Yesterday afternoon, Vulture published the single funniest headline I’ve ever seen outside of the Onion (“Dave Chappelle Tells One Joke at Charity Event, Proceeds to Stare Down Audience”). Chappelle’s awkward 53-minute set was hosted as part of ex-NBA player Alonzo Mourning’s Summer Groove charity gala Friday night. The set bombed, and CNN analyst Roland S. Martin sat in the audience, livetweeting the whole mess.
Dave Chappelle somehow saw, and recognized, the CNN analyst in the crowd. “…Dave started talking to me, asking if I was putting this on CNN. Yes, from the stage!” Martin tweeted. He continued, “He’s been on stage 46 minutes & told one joke.”
And since you were wondering, no. No, Dave Chappelle wasn’t on drugs or anything, as Martin was quick to point out in his tweets. And it wasn’t as if Chappelle weren’t self-aware during his own performance; in fact, he reportedly remarked on how hard he was bombing with the audience as it was happening: “I’ve been onstage more than 40 minutes. I’ve only told one joke. The audience has told 38 jokes. F—-ing fantastic.”
Apparently, Chappelle was disgruntled because audience members in the front row repeatedly chimed in during the opening three minutes of his act. But instead of killing his hecklers with comedy, Chappelle just kind of… tried to wait the audience out?
Not only that, Chappelle received four text messages during the show “and actually checked them,” Martin livetweeted. Finally, Chappelle was booed off the stage.
Yesterday, Chappelle returned to the Seminole Hard Rock stage in support of the same charity event. There, he apologized for his “bad attitude” the night before, and this time delivered a shorter—and funnier—10-minute routine.
I honestly feel bad for Dave Chappelle, and I don’t think he owes anyone an apology. It is little surprise he was so easily ruffled, because he’s avoided the limelight for literally years now—his mellow crowd banter has been temporarily displaced, it seems, by a help-help-I’m-out-of-practice panic.
But turning his ire into 50 minutes of just standing there, glowering? It’s kind of genius. Tedium has always been a cornerstone of edgy comedy.
After the cut, a 3-minute video clip from the beginning of Friday’s show: Right off the bat, Chappelle is obviously uncomfortable with the crowd’s enthusiastic interruptions. Near the end of the clip, Chappelle begins to castigate an audience member for “filming the whole thing on a camera-phone.” Yep. The audience turned on him soon after.