Dave Chappelle At Radio City Music Hall, Saturday, August 5th, 2017, Reviewed
Before we even start, let’s begin with the gaping hole in the room: Dave Chappelle’s controversial riffing on transgendered people. In comedy, anything goes except not being funny and not having an original thought on a subject matter. The day that Christa “What’s that button for?” McAuliffe died in the space about Cape Canaveral and nowhere, I was hearing jokes about it. Chappelle himself admits to telling 9-11 jokes on 9-12 (and getting booed for his troubles), that’s swell, that’s funny, and if transgendered people are so upset about Dave Chappelle’s transgendered jokes they should be very happy because it means they aren’t one of the 24 transgendered people killed this year for who they are, that their lives are normal enough to have the wherewithal to take offense at something astoundingly irrelevant at a time when POTUS is about to call open season on you. The problem with Dave is the best he has is transgendered people in the military terrifying ISIS with beards, bayonets, and double Ds. It reminds me a little of Eddie Murphy’s the Honeymooners as gay lovers:
“Norton, my friend! How would you like to fuck me up the ass?”
“I know you wanna fuck me, Norton!”
“And you know that I know that you know that I know that you wanna fuck me!”
“Now I’m gonna bend over, and when I do, start fuckin’!”
“Here I go!”
“[groans] hamana hamana hamana”
“Way to go there, Ralphie-boy!”
That was funny, his “I kid the homosexuals a lot, because they’re homosexuals.” wasn’t and it all came home to roost when he was stopped on a DWI with a transgendered prostitute and when the cop asked what Murphy was doing, claimed “I was giving her a lift because she looked tired.” Now, that’s funny. So is Chappelle a closet case? Maybe. In a funny part during his longish transgendered riff he mentions maybe 20 years ago having six dances at a club before the lights went on and he noticed his partner had an Adam’s apple. He freaked and she said she was going to go, “There are only two more songs,” he replied. “We might as well end the night.” Later he came all over her breasts. “It was two thirty in the morning, I didn’t want the evening to be an entire waste.” There you go, Dave, that’s how you make fun of transgendered people.
NOW THE REVIEW STARTS. Part of Dave’s sixteen nights at Radio City Music Hall, I chose Saturday because Chris Rock was gonna be his guest and I hoped they might perform together, they didn’t but maybe I missed it. I arrived at 7pm and left at 1150pm and if that is not enough go fuck yourself. And don’t let me even start on the lock up your cell phones bullshit, except to say it was bullshit. I expected a good night of comedy, what I got was the World Series of comedy. If they’d added Louis CK and Jerry Seinfeld, Chappelle would have swept the shelf clean of the greatest working American comedians. Let’s end all suspense, and give you who performed and their grade:
DJ Trauma — B+
Jeff Ross – MC’d – A-
Amy Schumer – B+
Chris Rock – A-
Kevin Hart – B+
Dave Chappelle – B+
Amy discussed being fat and famous, Chris bullying and race, Kevin domestic life, and Dave transgendered people and how it was all seen through a race prism any way.
DJ Trauma was very good in a thankless task, DJs can’t warm comedy audiences very well at their best, and a huge hand waving blah blah during the first intermission was a bore. Then he played some Biggie and I forgave him. Jeff Ross MC’d, another thankless task, when the curtain goes up and you expect Chris or Dave (the official headliners) and you get Uncle Fester? Well, Uncle Fester nearly stole the show, Ross is “The Roastmaster General” for all those celebrity roasts that nobody ever watches (Dean Martin used to do it back in the day), in his two small sets he was completely excellent, particularly the second one where he invited six members of the audience on stage and roasted em on an open spit.
Next, he introduced the completely unexpected Amy Schumer, I bet the White House wish they had as tight a ship on leaks as Chappelle has. Schumer is more a woman’s comedian than a man’s, though she does something for both sexes that needs to be done: she returns women the humanity that a world in search of a hairless, smellless, neutered social image has taken away from them. This has lead women to atrocious, and unreal self-image, and the inevitable mental illnesses, such as anorexia and bulimia, that it breeds to epidemic proportion. Whether complaining that her coats no longer fit or dubbing the size of her tampons as gaping hole fit, she returns the balance of humanity between the sexes. Chris Rock isn’t as funny in 2017 as he was in 1999, though now that he has stopped unburdening his guilt over his failed marriage his current alimony tour maybe funnier than the sometimes wearying 2004 tour. Chris still has a great deal of anger towards white people, still understands that racism never goes away even for a celebrity, explaining how when cops see him him from a distance they don’t know who it is so the closer they get to him it goes “Nigger, nigger, nigger, nigger, CHRIS ROCK I LOVE YOU”. He claims if he had a son he’d punch him every day in the face to show him what was waiting for him and declaims the end of bullying in High School because that’s why we got Donald Trump, we didn’t know how to react to a bully. In the funniest moment of the entire evening, he imagines the richest people in the States in High School, Four Eyed Gates and Fuckaberg, “Do you know why he called it Facebook?” Rock asked, “Because Mark was always getting hit in the face with a book.”
After an intermission, the crowd lost its mind when Kevin Hart came out. Again, how the fuck do they not announce that the biggest comedian in the world is performing? How didn’t it twitter itself throughout the Universe? His domestic problems stories were completely color blind, even more so than during his fine “What Now” set at MSG in 2015 (here). There were some very good moments by the anecdotal inspired Hart, one about a “Great Baby” saying “pardon me” was extremely funny, and his children fighting when they didn’t know he was in the room was terrific, the latter leading to a brilliant denouement. But there was nothing as timeless as his white-black son searching for his flip flops. It seemed as though the pieces weren’t 100% there yet.
Finally, Chappelle. Chappelle. Chappelle… Chapelle is like a 21st Century baseball team manager, a Joe Girardi, who keeps switching pitchers till he finds one who can’t get out of the inning. Or maybe like Prince in the 1990s, producing so much material that some of it doesn’t come close to sticking. I would pay cash money to hear Dave riff on the four times he met OJ in person, despite knowing exactly how it goes. If you go and see Drake you wanna hear “One Dance” and if you go and see Dave Chappelle you wanna hear “OJ” or God knows the smartest and kindest, most accurate and unforgiving thing ever said about Bill Cosby. For goodness sake, it isn’t even a year old, why is Chappelle putting it away so we he can try more and more new material till he reaches his Waterloo? Chappelle’s “it’s easier for Caitlyn Jenner to change sexes than for Cassius Clay to change his name” was his Waterloo. To not take into account that Ali changed his name in 1964 is pathetic, the comparison is insulting to both Jenner and the memory of Ali. It’s like saying it is easier for Bruce Springsteen to fill an arena than for Louis Armstrong to get a seat in the front of a bus. It has no meaning whatsoever. Perhaps the single best moment wasn’t really a joke, Chappelle returning home from a tour and his children and wife aren’t there waiting for him. That, and comparing voting for Hillary Clinton to performing cunnilingus on Halle Berry and having her fart in your face, which is disgusting, funny, and accurate.
You might wonder why, if I didn’t worship anybody I saw last night, I still worshipped the show: it had an accumulative power that was irresistible and as close to perfection as you will ever see. It felt like a comedy event, a you’d had to be there moment. I hope they filmed it because nobody in the audience did…. lock up your cellies indeed.