If you’re a fan of the comedian Dave Chappelle, you may know that he is currently touring as the co-headliner act of the Oddball Comedy & Curiosity Festival. (If you’re not a fan, feel free to ignore this post.) On Thursday, August 29th in Hartford, Connecticut, an incident occurred where Chappelle was on stage and was heckled and booed by several inebriated audience members. Reports indicated that racial slurs were being used, which prompted Chappelle to stay on stage a total of 25 minutes before walking off and not returning. I heard about this incident on Friday, August 30th and was concerned because my friend (Codename: Candelabra) was driving in from Fort Wayne for the Saturday, August 31st performance. (Second row seats!) I was also confused by Chappelle’s behavior because I expected Chappelle, a professional comedian, to be used to hecklers enough to ignore them or have them escorted out, not him leaving and ruining the evenings of those who weren’t heckling and paid good money to see an entire set.
Knowing all this, I was curious to see how Chappelle would respond to the Hartford incident in his act. However, I was not prepared for the insane “diva-like” measures that were taken because of the Hartford incident. First, no photos were allowed prior to the show starting. This meant no photos of the empty stage during sound checks or selfies taken in your seats. Security wouldn’t even allow those seated to hold their cellphones in their hand. They had to be put away. We were instructed that if we needed to make a call or send a text, we would have to leave the seating area, go back to the vendor area, make the call/send the text, then come back to our seats.
There were signs posted that said “No cameras, cellphones, talking, heckling, etc.” But, because of the Hartford incident, the words “cellphones” and “heckling” were underlined. (On a side note: I also take issue with the “no talking” part. It’s not like we’re in class; we’re at a freakin’ comedy show.)
While waiting before the show and during the show, a security guard for the venue stood on the stage and would radio to one of the millions of security people swarming between the aisles to point out forbidden cellphones. Like “Section 104, eight rows up, 5 seats to the right: cellphone spotted”. Then one of the security people would run towards that person and tell them to put away their phone.
During the show, the same millions of security people were circling like sharks looking for lit up cellphones. A drunk, smelly lady next to me actually got some video of Dimitri Martin, and the security lady said, “Ma’am, I’m going to need you to delete the videos and any photos you just took.” As the lady fumbled to delete them, the head security person told the security lady, “Zero tolerance” and the security lady said, “Ma’am, you’re going to have to go.” And, the lady was kicked out of the show. They even escorted out a guy in the front row for sneaking a photo of Dave Chappelle.
Finally, there was a DJ playing songs in between sets, and right before Dave Chappelle came on, he made the annoucement, “Okay, everyone. Just a reminder. We’re all friends here, so no yelling or heckling. We’re all here to enjoy the show.” Really? A reminder from the DJ? Was this the level of hand-holding and coddling really necessary for Chappelle?
Now, I’ve been to many concerts at several venues, and I’ve heard the “no cellphones” and “no flash photography” warnings before. But, the measures taken during Oddball Comedy & Curiosity Tour on Saturday, August 31st seemed too kneejerk reactive and extreme due to the Hartford incident. I mean, we were at an amphitheatre; the smell of marijuana hung pretty heavy in the air, and security was more concerned about people taking selfies? Before the show?
Luckily, the entire show was pretty darn hilarious, which made the whole cellphone annoyance minor in comparison and the tickets completely worth the money spent. I love Kristin Schaal from “Bob’s Burgers”. Al Madrigal from The Daily Show was funny with his “SpongeTom pinata” bit. Native Chicagoan Hannibal Buress was just about as funny as Dave Chappelle calling the crowd “sort of Chicago”. Dimitri Martin was just as funny as on his Comedy Central show. I’d never seen “Flight of the Conchords” before, but after seeing them live, I’m ready to watch reruns of their HBO show. And, of course, I’m still quoting bits from Chappelle’s standup today.
BOTTOMLINE: If you can get tickets to the remaining festival stops, I highly recommend you do so. With a swiftness. You’ll laugh a lot, but don’t expect to take any photos of yourself, the stage, or any of the performers. If you can stand it, just leave your cellphone in the car.