Tag Archives: comedy

Just Another Typical New York Evening with Dave Chappelle (And Special Guests)

15 Sep

Watching the young Asian man set up his 4 track sampler gave me the feeling that it was going to be one of those nights. The young man started beat-boxing and looping his vocal riffs on top of each other to make beats, vocally sampling Eminem’s lyrics from Forgot about Dre.

For being such a raw production it kind of knocked. The aesthetic was so purely hip hop (and New York) that you had to respect it. He was just a dude with a sampler, making live beats down in the Times Square subway stop. I was only able to see one song before catching the next uptown train to 59th street, but this was a good start. I could just feel it.

I got to Radio City Music Hall early–hoping to receive a “free gift” for being one of the first 100 patrons to get into the building. My math must have  been off by about 15 people because I did not get a “Chappelle at Radio City Music Hall” trucker hat. I did however get into the building right before I shat myself, so that was a huge win (But I guess if you think about it, any day that you don’t shit on yourself should be considered a good day –unless you’re an infant or elderly–but I digress).

I’ve never been the type to get caught up in the glitz and glamour of Manhattan. I yawn at the mere mention of Broadway plays (sorry Daveed) , and I initially dismissed any idea of going to Radio City Music Hall when I first heard Chappelle was working the theater (ticket prices seemed a little steep at 100 dollars but more on that later) for a two-week run.

All it took was for me to walk through the venue doors to understand why everyone was making such a big deal about it. It is a classy joint done up in Art Deco and high marble columns and ceilings. Instead of having restrooms, they have lady and gentleman lounges, and even the urinals look too nice to be pissed in. It looked like the kind of place that black people couldn’t frequent too often until about 50 years ago, and I would’ve never thought to ever come to a show there until Chappelle booked it.

Of course, no swanky party is complete without a jazz band, and we were greeted in the lobby by a Brooklyn jazz quartet covering hip hop tunes by such juggernauts as Pete Rock and Kendrick Lamar. A small crowd gathered near the stairwell leading to the first balcony. I noticed just how many people were dressed up for the affair which hinted to be less of a comedy show and more of an event. I grew excited with each tune, and spent an hour listening to the band while chopping it up with various other jazz aficionados until about 7:45 (I was mistaken for Seahawks football player Michael Bennett more than a couple of times).

Music from inside the theater bled through to the lobby whenever patrons entered and exited the theater area. I finally meandered to my seat to see none other than DJ and comedian, Cipha Sounds (the original DJ on the Chappelle Show) engaging in a beat battle with a DJ from Toronto (still unnamed as of this post). For old school fans of hip hop, they hit the intended nerve, but these weren’t the deepest of cuts. You could almost anticipate which albums they’d throw on next to entice the crowd.

I sat down in my seat and took in the ambiance. There were so many kinds of people in the crowd: white people, black people, Latin people, Asian people, fat people, skinny people, ugly people dressed up, attractive people dressed down, well endowed, buxom women, skinny women with big booties. It was a people watching extravaganza–even for New York City. The theater itself was as nice as any venue I’ve ever been in. It was the kind of place you take a significant other in anticipation of something bigger than a night of coitus.

The opening comic, Ashley Barnhill, went on at almost exactly 8:00. Surprisingly she was from Texas (she claimed San Antonio), but what was even more surprising was that she wasn’t that funny. Her jokes were kinda hacky. Her shock humor and “edginess” that seemed more at home at an open mic or small showcase. They were objectively good jokes, but they came off a bit too mechanical, and predictable.

It was disappointing to hear her trot out such material. It wasn’t necessarily bad, but wasn’t the type of humor one expected to hear for such a monumental gig. You figured that if Chappelle tabbed her to get on that she had to be funny. Unfortunately, most of her jokes fell flat on the mixed crowd, and it was a relief when she finally exited the stage.

Donnell AKA “Ashy Larry” Rawlings saved the evening’s vibe with a solid 15-20 minutes of bawdy humor. If you’ve been fortunate enough to see him do stand up, Rawlings is a lesson in the difference between writing jokes and being funny. Nothing Rawlings said on stage was overly thoughtful, but the man was hilarious.

His comic timing was perfect, as he used his whole body to tell jokes–from the arching of his eyebrows to a change in his vocal intonation. Barnhill was telling jokes, but Rawlings was being funny,and he set the tone for the rest of the night. He killed the crowd and had me in tears with jokes about people who are way more particular about “who made the potato salad” at a barbecue than who they perform cunnilingus on.

Things really took off from there as Yasiin Bey AKA “Mos Def” took the stage. Of Chappelle’s sixteen show run, this was the bill that intrigued me the most (the Chris Rock/Chappelle show was out of the question with lowest ticket prices at 500 dollars to start). Bey had been away some time, and it had been forever since the last time I’d seen him live.

Seeing him onstage again, flanked by two DJ’s, an old school, scraper convertible car (Chevy I think?), and an endless sea of balloons, I suddenly remembered why I unequivocally loved this man. He exudes nothing but love and compassion, while at the same time demanding social fairness and critical thought. If there were ever a human being whose success I could get behind, it was Yasiin Bey. He was the tipping point in my buying a ticket for the 8/23 show, and two songs into his set affirmed every single summer decision I’d made around this night–especially considering that he was reportedly retiring from music this year, making the matter all the more special.

I was just happy to be in the building and I’d never even considered the potential setlist that he would roll out on a night like this. It didn’t even occur to me that there could be a possible “Rick the Ruler” sighting during the evening’s rendition of “Auditorium” until the end of Bey’s verse on the song.

Bey looked to stage left  for half a second, and what do you know? Slick Rick rolls out spitting his verse. The crowd lost its fucking mind–me included. It was here that things took on the element of the surreal. Of course New York and hip hop legend Slick Rick would be available to do a cameo, he from here.

That song ended and before the crowd had even had a chance to gather themselves, Talib Kweli joined the stage for a few songs, as Black Star treated the crowd to a mini-reunion show. Suddenly I was transported to a New York of a different time. Brooklyn got a shout out between each song, and every query in regards to the location of the Brooklynites was greeted by raucous yelling and screaming.

It was like it was 1998 again, but I wasn’t watching the BET or Source Awards on television, I was seeing it in person. Cipha Sounds was just as hype anyone else, dancing along to this music near the side of that stage. I thought that was pretty cool to see. This New York only existed in oral histories and podcasts. The magic was briefly back.

It was only slightly surprising that Common didn’t come out on stage when Bey and Kweli performed  “Respiration” . The opening bars of the song put chills up my spine upon hearing “We New York the Narcotic”, again when Kweli hit the ” I take the L, transfer to the 2, head to the gates” line.

Other highlights from the set were the Biggie/Prodigy/Phife Dawg medley tribute that filled my heart with warmth, and  Yasiin closed the set with a moving rendition of “Umi Says” that almost put me in tears. By the time Yasiin Bey’s set was finished, I’d felt that I’d gotten my money’s worth, and everything else was gravy. I went into intermission thinking my night could end right then and things would be fine.

The fun was just beginning. Bill Bellamy of Def Comedy fame, came out onto the stage and hit us with ten minutes of shit talking. You could tell he was just happy to be hanging out and partying with the fellas (he was constantly interrupted with the sounds of loud popping backstage–which could’ve been champagne OR balloons), and he wasn’t trying to do too much. He threw a few jabs at the audience and warmed the crowd back up.  The highlight of his set was a series of “Head Day” jokes which though were funny, alienated about a 1/4 of the crowd. I liked it though, because I’ve been rocking with Bellamy since before “How to Be a Player” came out. I was just bugging that he was even out there.

As Bellamy walked off, Dave Chappelle’s voice came onto the PA and introduced his “very good friend” Chris Tucker out onto the stage. The audience exploded into applause and then Chris Tucker proceeded to do about 15 minutes of impressions of all of his famous friends. He wasn’t the heavyweight champion that he once was, but he was still Chris Tucker, and I couldn’t believe I was watching him doing a live set.

Just as I wrapping my head around this fact, Chappelle’s voice was back on the PA announcing the comedy legend Jerry Seinfeld. PAN-DE-MONIUM. Of all the performers you would expect to a drop in set anywhere, Jerry Seinfeld was not a name that would come to mind. Chappelle may as well have said Larry David had dropped by to do short set. No one could believe it. I just kept screaming “WHAT?!” over and over again until an usher slapped me back into my body.

Go figure that Seinfeld would end up doing the tightest set of the night. A slightly buzzed, casually slurring Seinfeld did one of the funniest 20 minutes of stand up I’d ever seen. At 63, Seinfeld’s repertoire has not only reached a Carlin-esque level of immortality, but even his examination of linguistics have taken on a professor’s red penned level critique. His observational insights are still clever, but his use of the English language sets him apart from almost 95 % of comics I’ve ever seen perform. Most importantly, he doesn’t give a fuck anymore. He threw nothing but heat at the audience as he got belly laughs, with jokes that somehow managed to offend not a single soul. That in itself is an extremely difficult accomplishment for a comedian. I’ve always been more a fan of Seinfeld the actor than the comic, but seeing this older, slightly unhinged Seinfeld was utterly remarkable.

By the time Seinfeld’s set was over, it was 10:15 and the night was rapidly approaching “best night of my life” status (and easily the most unbelievable). A$AP Ferg came out to the DJ booth and gave a quick shout out, before the opening riff to A Tribe Called Quest’s “We The People” blared on the loud speakers. No fucking way? Is Q-Tip about to play this motherfucker? 

No. Just Dave Chappelle doing and hour and a half set. Dave had a good set. He told cautionary tales of celebrity, lamented the demise of originality and courage in comedy, addressed the backlash to his Netflix specials. It was a typical Dave mixture of cerebral and sophomoric, and it was awesome. I wasn’t even mad that I’d already heard about half of the jokes he told that night. His set felt like a really funny Ted Talk lecture. I felt fortunate just being there. Dave had created an event so unique and special that it was hard to imagine anything remotely as cool going on in New York. This was the place to be. Anyone who has been to New York know this is a feat hard to pull off.

After a series of curveballs and surprises, it was hard to believe that the night was over. But it was 12:45 in the morning, and Chappelle’s “dick was not going to suck itself”, so patrons were sent back into the summer night, taking selfies with the marquee as a backdrop.

Many people walked out of the theater wearing the same shell-shocked glazed look in heir pupils. For the price of a festival ticket, I had just seen Dave Chappelle, Mos Def, Black Star, Bill Bellamy, Jerry Seinfeld, and Chris Tucker. It would cost a hundred bucks (if you were lucky) to see Seinfeld by himself. I would’ve never in my life thought I’d watch him perform live. The same can be said of Chris Tucker. Not only had Chappelle thrown a hell of a party, but we’d gotten more than our money’s worth.

I tried texting my brother about it, and after a certain point he stopped believing me. He thought I was just making shit up. I didn’t blame him though. I sat on the 3 train buzzing from the improbability of the entire evening. It reminded me of the feeling I had when I saw Randy Johnson pitch a perfect game back in college. I was hesitant to even go to sleep later that night. This was a tough high to top, and I was in no hurry to interrupt it. I may have even been slightly afraid that I would wake up and realize it was just one of those long, weird ass dreams I sometimes have. But that is just New York for you. Just one of those rare places where the surreal becomes the real.

 

BM

 

profile pic b mick  Bobby Mickey is the alter ego of writer and poet Edward Austin Robertson. When he isn’t involved in some basketball related activity, actively looking for parties to deejay or venues to perform comedy, he can be found recording podcasts with Craig Stein at Fullsass Studios. Follow him on twitter @goodassgame. For booking inquiries, send contact info to thisagoodassgame@gmail.com. 

 

Advertisements

Hey I Know This Guy!!!!

18 Aug