's completely made of Legos. He had to get home repair parts at the communist retail shop Toys For (all of) Us. Also, he made a 20 minute bit about sodomy hilarious. I've never seen so many men in button-ups laugh about man-on-man rape for that length of time. I saw one of them spit-take his Lone Star. That's Dave's talent: He's tenacious, and he won't put his toy down until he's broken it into teeny tiny pieces, too small to still hold his interest. The whole Osama Bin Laden bit was great too, "They just threw him in the bottom of the ocean, like Megatron! Yeah, no sequel coming there." Audra, your highlights?
A: His story about wanting to be there when his weed dealer/DJ friend realizes his dream is dead was a personal favorite. The story about fighting a meth-head was endearing for some reason. And we do love brunch, it's so true!
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Be on the lookout for Dave Chappelle. Last night he mentioned that his next stop is Austin, but whether that's for work or play is anyone's guess. And if you didn't get out last night, rest assured: He's back.