It's chaos in front of the Houston Improv after the first show in a Dave Chappelle double-header. Hundreds spill out of the club and into the parking lot. As they lean on complete strangers' cars, they high-five each other, bellow into their cell phones and point to the marquee that says "Dave Chappelle -- SOLD OUT." We're here for the second show of Chappelle's surprise appearance, which sold out in less than an hour. It's a benefit for victims of Katrina and Rita (at our show, displaced college students from Louisiana have front-row seats). Chappelle agreed to appear after Houston Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee asked him to at a gala in Washington, D.C. "I just approached him and told him about what was happening to the people here," she tells me. "He has a generous and big heart." Wait, so a congresswoman is a fan of Chappelle's racy -- and that's putting it mildly -- humor? "Well, I just think he makes everyday stories so funny," she says with a wink. True dat.
After funny sets by openers Harris Stanton and Saturday Night Live alum Dean Edwards, Chappelle, wearing a black "Muhammad Ali 1974" T-shirt and jeans, kicks in.
"I must say I appreciate the love and support," he says. "I must ask that you not make any loud noises or sudden gestures, because I'm not sure if you heard -- I'm fuckin' in-sane!" He makes jokes about the media attention surrounding his walkout on a $50 million Chappelle's Show contract with Comedy Central. "They called me a crackhead in Newsweek magazine," he says. "That shit is harsh!" Even his love life has been affected by his decision: "I'm a jerk-off ninja in the shadows now," he says. "Don't think that you can walk away from $50 million and your wife be cool with it."
Chappelle talks about "Asian hicks" and black cowboys and does a line dance. He makes predictions about the next presidential election: "Hillary Clinton versus Condoleezza Rice -- and you know who'll win? Ralph Nader by a landslide!" When he spots an audience member using a cell phone during the show, he takes the phone and starts dialing numbers. He intersperses his routine with questions from the audience; when a brokenhearted guy asks him for advice, he says, "Find the guy she cheated on you with and just start hangin' out with him."
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And despite annoying audience requests, he thankfully refuses to do even one "I'm Rick James, bitch!" line. All in all, it's a night of pure Dave. I don't know if I'll ever see him on Comedy Central again, but who cares, now that I've spent an evening with the jerk-off ninja himself? -- Steven Devadanam