Dave Chappelle with Kojo, Donnell Rawlings and DJ Trauma
Star rating: ****
Eventim Hammersmith Apollo
Tuesday 14th July 2015
Outside the Hammersmith Eventim Apollo the rain was incessant and the sky was dull and overcast. That was the complete opposite of the buzzy, big night atmosphere inside the famous venue where an expectant crowd were eagerly awaiting the 7th and final sold out Dave Chappelle show in London.
Following on from support acts Kojo and Donnell Rawlings (reviews at the end) was 10 minutes of warm up by DJ Trauma. I wonder if he gets his moniker from putting people in a trance through the spinning of tunes? Or perhaps he plays music in A&E! Regardless, no-one was traumatised by his choice of music. He got the audience out of their seats and up on their feet singing and foot tapping away to classics such as Queen’s “We will rock you” and Bob Marley’s “Let’s get together”.
Then from behind a screen we saw the shadow of the main man. The man we had all come to see. The music stopped. The lights dimmed. The crowd screamed and shouted. A silhouette could be seen behind the stage curtain. There was a pause and then from behind the curtain stepped Mr Dave Chappelle to something of a rock star’s entrance. It was fabulous. Ten out of ten for the grandest of showbiz entrances. Could the show live up to the hype DJ Trauma had built up?
He opened with a very tasty and original gag about shepherds pie which had the audience in stitches. It was a short and unexpected joke to kick off proceedings. From that moment he set the funny bar high and you felt you were in for a great night.
The jokes moved quickly from the frivolous opening to more weighty matters as he launched into amusing and thought provoking routines re extremism. From shepherds pie to al Qaeda and ISIS. That’s a sentence you don’t hear to often!
Referring to the terrorists response to Danish cartoons of the prophet Mohammad and the Charlie Hebdo murder of 12 people back in January in Paris, he reminded people that these murderers are not known as extremists for nothing. “They are not noted for their proportionate responses” to things they do not like. I liked the fact that he was able to find the funny in this without diminishing the loss of lives or the reason why muslim’s would be upset by these cartoons and magazines.
He felt that the outrage was to an extent self inflicted by goading the extremists. This is a view I expressed at the time in ‘Je Ne Suis Pas Charlie’. He also made a point of stating that “12 people” lost there lives compared to the thousands [2,996] who died in 9/11. Again another point Mr Chappelle and I are in agreement on when comparing outrages that garner mass media coverage and those that are ignored. Refer to the Je Ne Suis Pas Charlie article for detail. Perspective.
Similarly he was able to, without being disrespectful or distasteful, find humour from the German plane tragedy (24.03.15) when the pilot deliberately crashed the plane killing all 150 passengers on board.
There was a good deal of topical material on the subject of race relations in America. Set against the backdrop of the all too familiar cases of innocent Black men being shot by American Police he joked about how African-American’s now respond to incidents when they need the Police. The punchline was as hilarious as it was unexpected.
He re-told a couple of stories of how even he had been accused of being a racist. He had a wealth of humorous tales on this theme. The ridiculousness of these accusations comes into sharper focus when he reveals who he is married too.
Bill Cosby, or should that be Pill Cosby, came under fire for the allegations of rape he’s faced over the past year or so. You sense, like many people, Dave Chappelle didn’t want to believe the stories that were surfacing after Comedian Hannibal Buress mentioned it at one of his gigs. When the number of allegations rose to high double figures it became harder to avoid facing the very real possibility that there was some substance to the allegations. Once again he was able to find the humour in this without making fun of the act of rape. He also made the connection with increasing male rape and how difficult it is for men to disclose that this has happened to them. If you think how hard it is for women to admit to this and go through proving that to the Police and in court, think how much harder it can be for a man. Serious point underpinning Chappelle’s humour. See links at the end of this review.
Caitlin Jenner and Transgender
I’m not sure people in Britain realise how big a star athlete Caitlin Jenner, formerly known as Bruce Jenner, Olympic Decathlon Champion (1976 Olympics – breaking the world record for the 3rd time, which he held until 1991) was and for him to go transgender is just mind blowing to Americans who remember him as a big name athlete. He put it into context by saying it would be like Michael Jordan going transgender!! Put like that we get the message loud and clear. Or even imagine (perish the though) Daley Thompson, his successor as Olympic Decathlon Champion in 1980 and 1984, going transgender! It’s hard to believe.
Whilst he didn’t appear to have a great issue with that, what did vex him was Jenner being so public about it. Could he not have done so quietly out of the media spotlight? Of course we have our own version here with Boxing promoter Frank Maloney undergoing a transgender transformation. He’s been a bit more subtle about it though. Not sure either is to applauded or celebrated. Should anyone really be completely changing something so fundamental to their being as our gender? What next, should people be allowed to change their colour?
As with support act Donnell Rawlings, Chappelle was quite fixated on sex. Perhaps not unsurprisingly though when we hear that a sex tape landed on the doorstep of his marital home. No laughing matter, but in hindsight he has turned this into a hilarious comedy drama that made for great entertainment for the audience.
These Americans aren’t shy are they? A lot was learnt re his fetishes and favourite peccadillo’s. I’m not a huge fan of comedians going over the top in this area and doing whole sets revolving wholly around sex. Whilst Chappelle touched on the subject, fortunately it wasn’t the dominating theme of the show.
Soaring death toll of London’s toxic air
This was the big front page headline in the London Evening Standard the day after the show. I thought great, this must be their review of the gig. Alas it wasn’t. It was a real story on London air pollution. It could have been though. OK, slight exaggeration as I don’t think anyone died from the air pollution Chappelle puffed out through the Apollo, but it was very noticeable that he chain smoked his way through the performance. Considering it was just over an hour’s performance it’s a real worry that he couldn’t leave the cigarette’s for such a short period of the time to focus on doing his job. Most people do.
It’s concerning for his health and those seated in the front rows, who were effectively involuntary passive smokers. This was a real indulgence as he was the only person in the whole venue allowed to smoke courtesy of special dispensation from the local Hammersmith & Fulham council.
It was fascinating to note the demographic of the crowd at this show. It was extremely and unusually multi-cultural. I’d say it was around 30% African, 30% Asian, 30% Caribbean and 10% White/other. You very, very rarely get such a mixed show in London or anywhere in England. This was testimony to the cross over appeal of Chappelle. Whilst naturally appealing to a Black British crowd, his material and style clearly find favour with and does not alienate Asian, White or other nationalities. He pokes fun at everybody, but doesn’t make anyone feel bad about themselves. Above all Chappelle is hugely funny, topical and relevant. As you have gathered, in his wide ranging 70 minute set he covered all manner of topics including politics, race, gender re-assignment, sex and sport. Though for Chappelle and Rawlings it would seem that, at times, sex is a sport!
Chappelle has been the talk of the town. He delivered a thrilling, exciting, top notch show that cemented his status as one of the very best comedian’s of his generation. It was brutally frank, personal and funny throughout and didn’t shy away from tackling the big issues of the day.
Kojo delivered a short, funny set that really set the tone for the night. My only concern was that it was too unchallenging – touching on differences between black people and white people, how white people are at night clubs etc… which is quite tiresome now. I don’t see John Bishop still going on about being from Liverpool, being working class or for that matter doing Black v White jokes, so why do so many Black British comedians have to keep going on about this?
There was some good material re Black cabs v Uber. The religious material was very good and quite original re the Muslim on the plane and Jehovah’s witnesses routine. The main thing is that in his short set he got the crowd laughing away and warmed up for the main man.
At least the crowd got to see him. Kojo missed his guest slot on Saturday’s show [11.07.15] due to arriving too late. That’s bizarre. It’s one thing audience members being late, but the star turn booked to open the show completely missing it, that’s a new one.
American support act Donnell Rawlings opened with some very good Michael Jackson jokes – supportive one’s too, which was nice to see. He then proceeded to deliver a routine based on stereotypes of Chinese and Black people, which I found rather lame, weak and disappointing.
The main thrust of his show though was around sex. He was obsessed with it and to be fair he was quite original and funny with it, it was just too dominant a theme in his show. Last month the same happened with a group of Americans who toured the UK. Whilst they are funny guys and can clearly get a venue rocking with their material I expect something a little more cerebral, more cultured from acts booked to come all the way from the states to perform in London. It’s as if they have nothing else to talk about. Chappelle and countless other comedians all over show that there’s more to joke about than just sex.
With his hyped, funny, deep voice accents he reminded me of Wil E Robbo. Ultimately though I found his act to be crass, crude, foolish and un-worthy of one of the great comedy venue’s of London.
Review © Tiemo Talk of the Town
- Open letter from 30 Equality Advocates re male victims – Inside-Man 3rd July 2015
- The rape of men during war – the untold story – Guardian – 17th July 2011
- Bruce Jenner Olympic Gold Medallist – Biography
- Tiemo Entertainments Funny Ha Ha Amazon Store
- Sex Obsessed American Comedians bring degrading comedy tour to London – review – 15th June 2015
- The Top 10 Up & Coming Comedians to look out for in 2015 – 17th January 2015
- Je Ne Suis Pas Charlie review – 11th January 2015
- A load of old Maloney – Transgender blog re Frank Maloney – 31st August 2014
- Hannibal Buress in London review – 16th June 2012