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.