Four dates into his Funny or Die-sponsored comeback tour, Dave Chappelle was forced last night to quit his set within 10 minutes, after a Hartford, Connecticut audience wouldn't stop heckling and booing the comedian. By all accounts, Chappelle delivered a typically brilliant first few jokes—just as he did in the widely-reviewed series' opener in Austin—but the Comcast Theatre soon grew so loud and so obnoxious that he gave up his prepared material, sat on a stool, and smoked and bullshitted with front-row guests until his contractually obligated 25 minutes were up.
Not even a tweet from the tour's official Twitter account could save the miserable Hartford crowd from fucking over itself:
Hey Hartford! Pipe down and let Dave Chappelle do his thing!— Oddball Fest (@OddballFest) August 30, 2013
Dave Chappelle announces 'I'm back', does 10 brilliant minutes & is driven off the stage by the worst crowd i've ever seen #connecticut— Ivan Brandon (@IvanBrandon) August 30, 2013
Chapelle tried to work through the yelling, and he told people he wasnt telling any jokes until they quieted down. And they didnt.— Mike Wellman (@mikewellman88) August 30, 2013
So many white Frat boys in Hartford tonight are upset Dave Chappelle didn't appreciate them screaming Rick James during his routine.— Chris Vinyard (@cvinyard) August 30, 2013
“You are booing yourself,” he said over the wall of noise. “Go home and look in the mirror and say ‘boo’ at yourself. At the moment, that’s how I feel about you.... Fuck you, I’m the one that has to get the review in the paper tomorrow. I’m going to have to read about this shit for months.” The contentious set was so bad that he was soon reading from a book, Andy Kaufman-style:
And then he walked the stage in an admirably "fuck you" fashion:
Needless to say, Rule No. 1 of watching a show—no matter how thrilled you are to see a comic, or how funny you think you are after 15 beers—is that you Shut. The. Fuck. Up. Comedians despise hecklers. They feel comfortable saying the worst imaginable things to them, and they never welcome a confrontation that throws off their set.
Chappelle has a difficult job: He weaves his sets around really lengthy and intricate stories, broken with pauses and wrapped with long buildups to punchlines. When a heckler yells, the train of thought necessary to recall such a story is halted. Chappelle's forced to deal with an annoying exernal factor. He loses his place.
This has been a recurring item in his career. It may be because he's such a personal comic, or because he became such a beloved guy after the success of his show, but douchebags continue to ruin shows year after year. A major reason why Chappelle quit Chappelle's Show in the first place is because he grew tired of fans yelling, "RICK JAMES" during his sets. "You know why my show is good? Because the network officials say you're not smart enough to get what I'm doing, and every day I fight for you. I tell them how smart you are. Turns out, I was wrong. You people are stupid," he famously said after one 2003 performance. And as he's attempted his comeback, he's run into similar troubles. In 2011, he quit a set after only getting out one joke. He walked off again in Tennessee this year.
Last night, if the tweets from the event are to believed, "frat bros" were the main heckling culprits. This is somewhat understandable: Typically young guys are the people with enough liquid courage to yell during a show, and part of being a "bro" is that you feel like you're the life, or a life, of the party. You drink, you call attention to yourself, you have fun.
But that behavior just doesn't translate to comedy. It fucks up comics, it fucked up Chappelle, and it may drive one of the world's greatest comedians to go back underground after this tour is said and done. That's wrong.
Thousands of people paid money to see Chappelle last night. He's had a rough go of fame and, it could be argued, is putting himself in a difficult spot with an arena tour after eight years of silence. And I guess what I'm saying is, bros, please don't drive Dave back into his Ohio farmhouse.
We need his voice. We need him to continue performing.
And, c'mon. I need him to make it to at least Camden. I have tickets.