Call it a meltdown, a hissy fit or taking a principled stance, but no matter how you slice it, something went down August 29 at the Oddball Comedy & Curiosity Festival in Hartford, Connecticut, during Dave Chappelle’s set.
The comedian, deeply frustrated with the audience’s never-ending cheers—not necessarily heckles—filibustered his way through his contractual 25 minutes of stage time. He grabbed a book from an audience member, read it aloud and walked off the second his time was up.
According to MGM Resorts representatives, Chappelle is still planning to take the stage at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on Saturday, September 21, when the festival touches down in Las Vegas. (And we’ll let you know if that changes.)
Maybe you’re on the Hartford audience’s side; maybe you think Chappelle should have continued telling jokes despite certain audience members’ refusal to shut up. Maybe you feel it’s a comic’s job to cut through hecklers and well-wishers and trudge on. (Many audience members asked for their money back.)
Or maybe you’re on the side of Ebony writer Lesli-Ann Lewis, who said, "This was a black artist shrugging the weight of white consumption, deciding when enough was enough." Lewis explained, “Chappelle’s Connecticut audience, made up of largely young white males, demanded a shuck and jive. Men who seemed to have missed the fine satire of Chappelle’s Show demanded he do characters who, out of the context of the show, look more like more racist tropes than mockery of America’s belief in them.”
I think Lewis is right. But couldn’t Chappelle have educated the audience as to this point, instead of just treating everyone like children?
It’s easy to throw your hands up in frustration and walk away. I’m not saying Chappelle had a responsibility to elevate this crowd of jerks; I’m just saying it would have been nice if he did bring them up ... and then reward their elevation with some jokes.