Dave Chappelle and my iPhone
If you like Dave Chappelle, you’re probably aware that he dropped out of show business for the most part a while back, and now does random shows whereever and whenever he feels like it, with little to no warning. I’ve long dreamt of going to one of Chappelle’s pop-ups, and he seems to have a special fondness for the Bay Area, because he does them here quite a bit (though they’re usually in Oakland). Apparently he’ll call a venue, sometimes just a day or two in advance, and book the space (adios, moderately famous indie band previously scheduled for the night). He can do this because he charges $55 for tickets, and his shows sell out in literally one minute. Luckily, my friend Peter was sitting by the computer hitting the refresh button like a maniac when the tickets went up, and was able to purchase a pair. Even more luckily, he invited me with him.
Chappelle did two shows last night, 7:30 and 10:30 pm, and being an intelligent fellow, Peter wisely purchased tickets to the late show, aware that Chappelle has been known to riff into the wee hours of the morning. On this count, the man did not disappoint: he got a slightly late start, but came on stage more or less on time (mitigating a major concern for me— he’s also been known to make crowds wait for hours) and was up there for over three hours, to the point where the 2 am alcohol cutoff kicked in and the staff had to vigorously remove every empty drink in the place in order to stay compliant. He threatened to leave the stage and call it a night a few times, but the crowd was happily rooting him on to stay, and stay he did.
You know how you like an actor so much that you say you’d watch them read the phonebook? That is what we (and everyone) basically did seeing Dave Chappelle last night. He had little to no prepared material, and spent hours just riffing. He’s extremely funny, so he was able to get away with this, though I do think there’s still probably more virtue (and laughs) in showing up with a top-notch pre-written set and working improvised stuff in around the edges. The folks seated dead-center in the front row, a black woman and her Asian guy friend, ended up becoming major players in the act, especially when Chappelle started trying to guess which Asian ethnicity the guy was. This game proceeded, on and off, for over two hours (some of the funniest riffs were when someone suggested “Hmong,” an ethnic group Chappelle had apparently never heard of), with the eventual lackluster revelation that the dude was Vietnamese. (That said, Peter and I had been absolutely certain he was Korean.) The closing of the show was Chappelle offering to fly this guy to Vietnam (he was American-born and had never been), provided he brought along a giant cardboard cutout of Chappelle and took it with him everywhere he went. I deeply hope to witness this YouTube video one day.
The venue set up a number of chairs, but attendees overflowed the seating, and Peter and I were towards the end of the line. Since we are both very short, we were able to squeeze into a little nook about two-thirds of the way up the side of the stage, with me sitting in his lap to prevent blocking the view of the people in the chairs on the side. Unfortunately, doing this for three hours was my quads’ idea of hell, so when the seat at the very end of the front row was vacated by a dude who probably had to go to work in the morning, I pounced, leaving my purse at Peter’s feet.
Apparently, the venue had been telling everyone else that their cell phones had to be completely turned off, but the guy at the door only told us “no taping or recording,” so mine was on but silenced in my bag. This ended up coming in handy when Chappelle was riffing on the Fourth of July (as one does on the third of July) and asked if he could have someone’s smartphone in order to read the Gettysburg Address aloud. Everyone else shouted, “They made us turn them off!” but I raised my hand like an overgrown idiot schoolgirl, and since I was in the front row, he commissioned me to loan him the device. I ran for my handbag to grab it, but it turned out the strap was tangled around Peter’s feet. So as I yanked it back to my seat, it gave, and I tripped and fell. I landed on my ass, losing my right shoe, and everyone gasped.
Regular readers of this blog will know that I am one of the world’s clumsiest people, but that has also made me extremely resilient when I inevitably fall down, so I immediately bounced back, replaced the shoe, grabbed the phone, and began furiously Googling “gettysburg address.”
Chappelle: “Are you OK?”
Me (head in phone): “Yes!”
Chappelle: “You’re one of those one-handed texters, aren’t you?”
I completed the search, found the speech itself (second result, and I knew not to go to the Wikipedia page, #googleswag), and blew it up with my fingers and centered it on the page. And Chappelle proceeded to read it (well, some of it) while his friend Fred played the national anthem on a harmonica. While a comedian (even a funny one) reading the Gettysburg Address aloud isn’t the most hilarious thing in the world, I was hyperventilating with laughter as I had the repeated realization about every five seconds that Dave Chappelle was playing with my iPhone.
I’ve long said that the very expensive iPhone, which I probably cannot justify owning as an impoverished freelance writer, was worth it because paid for itself in saved cab fare from me knowing when the next bus is coming. But just in case it hasn’t, Dave Chappelle reading from the damn thing kicked the last few bucks into the kitty. It was pretty awesome.
And yeah, I know this story is utterly dumb (“FAMOUS PERSON TOUCHED MY ELECTRONIC DEVICE DURRRRR”), but given how excited everyone was that I was even going to the show, I thought you might enjoy this little anecdote. Also, I wish that there was some kind of marker that let someone sign your iPhone and that I had had it in my possession last night, because I would have actually had a convincing case to stick around and have that happen.