Monday, June 24, 2013

Live review: Dave Chappelle

Posted By on Mon, Jun 24, 2013 at 6:12 PM

Live review: Dave Chappelle
Belk Theater
Friday, June 21


When celebrities go on a long-term hiatus at the peak of their careers, you have to wonder if they're either burned out or ... umm, crazy. We may never know the real reason behind Dave Chappelle's retreat from the spotlight - he unexpectedly walked away from season three of Comedy Central's successful Chappelle's Show in 2005 - but we can appreciate a good return when it finally comes around. And that's what happened on Friday night when Dave Chappelle visited Belk Theater in Charlotte as part of his current stand-up tour.

The show, a quick sell-out, led Blumenthal Performing Arts Center to add two more shows on Saturday, June 22. Clearly, Charlotte was excited to see Dave Chappelle's big comeback.

The 7:30 p.m. start time listed for Friday's show came and went, with still no Chappelle in sight. The diverse crowd of mostly 20- and 30-somethings, however, seemed happy to preoccupy themselves with frequent visits to the bar. A surprise visit from North Carolina DJ and producer 9th Wonder was a real treat for music lovers, and Burpee, a comedian who calls Charlotte his hometown, dropped a few funny lines. Then, finally, Chappelle emerged on stage for what I was told was to be a 60-minute performance.

Armed with a pack of cigarettes - my editor noted that she could smell the smoke from the back of the theater - Chappelle jumped right into commentary on popular movies (Lincoln, Django Unchained, and ... Snakes on a Plane) and his idea for what could be the next big box office hit: a gay superhero movie. Though not sold well, Chappelle's muted enthusiasm has a way of making even a bad idea seem funny enough to consider.

He continued with lots of long-winded stories, some about current events (including the South African runner Oscar Pistorius, who is accused of killing his girlfriend) and others relating to random occurrences in his own life (such as an encounter with a homeless man in New York City). Sure, Chappelle dropped what some might find vulgar language (i.e, "pussy") here and there, but in large part (aside from his cursing), the act avoided hopping aboard the blue train that so many other comedians are frequenting these days.

At times inappropriate, and yet still funny, Chappelle delivered a set longer than organizers had anticipated. He actually ended up running over by 20 to 30 minutes. There's something about his method that resembles the easygoing nature of a friend casually sharing a story but constantly interrupting himself to go off on tangents. Eventually, Chappelle got around to the long-anticipated punchline that's so worth it. Eventually.

The show wrapped up with Chappelle throwing out his catch phrase, "I'm Rick James, bitch!" and rattling on a little longer about life as a celebrity. He thanked the crowd for not using cellphones and recording devices, which were prohibited throughout the show, and announced that since he was done, pictures could be snapped. He stood on stage for a minute or two, reveling in the hundreds of cellphone flashes that immediately went off.

Welcome back, Dave.

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