Dave to the Rescue!
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."
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
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