Chappelle's return to stand-up derails as comic halts routine
HARTFORD, Conn. - It's all over the Internet that comedian Dave Chappelle left the stage during a performance Thursday night at the Funny or Die Oddball Comedy & Curiosity Tour in Hartford after being heckled and booed.
But several people who were there say the crowd didn't turn against Chappelle until he stopped telling jokes and started reading a book, smoking and rambling on a variety of subjects, and insulting the fans.
"The crowd was supportive, but once he stopped performing, they just turned," said Joe Moriarty of Holliston, Mass.
Latanya Barrett of Bridgeport, Conn., said "everything was just great" for the first 10 minutes of Chappelle's show, which opened to a standing ovation.
"He was on stage for . . . 25 minutes. For the first five or 10, he actually did go into his routine, telling a few jokes," Barrett said. "It was a typical crowd, yelling out the occasional 'I love you' or something random. . . . But every time anyone would scream anything, he would stop speaking and tell us how awful we were."
Barrett said a woman in the front row gave Chappelle a copy of a book she wrote. This person was Mack Mama, who tweeted last night: "Show was the best He read an excerpt of my book on stage in front of 8000 people Free Plug from my fav comedian."
In an email, Mack Mama said, "The amount of free promotion made my heart soar."
Barrett said, "He was up there sitting on a stool reading excerpts from it. It was kind of funny but weird and obviously not planned. . . . Eventually he was like, 'I don't like most of you. I like some of you. Basically, I'm done,' and then he walked off the stage. It was the most awkward, tense situation in a crowd I've ever been in."
Ivan Brandon of Brooklyn said even though Chappelle did walk off the stage, he would not characterize Chappelle's behavior as a "meltdown." "He was very calm," Brandon said. "It was a strange vibe with the crowd."
Rob Maia of Waterbury, Conn. - who said a Chappelle show he attended six years ago was "one of the best performances I've ever seen" - said Chappelle's eyes "looked funny, kind of glossy."
Maia said after 10 minutes on stage, somebody shouted "Oprah!" "He took to that and made a few jokes about that and the comments were pretty funny," Maia said. "After that he was not able to get back into his routine. I don't know if he forgot it. . . . At that point he was bringing up the fact that he had to do only 25 minutes to get paid.
"He smoked cigarettes and said that he was going to take our money and buy bubble gum with it and then spit it out after only two chews," Maia said. "That's when the crowd started to get unruly."
Hartford Courant reporter Julie Stagis was at the show and said Chappelle was greeted with shouting from the crowd, "mostly telling him they loved him and that they were glad he was back." He started off with a few jokes, but Chappelle got angry as audience members kept shouting, and from that point "there were a lot of lulls."
"He said something funny about how he'd hop a plane to South Africa in the morning like he did when he quit 'Chappelle's Show.' Then he started lecturing the audience, insulting everybody rather than just the hecklers," Stagis said.
"It was incredibly awkward and very uncomfortable but I found it riveting. It was unbelievable, I can't believe it's happening," Moriarty said.
The Oddball tour is scheduled to perform at the Susquehanna Bank Center in Camden on Friday.