July 13, 2015
We popped out on Friday night to catch the popular American comedian’s week-long residency in West London.
First things first, it’s fair to say that this was no ordinary comedy gig. Dave Chappelle hadn’t performed in London since 2008 and even then, it was only a ten minute performance. These shows are his first full length appearances in the UK and it’s fair to say that the crowd were excited to see what he offered.
Heading into the venue, punters walked past a number of signs all blaring out the same message. No getting out your phone, no texting, no photography, no tweeting, no heckling—A near endless list of demands that had been laid out by concert promoter Live Nation, no doubt having agreed to these demands from the notoriously private Chappelle, whom eloped to Africa after turning down a chance to do a third series of his hugely popular Chappelle’s Show, ignoring a $55 million pay day. It’s fair to say that Chappelle cares about comedy above all else and fame is an annoyance rather than something to be cherished.
Having a DJ onstage helped to set the atmosphere for the night, which was similar to a huge party. He played a few tunes, many of them hip-hop based and urged the crowd to get on their feet and dance, clap and holler for the support act – a profane but hilarious turn from Darnell Rawlings – and then again for Chappelle himself, reminding the crowd that if your phone comes out, you’ll be heading for the door. At £51 a ticket, it’s no surprise that most (amazingly, not all) kept their phone in their pocket.
The mood was palpable as Dave Chappelle appeared, his silhouette cast upon a white screen. As the curtain fell, the man himself walked out and earned himself a standing ovation before even reaching the mic. Now that’s what you call a fan base. As the crowd settled, he immediately brought them on side by joking about the tube strike and smoking (the council had given him permission in advance), before launching into a typically casual and controversial set that focused on racism, homophobia and even the Charlie Hebdo massacre and ISIS as subjects; just why do terrorists swing on monkey bars in their training videos? Dave Chappelle doesn’t just deliver jokes, part of his success is due to his unique ability to say gasp-inducing statements that make you view things in a different light.
He is also highly-skilled in telling stories, providing a superb anecdote (“I don’t lie, I just embellish in a fictional manner...”) on his daughter and later, his dog. Constantly calling back to previous moments in the show meant you were never sure where a joke was going, but when the show finally ended, that final gag got the biggest laugh of the night. Lucky punters were then able to take out their phones and photograph their idol as he invited all and sundry up to north London for his ‘juke joint’, promising an intimate setting with big name stars. Sure enough, Snoop Dogg and Ed Sheeran – fresh from his Wembley Stadium gig - ended up doing a duet. No doubt the music was great, but Chappelle had done enough earlier in the evening to suggest that comedy is King and he is justly deserving of his stellar reputation.
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By Henry Fosdike