When it comes to comedian, actor and performer Dave Chappelle and his relationship with the general public it has been a strained one since Comedy Central’s “Chappelle Show” pushed him into the public consciousness. Chappelle and his edgy brand of comedy was an instant success, but what he didn’t expect was just how quickly white people were to not only embrace his material, but to reappropriate it and turn it into something that he was simply not comfortable with. White guys coming up to him on the street and saying “I’m Rick James, bitch!” to him while he was out in public with his kids, or even reciting some of his racier skits involving words that we’ll just call “racially insensitive” began to wear on him.
Was it another case of a famous person unable to handle their newfound fame, or was this different and did Dave Chappelle have a point about being a black performer to a predominantly white audience, with him as the butt of the joke? Chappelle felt uncomfortable, leading to him up and quitting his show during the filming of it and dropping out of public sight for a few years. The media labeled it as a “meltdown” and portrayed him as a prima donna who had become too full of himself and his art to be able to work anymore, but for Chappelle he was simply done.
Since he left the show Chappelle has done some occasional documentaries and appeared at a few comedy clubs in Los Angeles, but he’s continued to keep his low profile. That all changed when in August of this year he was to have his “return to stand up comedy” tour, sponsored by Funny-or-Die. Apparently it didn’t last that long because last night, in a performance in Gary LaPlante’s home state of Connecticut, he was performing when he found himself facing down a crowd of drunk white people who were heckling him nonstop. Reports state that Chappelle stood on stage staring at his watch before telling them that they had been going for over five minutes, wasting everyone’s time. It didn’t stop from there, though, it just got worse.
The crowd wouldn’t stop, demanding old Chappelle Show skits, asking him to do stuff that he quite honestly didn’t want to do. In part, it makes sense that a crowd wants to see “the hits,” but when it comes to comedians, most tend to retire material and work on new material while on the road, which Chappelle was attempting to do. Chappelle quite simply gave up, sat down on the stage with a bottle of water and a cigarette, occasionally explaining himself to the crowd, half-jeering, half-trying to urge him to continue on. Eventually he took a book from a woman in the crowd, apparently her life story, and began reading part of it to the crowd.
Don’t believe it? Here is some video from last night.
Is this just Dave Chappelle having another media-labeled “meltdown,” or does the man have a point? Chappelle is trying to move on with his career and come to terms with some of those feelings that he had previously, about the ignorance of fans and how him performing for predominantly white audiences felt wrong somehow, but it is all happening again. Word is that Chappelle has “quit” stand up comedy, but I guess it remains to be seen. The reality here is that the guy went out there to entertain and the crowd took control of the show, hindering his ability to do his job, so he decided that he’d had enough.
Dave Walsh is a writer residing in Albuquerque, New Mexico who is best known for his work as a Kickboxing and Mixed Martial Arts journalist. His work has been featured on a number of publications, including BloodyElbow.com, MiddleEasy.com, CageSideSeats.com, Heavy.com as well as his own site, LiverKick.com.
His first novel, The Godslayer, is on sale now.
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