So, if one of the world’s most famous and popular comedians stops his show because assholes in the audience won’t shut up, did that comedian “bomb”? Did Dave Chappelle bomb? Did he have a meltdown?
Last night at the Comcast Center in Hartford, Dave Chappelle headlined the Oddball Comedy and Curiosity Festival, a touring show that also includes the Flight of the Conchords, Demetri Martin, Hannibal Buress, Kristen Schaal and a few others.
But according to one Facebook post: “Chappelle just lost it. Told two jokes, got mad that people wouldn't stop yelling stuff, sat down and said we were wasting our own money and counted down the minutes of his set and wouldn't perform.”
-- stared in silence
-- read a paragraph from a book given to him by a woman in the audience named Mac Mama, who was actually also the author of the book
-- made jokes about both the Great Wall of China and about the experience of jerking off as a 40-year-old
-- flipped off the audience
It seems two things should be noted about what happened last night: First, the same thing happened in Florida two years ago. And this was, after all, a return to comedy for Chappelle, who famously took a pretty long hiatus with one short-lived stint on Twitter. Second: Chappelle has made it very clear that he’s not a fan of people -- white people, in particular -- yelling “I’m Rick James, bitch!” at him. Which is what the audience was doing last night.
Let’s step aside for a second and talk about how completely justifiable Dave Chappelle’s behavior last night was. If people were constantly yelling my own jokes at me, I might be irritable, too. Especially when I’m trying to tell new jokes.
OK: But he’s a professional. He’s paid to deal with hecklers and yellers and noisy, drunk audiences.
Is he, though? Is that what he’s paid for? To deal with an abusive crowd? Doesn’t that sound a little like when people say bullying in schools is just a rite of passage? The way it should be? Why do we tolerate hecklers and assholes? Why is that behavior acceptable?
According to Mark Nussbaum, who’s from Hamden and was at the show last night, Chappelle seemed sort of despondent. About midway through the show, he says, the crowd realized this wasn’t some Andy Kaufmany routine. “I think it took a long time for people to realize he was really upset and it wasn’t part of his act,” Nussbaum says. “Until he sat down and flipped everyone off. That’s when people started to leave.”
Nussbaum adds that though the show dissolved into a defiant Chappelle fielding hecklers for 25 minutes, it wasn’t a total loss -- for him, anyway. “Seeing something like that was kind of special,” he says. “He ended it by saying, ‘I’ll forgive some of you, but I won’t forgive all of you,’ and walked off.