Last night, Funny or Die’s traveling show, the Oddball Comedy & Curiosity Festival, swung through Hartford, Connecticut. And this morning, comedy fans woke to reports of the festival’s headliner Dave Chappelle “bombing” and being “booed off stage.” I wasn’t there. But based on the shitty fan-recorded camera videos I’ve watched and the e-mails I’ve received from level-headed witnesses, I’m confident in concluding that yes, people were booing and yes, Chappelle did walk off stage none too pleased.
However, Chappelle didn’t have a fucking “meltdown,” as some have reported. Nor did he “bomb.” The crowd in Hartford made it impossible for Chappelle to perform his act properly. Laughspin was there in Austin for the opening show of the tour. Chappelle did well– because, presumably, the crowd wasn’t a bunch of fucking animals (two more shows in Texas went off without a hitch as well). After politely asking the crowd to stop yelling out Chappelle’s Show and Half-Baked catchphrases and the like, the veteran comedian decided he wasn’t going to make a mockery out of his profession by trying to deliver jokes — like nothing was wrong — over the screams of fucking idiots (my words, not his). In fact, the official Oddball feed on Twitter had this to say:
Hey Hartford! Pipe down and let Dave Chappelle do his thing!
— Oddball Fest (@OddballFest) August 30, 2013
One show attendee had this to say to Laughspin: “He just chatted with the crowd for the first couple minutes as he waited for people to take their seats and settle down, but they kept going with the screaming. He had some fun with it at first, but then he got serious and told people that if they wanted him to do his act, they should pipe down so he could start. I can’t tell you how frustrating it was to have him lay it out there in plain English that he wouldn’t continue until there was a reasonable level of quiet, yet people, who presumably paid a bunch of money to come see him, wouldn’t shut the fuck up.”
And for everyone questioning whether this is going to ruin Chappelle’s “comeback,” I’d like to explain that Chappelle just last month broke attendance records in Montreal at the Just For Laughs comedy festival. He was scheduled to do one show there and organizers had to add nine more. The shows were packed and Chappelle, by most accounts, killed. My guess is those crowds in Montreal weren’t a bunch of drunk animals. I’m not saying every crowd member in Hartford are to blame for Chappelle’s non-performance, but clearly there were enough to ruin the night for everyone.
The Oddball fest travels to 11 more cities through Sept. 22. Chappelle as well as co-headliners Flight of the Conchords along with Al Madrigal, Demetri Martin, Kristen Schaal, Jeff Ross, Hannibal Buress and Brody Stevens are scheduled to perform. Let’s hope the crowd in Pittsburgh and the crowds in the remaining cities act like humans.