the courage to laugh back
September 9, 2013 11:11 AM   Subscribe

 
I don't have a problem with the heckler for being an ass, but I have one with the spectators who don't kick him out.
posted by elpapacito at 11:16 AM on September 9, 2013


That last link it a perfect example of why you shouldn't have your friends write your defenses.

The comedians (two white guys) that I talked to about this both think he did a poor job at crowd control and dealing with hecklers (both things comedians of any color need to be able to do).

From the last link: Chappelle’s a sturdy performer: he once did a 6-hour set at the Laugh Factory.

I can't imagine this. I don't like doing anything for more than an hour or so. I have a hard time making it through a movie or a concert. Six hours? No way.
posted by cjorgensen at 11:18 AM on September 9, 2013


My friend Julia, who was interviewed for that NPR piece, wrote an essay about what she saw on that stage.

I wish I'd gone. About half of my friends were there. Mostly they seem to blame the line-up and the venue.
posted by gauche at 11:19 AM on September 9, 2013 [33 favorites]


Folks started calling out random references to his past work (he informed us that if we ever see him in a Half Baked sequel, that means he's run completely out of money)

I hope the planned prequel trilogy can fill the gap in our hearts.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:19 AM on September 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


I heard about this a few days ago. I also heard that the mayor of Hartford quoted in an article about the situation that David Chapelle should "get over it."

I've poked fun at my birth state before. But here, for the first time in my life, I was sincerely ashamed to have been born in Connecticut.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:20 AM on September 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


I saw Chappelle at a very small venue in SF last year. He was great, and the crowd did a good job of not heckling with his old material and not recording the show. There was a lot more audience interaction than I had expected, but for the most part both parties has fun with it. And he went way over time. I think the size of the venue and the diversity of the crowd due to the line-up is probably to blame. Which raises the questions, though, why does he play large venues that he knows he won't enjoy or put on a good show for? I guess he needs the money.
posted by jeffamaphone at 11:23 AM on September 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


Years and years ago I was at the Comedy Cellar with maybe six other people (there's a lot more to this story that I won't go into) when Chappelle stopped by unannounced and did about ninety minutes of, not comedy exactly, but just him sitting down with us because he needed to talk. It was one of the most memorable nights of my life (a night with more big-name comedians on stage than customers in the audience) but his "complicated relationship" with fame was very, very apparently. Explicit really. This was a little bit before he went AWOL from Chappelle's Show, and if anything his entirely improvised "set" basically told the story of how he had suddenly been granted the equivalent of white privilege, was living in that world now, and how it disturbed the hell out of him.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:24 AM on September 9, 2013 [65 favorites]


From gauche 's link : The show didn’t sell well at first. There were Groupons. The kind of people who might not normally go to this kind of show bought hundreds of Groupons.

Indeed another thing we can solidly blame on Groupon.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:25 AM on September 9, 2013 [36 favorites]


jeffamaphone i was there too. excellent show... a guy in the front row passed out and chappelle was genuinely worried and interested in this guy's welfare. he's a funny, intelligent person... people can put the blame on him for what happened in CT but if anything the blame is shared between him and the audience. i don't get the idea that he has to be a master of heckler suppression or else he's not allowed to do standup.
posted by joeblough at 11:27 AM on September 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


I think celebrity in general, and his career arc in particular, is an impossible proposition.

It speaks well of him that he's not only struggling with it, but that the struggle is one of the primary faces of his fame. It's likely the most honest, intelligent, and positive reaction to have to a draining, essentially inhumane condition.

Wish I'd seen the Comedy Cellar show.
posted by jsturgill at 11:33 AM on September 9, 2013 [20 favorites]


This is the kind of thing that caused Steve Martin to permanently retire from live standup, a decision which seems to have worked out pretty darn well for him in retrospect. Maybe Mr. Chappelle should take a page from Mr. Martin's career playbook? (Minus the late-period high concept family comedy dreck and NPR-friendly banjo-wankery, of course.)
posted by Atom Eyes at 11:35 AM on September 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


I would absolutely love to see Chappelle get on the podcasting bandwagon. No audience in front of him, no network interference, no interviewer posing questions, just him and a microphone.
posted by jason_steakums at 11:43 AM on September 9, 2013 [36 favorites]


I had tickets to his show in Chicago, two days after Connecticut, but ended up not going because they were lawn seats, it had been raining all day and we were on vacation so couldn't grab a blanket or the like to sit on. I'm not sure if stories like this make me more or less sorry about that.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:44 AM on September 9, 2013


Minus the late-period high concept family comedy dreck and NPR-friendly banjo-wankery, of course.

He may already be on the way there, from the Economist link:

On stage he speaks with a warm, loping drawl. His stories were long and sometimes odd: one was a David Lynchian tale of a mysterious sex-tape mailer; in another he discussed getting high with bluegrass musicians.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:45 AM on September 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Getting heckled should be nothing for a stand-up comic other than a big fat opportunity. Especially when you can anticipate what's coming. This guy is loosing his game.
posted by three blind mice at 11:51 AM on September 9, 2013


The comedians (two white guys) that I talked to about this both think he did a poor job at crowd control and dealing with hecklers (both things comedians of any color need to be able to do).

patton oswalt disagrees.
posted by nadawi at 11:52 AM on September 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


or he's refusing to play this specific game. maybe he'll find that touring stand up doesn't fit in with what he wants, but just because he chose to deal with the hecklers by sitting on the stage instead of screaming back doesn't me he failed at something.
posted by nadawi at 11:53 AM on September 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


Patton Oswalt disagrees
Louis CK may be the king of comedy in 2013, but Patton Oswalt is the mayor.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:53 AM on September 9, 2013 [15 favorites]


Funny story. I worked at a bar across from UNLV in 2004-06. This was the height of "I'm Rick James bitch!" mania. I became so annoyed by it that that my boss let me institute a two strikes rule with people yelling it. "Fuck this couch!" and "Charlie Murphy!" were included. I threw out roughly 10 people over a year for not being able to control themselves.

I was a doorman at a pool hall in Vegas and this drove me nuts. I cannot imagine being Dave Chappelle and dealing with drunk white kids yelling this all the time.
posted by lattiboy at 11:53 AM on September 9, 2013 [36 favorites]


I was just coming to say what lattiboy said. This is not about being thin-skinned, or not dealing with hecklers, or "loosing" (sic) his game.

It's about being a black comedian in a room full of white kids--probably a bit drunk--shouting things like "I'm rich, bitch!" and etc at him while he's trying to do his act, and then the crowd getting angry when he won't "perform" like he's told to.

That's not even a little bit racist. That is hugely racist.
posted by Kitteh at 11:57 AM on September 9, 2013 [75 favorites]


or he's refusing to play this specific game.

That's not really his choice. Unless the man on stage is in control, it's the audience who decides what the game is and a good comic is always in control of the audience.
posted by three blind mice at 11:57 AM on September 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


patton oswalt disagrees.

The problem with Oswalt's assessment is that it wasn't the fans that wanted to hear him do his thing that were the assholes yelling stuff at him.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:57 AM on September 9, 2013 [3 favorites]




I would absolutely love to see Chappelle get on the podcasting bandwagon. No audience in front of him, no network interference, no interviewer posing questions, just him and a microphone.

Oh, god, no. Listening to Jack White smoke his way through that Conan O'Brian Serious Jibber Jabber thing was trial enough; listening to Chappelle work through a carton in an hour would probably put me in a nicotine-jealousy coma.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:00 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Getting heckled should be nothing for a stand-up comic other than a big fat opportunity. Especially when you can anticipate what's coming. This guy is loosing his game.

Four words: "I'm Rick James, bitch!" Ugh. I think that sketch will haunt Dave Chappelle until the day he finally, really, truly quits stand-up once and for all. Whether or not it's a racial thing, Chappelle gets A LOT more sketch-related shit from stand-up audiences than anyone else I've ever seen. I mean, how do you think Seinfeld would do if 20 people in the audience demanded "do the soup nazi!!!!" at EVERY. SINGLE. SHOW. As someone said upthread, I don't know exactly how good of a heckler-crusher he needs to be before he's entitled to do his show, but beyond a certain point it seems like you have to cut him some slack and lay the blame elsewhere.

Maybe every time he plays a venue bigger than, like 100 seats, he should bring along Charlie Murphy and start by doing 5 minutes of call-outs from the Rick James sketch and the Wayne Brady sketch; maybe half an R. Kelly parody video. And then just stop and say, "OK. You got it. That is all the Rick James that is happening tonight. If all you wanted was a cell phone video so you could prove you saw me do it live, that was it and there's the door." And then proceed with new material.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 12:00 PM on September 9, 2013 [13 favorites]


Getting heckled should be nothing for a stand-up comic other than a big fat opportunity. Especially when you can anticipate what's coming. This guy is loosing his game.

Comedians aren't superheroes. Just because someone is used to being on stage doesn't mean that there isn't a stage situation that will be shitty, pugnacious, or hostile.

A little bit of a non-sequitur: Sometimes I think that being a famous celebrity and being paranoid must be terrifyingly similar as to be indistinguishable.

You walk down the street. Do you get the feeling that everyone knows who you are? Are people looking at and whispering to each other? Well, yes they are. You see photos of yourself on the street sometime, airbrushed photographs that look nothing like yourself. Sometimes you walk on the street and people drive by yelling things at you. You walk into a room. You don't know everyone there, but somehow, everyone knows everything about you -- even intimate details about your life. Are you being followed? Maybe, actually, that dude with sunglasses and a camera could be paparazzi, or maybe he's just a tourist. Is he looking at you? Fuck.
posted by suedehead at 12:01 PM on September 9, 2013 [33 favorites]


I think part of it is that people (especially young people) are in public in a group so rarely these days, that when they are they treat every situation of a big crowd as if it's Bonnaroo. Even in that "Good" Chicago crowd recording there's a high-pitched whine throughout his set of drunk girls going Whoo. Just Whoo. Not even at anything. Hi, Whoo. Thanks, Whoo. Everything, Whoo. Whoo. Whoo. Let's see how you guys would like it if someone said Whoo in between every post.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:03 PM on September 9, 2013 [17 favorites]


Whoo.
posted by Apropos of Something at 12:04 PM on September 9, 2013 [35 favorites]


That's not really his choice.

it's absolutely his choice. he chose to finish out his set sitting down and not performing his act. the next night he had what everyone agrees was a great night of comedy. just because he wasn't controlling in the way you recognize doesn't mean he wasn't controlling it.
posted by nadawi at 12:04 PM on September 9, 2013 [18 favorites]


Should also be mentioned that the full line (which is often said by drunk, white, fratboys) is "Fuck your couch nigga!"

All those trying to defend this stuff, just think about how that would make you feel.

The tragedy is, that was honestly one of the funniest sketches ever on TV. The Prince one was a close 2nd. Just perfectly hilarious. And that will now haunt him forever.
posted by lattiboy at 12:04 PM on September 9, 2013 [7 favorites]


See what I mean?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:04 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


whooo
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:05 PM on September 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


That's not really his choice. Unless the man on stage is in control, it's the audience who decides what the game is and a good comic is always in control of the audience.

Read the Patton Oswalt link. This kind of attitude is why a non-trivial segment of audiences are moving away from stand-up for related 'storytelling' and 'one-person show' events. I'm so sick of this macho bullshit - the idea a comic needs to be able to shout down drunk, aggressive idiots or they're somehow not allowed to perform. Daniel Kitson is a great example of a warm, intelligent comedian who refused to play this game.

I can enjoy a bearpit gig as much as the next chap, but this sort of blinkered view of stand-up is exactly what drives crowds and performers away. Fuck that. I don't want to watch shows in venues where female comics are expected to 'be in control' when a bunch of drunk dudes hurl abuse and threats at them. I want those guys to be jeered and kicked out by security.
posted by RokkitNite at 12:05 PM on September 9, 2013 [56 favorites]


At some point audiences seem to transition from demanding they get what they paid for to demanding they get what they wish they could have paid for. What's really sad is how that seems to combine racism and the repression of new stuff from a comedy genius at the same time.
posted by Apropos of Something at 12:06 PM on September 9, 2013


it wasn't just rick james bitch that was being yelled - people were also yelling things from his oprah interview, the one where he talks about the problems of being a black performer doing racial comedy in front of a white audience that is twisting that message right in front of you. it's hard to argue that they didn't know how he feels about that.
posted by nadawi at 12:07 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Man the unholy fusion of Professor X, Jean Gray, and Bill Cosby couldn't "control" a drunk crowd of 15,000 that didn't want to be controlled. Get out of here with that stuff.
posted by kavasa at 12:09 PM on September 9, 2013 [28 favorites]


If you'd like to see a comedian shut down an audience of tens of thousands of angry people with nothing but insults about their whole city, you should watch this.

Bill Burr is a completely different kind of comedian than Chapelle, and one of only a handful of people who could do this.

PS I can't watch at work, but pretty sure he drops some homophobic insults towards the end. Language throughout is.... filthy.
posted by lattiboy at 12:10 PM on September 9, 2013 [15 favorites]


being a black comedian in a room full of white kids--probably a bit drunk

This absolutely has a lot to do with it. That venue (which is only like a mile and a half from where I live) is famous for bringing in kids from the suburbs who don't know how to handle themselves or their liquor. It's consistently the whitest crowd in Hartford (which is a minority-majority city).

It's my understanding that, when that venue brings a big name act into town, the hospitals double or triple their ER staff because they know how many more stomachs they are going to have to pump. That venue is synonymous with white kids from the suburbs coming here to vomit all over our city while talking about how shitty and dangerous it is (read: there are a lot of brown and spanish-speaking people here). It sucks that "Hartford, CT" is going to get tagged with this, because that crowd was not Hartford.
posted by gauche at 12:11 PM on September 9, 2013 [25 favorites]


I was at a Nick Thune taping a few months back and some dick WHOOd into the silence between a joke. At the Bell House. With like 250 people there. It should be legal to taser people like that and toss them out the back door into a dumpster.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:15 PM on September 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


The Hartford Courant, quoting TMZ and other sources: "I don't want anything bad to happen to the United States, but if North Korea ever drops a nuclear bomb on this country, I swear to God I hope it lands in Hartford, Connecticut." ... Chappelle then called the Hartford crowd evil and described them as a bunch of "young, white alcoholics."

Having spent time in Hartford, I can see how he might hold these opinions.
posted by zippy at 12:15 PM on September 9, 2013 [8 favorites]


Any summer concert festival is going to be full of drunk people. This just seems like a very bad mismatch of performer and situation.
posted by smackfu at 12:17 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Even Chappelle knows he wasn't getting Hartford: “That crowd was evil — an arena full of suburban torturists.”
posted by gauche at 12:18 PM on September 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


smackfu: "Any summer concert festival is going to be full of drunk people. This just seems like a very bad mismatch of performer and situation."

How fucked up is it that we allow - even expect - our best contemporary artists to do their work in front of intoxicated mobs? How does that help them make better work, or us appreciate that work at all?
posted by Apropos of Something at 12:20 PM on September 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


The other thing about comedians who can turn things around on hecklers and regain control is that they often turn really ugly to do it and that, for me, creates a huge disconnect with the performer. There's a really really fine line between deftly disarming a heckler and being a bully, and the line gets thinner the bigger your name is. When a big name act chooses to engage a heckler that way, the power is immediately theirs because of their high profile, so if words aren't carefully chosen it gets ugly.

How fucked up is it that we allow - even expect - our best contemporary artists to do their work in front of intoxicated mobs? How does that help them make better work, or us appreciate that work at all?

The venues wouldn't have it any other way. They make bank on getting that mob intoxicated.
posted by jason_steakums at 12:21 PM on September 9, 2013 [4 favorites]




Even Chappelle knows he wasn't getting Hartford

Honestly, Connecticut isn't that big. Any major concert is mainly going to pull from the suburbs. It's kind of a joke how performers will do the "How's it going [cityname]!" here using the actual location of the venue which is some small town that no one is actually from, like Uncasville or Wallingford.
posted by smackfu at 12:26 PM on September 9, 2013


Chapelle's mythology is one of the most overhyped things in all of pop culture. His show was great, his standup's been good, but man, this guy is just not some wizened sage. This Hartford audience sure sounds like a bunch of dicks, but Chapelle kind of sucks in it, too.
posted by xmutex at 12:30 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you'd like to see a comedian shut down an audience of tens of thousands of angry people with nothing but insults about their whole city, you should watch this yt .

I fully understand Chappelle's choice to sit down and stop engaging with a crowd full of assholes, but this is one of the greatest things ever - if the entire crowd is worthless and aggressive, just go ahead and choose the nuclear option. Just fucking level the entire city and walk away from the smoldering rubble. Bravo, Bill Burr.
posted by naju at 12:33 PM on September 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have been to hundreds of music venues over the years, in over a dozen countries. Enormous ones, holes in the wall, everything in between.

There is exactly one venue I stopped going to specifically because of the horrible, drunken, hostile crowd of dudebros it attracts for basically everyone who performs there.

It happens to be this very venue.
posted by rollbiz at 12:36 PM on September 9, 2013 [29 favorites]


That's not a meltdown. THIS is a meltdown.
posted by photoslob at 12:39 PM on September 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


lattiboy: "If you'd like to see a comedian shut down an audience of tens of thousands of angry people with nothing but insults about their whole city, you should watch this ."

I do admire the brutal reciprocation there with Burr not only giving as good as he got but prying open the crowd's jaws to cram in some more on top of that. But there's a whole mess of stuff that could be called hate speech there, though. Racist jokes, homophobic jokes, mother jokes, cancer jokes.. he really offends all comers. I know why he did that and I wouldn't judge it by the normal standards of comedy. But even if I could look past all of that, I'm not sure I want comedians to have to regularly unleash a nuclear hate bomb just to get the better of a shitty crowd. Better that crowds should evolve into just not being shitty, methinks.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:45 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Getting heckled should be nothing for a stand-up comic other than a big fat opportunity.

Oh yeah, totally. It's kind of like how university science profs LOVE it when someone raises their hand in class and says that evolution is just a theory and Jesus is a fact.

I mean they should see that as an opportunity, right?
posted by hal_c_on at 12:46 PM on September 9, 2013 [15 favorites]


But there's a whole mess of stuff that could be called hate speech there, though. Racist jokes, homophobic jokes, mother jokes, cancer jokes.. he really offends all comers.

I know! I loved it too!
posted by xmutex at 12:47 PM on September 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


He really offends all comers

And comes on all offenders.
posted by zippy at 12:52 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Here's an idea for a short film: hire a private detective to identify some of the drunk assholes who heckled Chappelle, then follow him with a camera crew as he visits them at their workplaces and heckles the shit out of them.

I'd pay to see that.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:53 PM on September 9, 2013 [18 favorites]


It's too bad that Dave didn't take a page out of Louis CK's playbook on how to manage your fans. Last tour he told folks via his website that he was going to skip the ticket agencies and sell to his fans for a reasonable price, and in return he expected that his fans wouldn't scalp tickets. Seems to me it worked. So perhaps a guy like this should engage his potential audience before the fact via twitter or on a website and say, quite frankly " I enjoy entertaining you, but I'd rather do it like this." and then spell it out. hey dont heckle me, or if the guy next to you is heckling me tell him to knock it off.
might work better for everyone.
posted by OHenryPacey at 12:54 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hartford: fuck 'em if they can't listen to a joke.
posted by HyperBlue at 1:05 PM on September 9, 2013


Dave Chappelle is a cool guy and that particular audience was a bunch of assholes- or at least contained a bunch of assholes.

He rose above the situation and was smart enough to know that if he did pull a 'reverse Kramer' as he mentioned, that would have dominated the headlines instead of the audience's behavior standing on its own (lack of) merit.

Do you think if he said 'hey guys, please let me do the show you paid to see' on Twitter first, then this wouldn't have happened??

It's not his fault how stupid some people are comfortable acting in public, and that's probably part of his whole disenchantment with performing now- that that also is blamed on him.

It's ridiculous, and he knows it.
posted by bquarters at 1:05 PM on September 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


I saw Chappelle at the Detroit show, and he was great. As he came onstage, he looked tired and wary, and I hoped all would go well, as Detroit does not have a great reputation as a comedy town. Happily, the worst 'heckling' I heard were people yelling 'Dave, we love you!' at the beginning of the set, and when he was talking about how he hated Hartford. His ability to be funny is superhuman and seems freakily effortless, even as being onstage clearly takes a great deal of effort for him. At the end of his set, he seemed relieved that things had gone so well and came out from backstage to say thank you a second time.

I love stand-up comedy, and probably go to a couple dozen shows a year. I do not love aggressive conflict. It makes me uncomfortable and it becomes impossible for me to enjoy a show when the comedian has to fight with the audience. This is why I hate hecklers with the fires of a thousand suns. "No one came here to hear your dumb-ass yell stupid shit" is my most charitable thought on such people. Luckily, I have had the good fortune of being in mostly polite audiences and/or venues with reasonable security provisions.

This discomfort with aggression and conflict is also why I dislike the idea that comedians should be in charge of shutting down hecklers. I don't want to hear, for example, Maria Bamford be mean to someone, even if they totally deserve it! I want to hear Maria Bamford be weird and make voices and share inappropriate thoughts, damn it. I want that asshole removed from the audience as quickly and quietly as possible. If the venue doesn't handle that, then fuck that venue. They are to blame for failing to create a good atmosphere to make with the laugh-laugh, not the comedian, who already has a pretty hard job without having to wrangle grown-ass adults into behaving like they have some damn sense.
posted by palindromic at 1:06 PM on September 9, 2013 [66 favorites]


Or exactly what Palindromic just said..
posted by bquarters at 1:08 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is that photo in the "more about the audience" link recent? He has really bulked up.
posted by Hoopo at 1:12 PM on September 9, 2013


Hartford: When people are like "I wish Hartford could be as polite, considerate, and reasonable as Detroit" maybe you have a problem.
posted by el io at 1:13 PM on September 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


Seriously, everybody should listen to the set linked above.

Holy christ, just 45 minutes of almost perfectly timed, hilarious comedy. Playing to an audience of thousands like he was in a comedy club with a few dozen people.
posted by lattiboy at 1:14 PM on September 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


> a drunk crowd of 15,000
Is any crowd larger than 2,894 going to work for comedy? A friend saw Leno in the 80's at the Eastern States Exposition in Springfield, MA and reported his side hurt for days from laughing so hard. I suppose broad comedy to a huge, but somewhat less drunk audience might work, but Chappelle seems too nuanced for arenas.

> My friend Julia, who was interviewed for that NPR piece, wrote an essay about what she saw on that stage.
Context makes it make so much more sense.

Eddie Pepitone should run a meltdown service. Call him if your set it crashing, hold the phone up to the mic & he'll heckle you better than the audience.
posted by morganw at 1:24 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


a day or two after this set, fiona apple was rumored to have stormed off stage/thrown a tantrum/refused to finish her set at a fashion party. her response is short and a good read about the view from up there, i think. she also mentions the chappelle situation.

"And, incidentally, whoever first interrupted Chappelle should have been ass-to-concrete before it grew into something that ruined the show for anyone else."

i find it interesting and disheartening that there's a rush to label these events as meltdowns or tantrums when it seems to me like the performers are just doing their best to deal with a shitty audience.
posted by nadawi at 1:26 PM on September 9, 2013 [12 favorites]


I would absolutely love to see Chappelle get on the podcasting bandwagon. No audience in front of him, no network interference, no interviewer posing questions, just him and a microphone.

I like this idea. Dave Chappelle as the Glenn Gould of comedy.
posted by speicus at 1:30 PM on September 9, 2013


I agree, nadawi. "Meltdown" is a very dismissive term, I think. It reminds me of what Dave Chappelle said before about people calling him "crazy" as a way to dismiss his real concerns and legitimate complaints about show business.
posted by Ouisch at 1:32 PM on September 9, 2013 [10 favorites]


i don't get the idea that he has to be a master of heckler suppression or else he's not allowed to do standup.

Because they are at every show? So you either have to deal with them or the venue does or they are allowed to do their thing and you get a situation like this one.

Some of the funniest comedy I've seen has been in reaction to hecklers. As mentioned above hecklers are an opportunity.

No idea how this one should have played out. Not sure what other comedians would have done differently, but the fact that this isn't the common reaction tells you either they do manage or this isn't happening to other comedians.

I'm betting Jim Gaffigan can't do a show without someone yell "Hot Pockets!" at him.
posted by cjorgensen at 1:33 PM on September 9, 2013


crowd control and dealing with hecklers (both things comedians of any color need to be able to do)

Serious question: why? Why is heckling a mandatory part of every comedy performance? Couldn't venues just announce "no heckling, or you'll be escorted out" before the show, like they do with cell phones or photos or whatever else? Couldn't they just leave that part out when they're specifically hosting the bear-baiting kind of show (and couldn't the performers put it in their riders if they want it announced)? Is there a reason, beyond machismo, why this isn't more standard in the comedy world at this point, or why heckling is seen as something that has to be permitted even when the performers don't want it?
posted by RogerB at 1:36 PM on September 9, 2013 [17 favorites]


Because they are at every show?

That's just not correct. I've been to thousands of comedy shows and I've never seen anyone treat a professional performer like what's reported happened in Hartford. It's not part of comedy any more than people throwing mud at a guitarist is part of a rock show.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:39 PM on September 9, 2013 [16 favorites]


I want that asshole removed from the audience as quickly and quietly as possible. If the venue doesn't handle that, then fuck that venue.

I agree with you about tossing hecklers, but it's problematic to blame any individual venue. Heckling is part of comedy. I don't like that fact and I hope it changes, but until it does, that's our cultural norm and it's somewhat unfair to expect some random venue to buck that and start booting hecklers. It doesn't happen at every single show, no, but it happens at a lot of them.

Chapelle's mythology is one of the most overhyped things in all of pop culture.

Agreed. You could use a time machine to erase Dave Chappelle, Patton Oswalt, and David Foster Wallace from history and not even a chaos theoretician would notice the ripples.
posted by cribcage at 1:40 PM on September 9, 2013


And yet, all three of those people have made, like, a thousand times the ripples in history that I have.

Now I'm kinda bummed out.
posted by box at 1:44 PM on September 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


Agreed. You could use a time machine to erase Dave Chappelle, Patton Oswalt, and David Foster Wallace from history and not even a chaos theoretician would notice the ripples.

WTF? So whose entire body of work is worthy of note by the ArmChair Deciders of Popculture History? Man.
posted by sweetkid at 1:44 PM on September 9, 2013 [27 favorites]


there are no racial overtones for gaffigan or the audience if someone yells hot pockets.

but it's problematic to blame any individual venue
bullshit. problematic is expecting minority comedians to constantly deal with racist, sexist, and homophobic crowds. problematic is when the conversation about an event like this gives those crowds cover - "oh, they were drunk," "what did he expect," "just a mismatch of crowd and performer." you can't just "hope it changes." change has to actually happen and that change is to stop accepting it. the people most directly in control of that are the venues.
posted by nadawi at 1:44 PM on September 9, 2013 [15 favorites]


Heckling is part of comedy. I don't like that fact and I hope it changes, but until it does, that's our cultural norm and it's somewhat unfair to expect some random venue to buck that and start booting hecklers.

Heckling is only a "part of comedy" because venues don't buck that trend.

If you really do hope this changes, pressure the random venues to buck that trend. Be the change you wish to see.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:44 PM on September 9, 2013 [8 favorites]


Be the change you wish to see.

I can compose theme music. Can you make some buttons? This is important.

More seriously, the fact that I detest heckling doesn't obligate me to act against it because I am able to simultaneously hold my own anti-heckling opinion yet also acknowledge that many other people, comedians and audience members alike, disagree with me and find heckling to be good, irreverent, impromptu fun. I think Justin Bieber sucks but whatever, I hear his songs in the mall occasionally and it doesn't totally ruin my day. Heckling sucks but I don't sit stewing through the rest of the set.
posted by cribcage at 1:50 PM on September 9, 2013


Agreed. You could use a time machine to erase Dave Chappelle, Patton Oswalt, and David Foster Wallace from history and not even a chaos theoretician would notice the ripples.

Now I regret my original comment which you agreed to because clearly I'm in bad company. This is just wrong.
posted by xmutex at 1:58 PM on September 9, 2013 [7 favorites]


Is that photo in the "more about the audience" link recent? He has really bulked up.

yeah, it's recent. he seems to have been lifting weights, but he still smokes like a chimney.
posted by joeblough at 2:07 PM on September 9, 2013


cribcage: "Agreed. You could use a time machine to erase Dave Chappelle, Patton Oswalt, and David Foster Wallace from history and not even a chaos theoretician would notice the ripples."

Word ! Thatll show people that like things
posted by invitapriore at 2:10 PM on September 9, 2013 [34 favorites]


Heckling is part of comedy.

Mosh pits are part of punk shows but I've been to punk shows where the venues don't allow moshing. And this might be surprising, but everyone still has an awesome time and enjoys the music. Nobody throws beer or spits at the musicians, either, and it's still great.
posted by rtha at 2:16 PM on September 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


This type of heckling has never been a part of the many, many comedy shows I've been to. I choose to take him at his word that he realized in the moment that saying anything back to him was going to backfire on them and respect his decision to handle it like he did.
posted by Navelgazer at 2:16 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Dave Chappelle is historically important if only for the fact he was the first to put Kanye West on TV.
posted by Ad hominem at 2:19 PM on September 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


How many people does it really take to ruin a show? 10? 50? And then to blame the whole audience for it? Silly.
posted by smackfu at 2:27 PM on September 9, 2013


Kitteh: "It's about being a black comedian in a room full of white kids--probably a bit drunk--shouting things like "I'm rich, bitch!" and etc at him while he's trying to do his act, and then the crowd getting angry when he won't "perform" like he's told to.

That's not even a little bit racist. That is hugely racist.
"

Just because he's black and the heckler/assholes were white does not automatically mean it's a race issue.

Sometimes assholes are assholes to members of their own race, too.

Let's save the race card for instances where it can reasonably be assumed to be the cause. Drunk assholes in a comedian's audience acting like drunk assholes in a comedian's audience doesn't really scream out "racism" to me.
posted by IAmBroom at 2:30 PM on September 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Heckling is part of comedy. I don't like that fact and I hope it changes, but until it does, that's our cultural norm and it's somewhat unfair to expect some random venue to buck that and start booting hecklers

I don't think a venue is obligated as such to remove hecklers, just that I am not obligated to return to a venue that does a poor job of creating a good atmosphere for comedy. A venue that exerts no control over asshole audience members means that my experience will be deeply unpleasant. If enough people like hecklers and asshole audience members, then the loss of my business won't mean much, but I suspect more people (and practically all comedians) prefer a heckle-free show.

Frankly, I don't care if some people think heckling is a real hoot. I think most people who heckle haven't even thought it through enough to say they like it - they got drunk, their inhibitions lowered, they said stupid shit loudly to people who weren't interested. Hey, sorry that you drank so much then went to a kind of quiet thing, but also and mainly, shut the hell up. I have had friends get tossed from rock concerts for being too drunk and disruptive, and they pretty much deserved it every time. Comedy is nowhere near as loud as a concert, and the standard for tolerable behavior should match the setting.

The hecklers who do it consistently and know they like it get even less sympathy from me. To me, they're selfish jerks who want to command the attention of a room full of people, but don't want to do any of the hard work of the performers. They're like charisma parasites, scrounging off the humor efforts of much funnier people, people whom the audience actually paid to see. And if the comedian goes over the top in dealing with a heckler (a la Michael Richards), one only hears about the comedian and not the jackass whose unsolicited comments set the whole thing off. Hell, even less obviously shitty ways of dealing with a heckler can lead to a performer losing the rest of the audience.

Responding to hecklers isn't risk-free for performers, and heckling shouldn't be risk-free for audience members. If booting is a real and known risk of heckling, I bet a lot of potential hecklers will manage to keep their so hilarious insights to themselves. If they know they will almost certainly be able to stay for the whole show, then what's the disincentive to being a jackass? If only there were a comedy equivalent to the Alamo Drafthouse...
posted by palindromic at 2:44 PM on September 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


IAmBroom: "Let's save the race card for instances where it can reasonably be assumed to be the cause. Drunk assholes in a comedian's audience acting like drunk assholes in a comedian's audience doesn't really scream out "racism" to me."

This presupposes a pretty unsophisticated view of racism, one that confines it to the explicit and the conscious. Most racism doesn't play out that way, especially now that such overt statements are nominally taboo. If you're suggesting that we wait to talk about racism until an unambiguous case rolls around, I put it to you that we'll be waiting for a while.

I'm also not a big fan of the card analogy, since it implies that we're trying to score points rather than have a discussion, and that therefore any invocation of race is intended tactically rather than earnestly, but I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you weren't really intending to communicate those things.
posted by invitapriore at 2:45 PM on September 9, 2013 [16 favorites]


IAmBroom - can I call you Broomerton? - Broomerton, you know, I wonder, have you ever accused someone of playing the race card when they complain about how they didn't get the job/the university entrance/the whatever because they're white and oh the affirmative action these days it's just too much for the poor white people we can't get a break?

Is that ever a phrase you've used in that instance?

Just curious.

Also curious - did you actually read the linked essay from Ebony?

Further - sorry, I know this keeps going - do you think that every racist thing that happens necessarily extends from a sort of conscious "I think not-white people are genetically or otherwise intrinsically inferior" belief?

Just kind of spitballing here, you know. Thinking out loud.

It just seems so strange to me that there's this thing now where any acknowledgement that there's even a possibility race may have played a factor in something somehow reveals the speaker as the real racist, as if racism is like fairies, and it will go away if we stop believing in it?

Very strange. Odd.
posted by kavasa at 2:51 PM on September 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


UNRELATED: I watched that thing lattiboy links and... he had no control whatsoever, it seems to me? And then instead of standup there was a guy with a microphone telling people to suck a dick, his dick, that they'd get heart attacks and he'd be glad, etc? I - is that what I'm supposed to want from a standup show? Because I can do that my own self.
posted by kavasa at 2:54 PM on September 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


I love how in baseball, when somebody messes with a play or runs out on the field and stops the action, everybody says "well they are baseball players, they are supposed to be able to suppress the fans on their own."

Oh wait, that's not what happens, the 'fan' gets ejected and the entire stadium claps.
posted by hal_c_on at 2:56 PM on September 9, 2013 [20 favorites]


That's sort of a flat analogy, since there isn't a long tradition in baseball of players humorously ejecting fans who interfere. Now professional wrestling, on the other hand...
posted by cribcage at 3:12 PM on September 9, 2013


More seriously, the fact that I detest heckling doesn't obligate me to act against it because I am able to simultaneously hold my own anti-heckling opinion yet also acknowledge that many other people, comedians and audience members alike, disagree with me and find heckling to be good, irreverent, impromptu fun.

I get the sense you're thinking that I mean you should throw the guy out yourself. And that's not what I mean.

What I do mean, though, is that if someone heckles, and you're fed up, you could walk out to the box office and demand your money back, "because some jerk-off is heckling and you're not doing anything to stop him." Either they give you your money back, and if so, yay, or they throw out the heckler, and if so, yay.

Either way, you've been a step on the way to that venue thinking "hey, we better crack down on hecklers."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:19 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't know much about Chappelle but I just wanted to report that I have recently "discovered" Bill Burr and he easily tops Louis CK as my favourite stand-up. I'm working my way through Burr's Monday Morning Podcasts now and they're a blast (except he does go on about sports a bit, but fuck it, it's his thing and he's doing it for free so whatever).
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:23 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


George Carlin- How to Handle a Heckler

Not really the same situation as Chappelle was facing, but it's classic.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 3:58 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


i really wish i could remember where i read it - but someone talked about a carlin performance they watched where he responded to an unruly crowd by just staring off silently into space instead of doing the thing he's pretty famed for at this point.
posted by nadawi at 4:02 PM on September 9, 2013


George Carlin- How to Handle a Heckler

tl;dr: insinuate he's gay, and enjoys oral sex
posted by MoxieProxy at 4:06 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have recently "discovered" Bill Burr and he easily tops Louis CK as my favourite stand-up

I love about 60% of his stuff but he's got an extended bit in his online special about why it's not okay that he's not allowed to hit his girlfriend (told in a funny way but still...) and I just couldn't listen to him any more.
posted by jessamyn at 4:28 PM on September 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


Hmm, yeah, I see that that would be upsetting to people, and it does seem to be a drum he bangs pretty frequently.
posted by turbid dahlia at 5:08 PM on September 9, 2013


I would absolutely love to see Chappelle get on the podcasting bandwagon. No audience in front of him, no network interference, no interviewer posing questions, just him and a microphone.

I haven't really followed the ins and outs of this, but it seems like Chappelle should be doing the Kevin Smith routine.
Sort of getting up on stage and monologuing rather than doing "stand up".

The hardest part, of course, would be getting the audiences to follow along, but if you book yourself into auditoriums rather than comedy halls and publicize it as a "speaking tour" rather than a comedy show, you'd probably cut down on 90% of the jerks.
posted by madajb at 5:10 PM on September 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Agreed. You could use a time machine to erase Dave Chappelle, Patton Oswalt, and David Foster Wallace from history and not even a chaos theoretician would notice the ripples.

Coincidentally this is the plot of the upcoming sequel: Bill & Ted's Ontological Quagmire
posted by speicus at 5:23 PM on September 9, 2013 [10 favorites]


(spoiler alert: it actually creates a horrifying dystopia)
posted by speicus at 5:24 PM on September 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


elpapacito: "I don't have a problem with the heckler for being an ass, but I have one with the spectators who don't kick him out."

Required MeFi reading: No, no, you can just talk to the comedian anytime!
posted by barnacles at 5:27 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Agreed. You could use a time machine to erase Dave Chappelle, Patton Oswalt, and David Foster Wallace from history and not even a chaos theoretician would notice the ripples.

Whoa, whoa, whoa, what did Patton Oswalt ever do to anyone?
posted by MoxieProxy at 5:40 PM on September 9, 2013


In the new timeline, nothing.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 5:53 PM on September 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Drunk assholes in a comedian's audience acting like drunk assholes in a comedian's audience doesn't really scream out "racism" to me.

Call me the next time a bunch of black drunken fratdudebros heckles a Jerry Seinfeld set.
posted by jonp72 at 6:20 PM on September 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well, not to rehash the whole Michael Richards thing, which was different in a variety of significant ways...but yeah, didn't that begin with heckling?
posted by cribcage at 6:23 PM on September 9, 2013


He kinda addresses that in his Chicago show, saying he was tempted to pull a reverse Kramer.

TBH I think Chappelle is somewhat sensitive about his fanbase and a bit uneasy in front of majority white crowds because he doesn't know why they are laughing.

In Dave Chappelle's Block Party, which everyone should see, Questlove from The Roots says that he and Chappelle had a hard time coming to grips with the fact that when they go in front of an audience it doesn't look like them.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:43 PM on September 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


crowd control and dealing with hecklers (both things comedians of any color need to be able to do)

All of those epic smackdowns of hecklers you see on YouTube (previously on MeFi)? Those are in small intimate rooms where the entire audience can hear the heckler - the interaction is meaningful to the entire crowd.

You can't 'control' a hostile crowd of 15,000. That is ridiculous.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:51 PM on September 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


I was at the first show of the tour in Austin.

My friend and I both agreed that from the instant Chappelle went on stage, there was something about him that was looking for a reason to walk off or lose it. We said that to each other instantly as soon as the show was over.

The crowd in Austin was awesome, supportive and did not heckle any of the comedians. We could still feel his seething anger from all the way back in the lawn area.

He was still hilarious, but he did not give off a positive energy like every single other comedian on that stage (except the host who I found bleh). Flight of the Conchords was amazing.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 7:11 PM on September 9, 2013


Apropos of Something: How fucked up is it that we allow - even expect - our best contemporary artists to do their work in front of intoxicated mobs?

There are many examples of this throughout history. When Shakespeare premiered the Merry Wives of Windsor, one could plainly hear cries of "copulate with thyne settee!" and "mine moniker is Richard James, female canine!" drifting in from the groundlings.
posted by dr_dank at 7:57 PM on September 9, 2013 [8 favorites]


jason_steakums: "I would absolutely love to see Chappelle get on the podcasting bandwagon. No audience in front of him, no network interference, no interviewer posing questions, just him and a microphone."

Because the internet is so forgiving.
posted by symbioid at 10:02 PM on September 9, 2013


I listened to the latest Bill Burr podcast. It consisted largely of arguing that Assad had a right to gas his people because they are his people (with an unironic, totally sincere analogy to buying clothes and then having a right to get them muddy if you so choose) and repeatedly saying what "the problem with women" is.

There were no jokes or, in fact, any attempt at humor aside from screeching random words in a half-assed Jerry Lewis voice.

Fuck this guy.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:52 PM on September 9, 2013


That's not really his choice. Unless the man on stage is in control, it's the audience who decides what the game is and a good comic is always in control of the audience.

People say this about teachers and classrooms, too.

As a veteran teacher with damn good crowd control skills, I would like to personally and officially tell you: no. You're wrong.

And I can't imagine how much harder it must be for a comedian, who has no actual authority over the people in his crowd, and whose crowd may well be drunk off its ass (and clearly was in this case).

Sorry, no. Mind control doesn't happen. Doubly so when faced with a crowd.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 11:24 PM on September 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


This entire discussion really highlights for me how much of a freaking Kobayashi Maru test this is.

He says something, or tries to "fire back" and toast them? He "blew up" and "over reacted" to some troll and "lost his cool"

He says nothing? we get here.

And this entire discussion is a weird bullshit mire proving thats somehow not the right option either. Stand up comedy is way weirder than i realized if this is the case. Because as i said, if he replied and roasted them everyone would just be chiding him for that. But not doing that is just not playing along with this type of heckling which is apparently "just part of stand up comedy".

So yea, barring some massive fucked up explosive rant on the guy and everyone in the crowd that a lot of people seem to think is cool like the ones linked above, what was he actually supposed to or expected to do here? it seems like a situation is just being created in which the shitty heckler has all the power.

As in, as soon as they act there is no right option for him to have taken.

And fuck that.
posted by emptythought at 11:27 PM on September 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


Well, not to rehash the whole Michael Richards thing, which was different in a variety of significant ways...but yeah, didn't that begin with heckling?--cribcage

My understanding with the Michael Richards thing is that there was a group that arrived late. The club sat them in the front, and then began to take their drink orders during the show! If you've been to comedy clubs you know that a lot of them require you to order drinks as soon as you are seated--that's how they make money. Michael wasn't really paying attention and thought the audience members were being rude, and started saying racial things (even though the group, there for a birthday celebration, was very racially mixed). They responded to this (you can hear in the video) with things like "that wasn't necessary" and when it got worse "that isn't funny". Then Michael Richards went full racial onslaught talking about hanging and chanting the 'N' word.

So...no heckling. And even if he mistakenly thought there was heckling going on, a really bad reaction.
posted by eye of newt at 12:48 AM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


The mention of Michael Richards is apt. I remember Chappelle commenting that he's a comedian first and a black man second, because his first thought after hearing about the incident was "Damn, Kramer's having a rough set!" .
posted by dr_dank at 7:34 AM on September 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


More seriously, the fact that I detest heckling doesn't obligate me to act against it because I am able to simultaneously hold my own anti-heckling opinion yet also acknowledge that many other people, comedians and audience members alike, disagree with me and find heckling to be good, irreverent, impromptu fun.

I really don't think this is the case. Very few audience members who are sober and who enjoy comedy enjoy heckling. No comedian that I know of who does not have some sort of insult comedy schtick enjoys heckling - they can build a humorous shout from the audience into a routine, potentially, but sustained, often drunken or incoherent shouting? No comedian wants that, because you can't make it funny and it makes it impossible to maintain flow. I think you can be confident that very few people who are not heckling like heckling.

On this instance, I quite like John Hodgman's Twitter comment on Chappelle:
People get mad at Dave Chappelle the way they have been trained to get mad at bad wifi: FURIOUS THAT MAGIC MACHINE NO WORK EXACT WAY I WANT
posted by running order squabble fest at 11:31 AM on September 10, 2013 [6 favorites]


There were no jokes or, in fact, any attempt at humor aside from screeching random words in a half-assed Jerry Lewis voice.

Yeah, haven't got to that one yet, and there's been a fair bit of the podcast stuff that I've skipped through, but for the most part I find him funny and I'm not going to him for instructions on how to live properly in the world. I get that info from Gawker media websites.
posted by turbid dahlia at 8:02 PM on September 10, 2013


15 signs that you're losing an audience!
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:56 AM on September 11, 2013


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