Dave Chappelle gives Knoxville the finger

How to go to a comedy show: Sit down, shut up, and laugh.

That very basic rule of entertainment, the arts, failed to hit about 50 people at the 10 p.m. performance by Dave Chappelle in the Tennessee Theatre on Tuesday. (Knox Comedy Live! addressed it too.)

To you few who were loudest, thinking that you were having your own conversation with Chappelle, where are the manners and Southern hospitality?

This isn’t a “one bad apple” issue. This is a how-to-watch-a-performance problem. Comedy is an art that goes after prejudices and our hang ups. It lacerates our self perception and our perception of groups in the world. Chappelle is a master in that regard – those familiar with his 10-year-old Comedy Central show know that. Through humor we cut through discrimination and hate, generalizations about subgroups. We face our issues with death, sex and love. Through a joke we can share in the thought that the one weird thing you thought that you only did is OK. Truth and unity exist in humor.

Chappelle’s show was a run of fits and starts. Once he got rolling, he built to his punch lines and finished his delivery. A memorable, unpublishable joke from last night involved a bowl of cereal and what one does with spare time at home without the spouse around.

But it takes time to set up the joke and deliver the finish. The audience at the 10 p.m. show, apparently, did not have that patience. Or the self-awareness needed to let a performer perform. You don’t bring your electric guitar and amp to the rock show, do you? Paint over the canvas of art in a gallery? Drag your own pulpit to church?

I’m betting that you don’t. So don’t talk over the man with the microphone who is attempting to perform – yes, perform – his act. Comics aren’t necessarily the people you see on the stage. It’s a performance. Shut up, and laugh.

A few (low) highlights from the show:

Chappelle has his friend (bodyguard, I’m guessing), Mr. Summertime, as a bailout. If he’s making jokes using him, then that means that the show has gone off the rails. He has given up on you. If you see this fella in suspenders and a hat in the audience, it’s not a good sign. Because he’s removing people from the show. For heckling.

For the uninitiated, heckling in a comedy show is not the same kind of heckling you hear (or hurl) during a UT football game. Heckling in a comedy show is ANY talking – among the audience, or yelling anything to the stage. This ain’t Neyland, folks.

Some of the plain dumb things hollered from the audience included asking what Chappelle thought of Paula Deen, Africa and, of all things, white girls – among many, many other unnecessary outbursts. Some dude walked up to the stage and slapped five with Chappelle. And Candace, oh Candace, you’re single. I hope you find a boyfriend. Chappelle said her issue was a global issue Tuesday for the crowd: You talk too much.

Chappelle engaged the hecklers. And I don’t blame him. I can assume the thinking goes like this, from his end – if you’re going to talk over my act, screw the act, we’ll do this.

At one point, Chappelle said something like, “I brought the fine China, but you want the paper plates.” Translation: You’re not a sophisticated audience.

He said he would spend money he made in Knoxville on video games and other whatnot. Translation: I’m tossing away the money you spent to see a show that has been ruined. That was an insult, folks.

To close the show he said something about magic tricks, waved his hands and handed the 10 p.m. crowd the one-finger salute.

The Tennessee Theatre audience bellowed into applause.

Y’all just don’t get it.


About Gerald

A journalist in Knoxville, TN. Work (mostly) inside and play (mostly) outside. I'm a part of the X or the Y generation. None of us claim the other.
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33 Responses to Dave Chappelle gives Knoxville the finger

  1. chuck goss says:

    sad Tosh had to boot a few people too

  2. Brandon says:

    last nights show was like hanging out with my buddy Ian only i’ve given Ian a lot more money……. the randomness ran rampant….. but I guess that’s what happens when you go to a ten o clock show and have to wait till midnight to see the act …. people get restless…. and drunk….

  3. Brad says:

    First show audience was bad, sad to hear the 2nd may have been worse.

    Ushers should have kicked more out. Guy behind me warned 4 times for phone and clearly hammered. Then started making threats when told to shut up during Chappelle.

    Glad I saw Dave last night, because I never expect him to return to here again.

  4. Not Amused says:

    Surely this isn’t the first crowd to heckle Dave, he should have ignored them and carried on with his set. He looked visibly tired at the 10pm show, came on stage in sweatpants smoking cigarette after cigarette. There were toooo many pauses of silence, leaving the audience in an awkward position while the alcohol-infused & impatient got restless. Dave started the heckling himself, seemed all too eager to carry on mundane conversations with the crowd. Not what I paid $60 to see. I can see that at any Walmart for free.

  5. refund? says:

    1) Not everyone in the audience was yelling obnoxious comments… I am embarrassed to call this place my home.

    2) I agree with the comment about WAY too many awkward silences. It’s like he ran out of material and was waiting for hecklers to help him out.

    3) I found it rude that he smoked inside and put cigarettes out on the stage.

    4) The “musical intermission” was way too long. By the time he nonchalantly walked onto the stage, he looked as tired as I was.

    5) He really is hilarious. One of my favorite parts of the night was the magic trick where he flipped off the crowd. I like to think that was directly solely towards the idiots yelling crap like “I’m rich, bitch” and not the rest of us who paid money to see his standup and hear HIM.

    6) I love him forever but all in all, I wish I could get $120 back and take my husband to a nice dinner and a movie.

  6. tj says:

    Take a look at the reviews of his other shows before blaming Knoxville…the shows running super late, long pauses between acts, the constant hecklers….sounds like a constant problem with Dave and not an east Tennessee issue. The establishment that selectively enforces their rules and didn’t throw enough idiots out early to make a point is who is really to blame!

    I love Dave, have loved his work since he was Achu, have seen everything the man has done and I consider his humor and the way he approaches a lot of major issues on life as a direct influence on me…I was embarrassed by the idiots too…but the crowd turned on the hecklers and the theatre and Dave refused to do anything about it…Dave ignoring them or the theatre throwing them out would of made this a non issue…or not taking over an hour between sets with only a terrible dj to entertain!

  7. shawn says:

    I was at the 7:30 show last night, and was embarassed by the audiences behavior. I remember thinking, “maybe the audience at the 10:00 show will redeem Knoxville.” Now I am certain Dave will never perform for us again. Sadly, that is exactly what we deserve.

  8. Bill Ripperton says:

    It was great that Knoxville could lure such a performer as DC to come to our city to not only perform but also to have him entice other performers to visit K’ville as well….well we blew it ! Those of us that love comedy had no choice but to allow the weak minded babblers to ruin what could have been a great relationship between a “city with a view” and a great performer and turned it into one of those family reunions where you drink too much, act like an @&& ! towards the uncle you don’t respect in hopes that he never shows up again….c’mon people ! Great performers, great times in a great city ! Open
    Your minds and your hearts and see the big
    picture here. DC if you read any of this, I’m sure I speak for most that enjoy comedy and we apologize for the rotten family members and hope that you consider a return to Knoxville….we promise to leave the kids at home !

  9. gingersnaps1977 says:

    Sadly this is a Knoxville problem. I went to the Avett Brothers show in May and the crowd was ridiculous. Hooting and hollering during an acoustic one man performance …. shouting ‘play rocky top’ … just drunken idiots out of control and being disrespectful to a very talented band.

  10. Jim says:

    I have been a fan of Mr. Chappelle since the early nineties and actually had the opportunity to see him perform live in Nashville in 2004. Ever since that show, I have waited for the opportunity to see him perform live again.

    I had been looking forward to last night’s performance for weeks and my only regret now is that I cannot send a bill for reimbursement to the morons who ruined my evening.

    My wife and I attended the 10:00 show and I have to say that we were both appalled at the behavior of many in the audience. Not only was the constant heckling and shouting infuriating, it was one of the most embarrassing events I’ve ever had the pleasure of being involved in. It made me feel embarassed to be from Knoxville. Do these rude idiots actually believe Dave came to Knoxville with the sole purpose of hosting a question and answer session? How completely embarrassing and utterly disrespectful. I feel sorry for all the “normal” people in the audience who were denied the opportunity to watch a very talented comedian perform. Unfortunately the majority of those in attendance were denied the chance to watch the show they shelled out over $50/ticket for. I was completely shocked that he didn’t give the middle finger earlier in his performance and just walk off the stage. The fact that he remained and continued to perform even after his show had been derailed shows a high level of class and talent. Stand up comedy is one of the most difficult jobs in entertainment and I’m sure most people in his situation would have just thrown in the towel.

    I want to thank those who found it so difficult to just shut up and listen. Because of you, we Knoxvillians look like a bunch of ungrateful hicks.

  11. JR says:

    Sounds like you all encountered a typical evening where people enjoyed too many adult beverages and got a little loud, 100% chance Chapelle deals with something of this nature every time he’s on stage.

  12. Rupert says:

    Just got back from the Chattanooga 10pm show, it was really good. Great material, he went the whole time. No heckling, no stupid people yelling like lil john, etc. He did mention Knoxville was a complete nightmare and how the people were terrible. He thanked everybody for keeping their cell phones put up and posed for pictures at the end.

    • Not Amused says:

      Well how nice for Chattanooga. Did he wear his sweatpants on stage?

    • refund? says:

      Must have been nice.

    • Lundy says:

      The first Chattanooga show that night was a disaster! There was too many hecklers. Three or 4 people got kicked out. I’m glad the second show was better. I wonder if was talking about Chattanooga instead of Knoxville?… It was a bad experience for $60, long story, short…

  13. Aingeal says:

    I was at the 10:00 show. Good god, I just wanted to hear the man talk for more than a minute & not get interrupted! It was ridiculous & totally embarrassing. I can’t believe the behavior at BOTH shows! I will say that I was put off by the wait time between the opening act & when DC actually took the stage, but I honestly think he was waiting until everyone had their phones put away. Just put your phones away, people! You seriously aren’t that important that you can’t go an hour without checking it! Anyway, there’s a good dialogue going on over at Metro Pulse about the show, too. Apparently, lots of people were appalled by some of Knoxville’s classiest… People need to learn when to STFU!

  14. Mel says:

    Who gives a crap if he wore sweatpants? Chappelle is not the suit coat guy that Seinfeld is. I also don’t understand people complaining about long pauses. Just because he doesn’t say “Um” or “like” between each joke doesn’t mean he doesn’t have something important or funny to say, or that we should disrespect him like that. The crowd never gave him a chance. I’m so glad Nashville (where the reviews were great) and Chattanooga both stepped up to show that not all of Tennessee is like this.

    • refund? says:

      He DID say “um” a lot. I’m not taking up for the ridiculous audience by any means. My phone was put away and I genuinely wanted to see him perform. The audience participation ruined the entire show for me and obviously ruined his attempt to care whatsoever.

      • Mel says:

        Sure–when I said that, I really meant in the spaces between his jokes. He didn’t fill every breath or pause with something to keep making sounds, and it seemed like any time he was silent for more than a second or two, people felt they had to insert themselves into the moment by screaming something, not allowing him any room at all to breathe. It was sad. I was so excited to see him as well. 😦

  15. Jen says:

    I would have stood up and said “SHUT THE FUCK UP! AN COMIC GENIUS IS ON THE STAGE” or burst into tears because he’s my favorite comedian and that would royally suck.

    • refund? says:

      A few did yell for people to shut up and the majority of the crowd would applaud. Apparently others still could not take a hint. It was really unfortunate.

  16. Event Staff says:

    More people were removed from that 10:00 show than any other show I’ve been involved with. Even so, they couldn’t get to everyone before some idiot had a chance to do their best at trying to be the “show off” in the crowd. If I had to characterize the Knoxville crowd for this show (and the 10:00 show in particular), I’d point at Cousin Eddie from the Vacation movies. Some folks just don’t know how to behave in public.

  17. Not Amused says:

    I guess I’m going to buy another pair of tickets and see Dave in a different city. It’s such a let down after waiting a decade to see the man on stage to go out this way. I really wish I hadn’t bought Chris Tucker tix for the Knoxville show now. If you were one of the idiots screaming at Dave and you’re planning to show out at Chris Tucker think twice.

  18. Meghan says:

    This rare night out was a Fathers Day gift for my husband. We’ve both been fans for a long time. We were at the 7:30 show and it started out fine..jokes were funny. .going well. Then some douche made a comment, and some lady threw a tshirt on stage that started some corny hot dog joke and it went downhill from there. I have to say I dont know that not serving alcohol at the theatre would have made a difference..the frat boy behind us showed up lit. At one point people were chanting for Dave to take his shirt off..seriously!? you’d have thought it was a showing of Magic Mike. Highlight for me was watching the hoochie with her butt hanging out of her skirt escorted out for trying to tape the show on her phone, Dave called her out when he saw the record light on. Think I will hang on to my Vermont roots a little longer and put off the ” I live in Knoxville!” announcement for a bit till the dust settles.

  19. John R says:

    I was at the 10 o’clock show and I was so discussed for spending $100 and it was also supposed to of been my wife’s 43rd birthday present. As far as the show, yes it sucked and the hecklers were the main problem. Other problems, show started an hour late, Chappelle was not on his game, and the staff at the theater should all be fired for not having better control of the show. I have been a fan of Dave for years and have all his dvd’s and love his act. As far as him, he was off, a professional comedian should know how to handle a few drunks. He let them take over the show. It’s not fair that the 99% of us that went to hear a good show suffered for the actions of a few. He can give Knoxville the finger but the truth is, he’s supposed to be able to handle it. If you think it’s just Knoxville, then you need to do some research because he’s lost control of a lot of shows lately. Honestly, I don’t think he enjoys what he’s doing any longer so maybe he should retire and stop taking people’s hard earned money. I know it sounds like I’m being hard on Dave but it’e the way I feel. He should of been able to make those few look like fools for their outburst. Then you have the “security”, throw these assholes out and quit saying ” one more time and you’re gone” which is what happened in front of me. Another problem was the sound, you couldn’t hear anything and I know a lot of that was the idiots in the crowd but for God’s sake, turn up the volume so we can’t hear the crowd. Anyways, lesson learned, will never watch another stand-up show at the Tennessee Theater again, never.

  20. Donna Graves says:

    Im new to Knoxville, everyone ive met says there is nothing to do here. I dont necassarily like Dave Chappel, but if you briught tickets for the show you should have none what to expect. Is this way talent does not come here I thought it was the high taxes, I guess not.

  21. The only surprise is that Dave Chappelle went to Tennessee!

  22. Rocky Robinson says:

    Great article on a much needed topic that needs addressing for any audience, not just comedy, bit especially for comedy.

  23. pdxantiques says:

    I saw Dave tonight in Portland, and I sat next to Mr. Summertime in the audience.

    No one heckled per say, but damn it, drunk white chicks hitting on him really sucked.

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