Star Rating ****
Dave Chappelle Bans Mobile Phones in Brixton and Camden Town
Tuesday 6th September 2016
Having never before undertaken a UK tour, last year Dave Chappelle performed seven eagerly anticipated sold out Hammersmith Apollo shows. Last week he returned to our shores for eight impromptu “intimate” shows. You couldn’t say they were eagerly anticipated (well they were, but not for very long) as for some inexplicable reason the shows were only announced with one week’s notice, on Wednesday 31st August!
I have no idea why the short notice for these impromptu gigs but it’s in keeping with his character of doing the un-expected. What he did do, as expected, was deliver a very funny, often thought provoking hour long set covering a wide range of largely politically themed comedy, spanning Brexit, the US elections, the victimisation and killing of African-Americans, African-American culture, as well as transgender issues.
At this first show (there were two per night between 6th – 9th September), Chappelle was largely exercised by the on-going plight of African-Americans being targeted and killed by Police and made his points with good humour, pondering why on earth some people are only just realising that people’s live’s are precious to them and they’d quite like to be left alone to go about their business and not be shot dead for no good reason. You got the sense that even though he is successful, famous and wealthy he wasn’t any safer; his skin colour marking him out as no different to any other African-American. Certainly not it would appear to him in the eyes of gun toting, trigger happy US cops. Alongside his many other thoughts on the subject, this was quite poignant.
Highlighting how out of control gun control is, he humorously and succinctly pointed out the absurdity that even a blind man can quite easily purchase a gun in America!
Notwithstanding this, he concluded with a note of hope, comparing the present crisis to a bad marriage. He was confident that America will work it out as deep down Americans understand and care for one another. America has to make it work, he said.
Considering purchase of a ticket came with a long list of demands – no mobile phones, no talking during the show, no heckling or calling out of any kind, no loud breathing (OK, I made that bit up) it was a pleasant surprise when he invited questions from the audience. On the topic of the US elections he was surprised that Hilary Clinton wasn’t out of sight in the opinion polls compared to Donald Trump. He reckoned she needed to do something quite outlandish to secure a bigger lead and victory. The vividly crude suggestion he had was certainly way out there to say the least and had the audience heartily laughing away. Joking aside, that’s an interesting observation, as compared to Trump she hasn’t really said much in the way of stand out comments and actions during her campaign. Then again, neither did Theresa May in her short campaign to become Conservative Leader and Prime Minister and it did her no harm! Maybe the days of the loud, bombastic politicians carrying all before them are over.
Kanye West gets a mention in passing, as does France. Whilst Chappelle felt for the terrible time France has been going through in recent years with terrorism he couldn’t help but wonder if they’re possibly bringing this upon themselves and aren’t helping matters with actions like the recent ban on wearing burkini’s on French beaches. Oh the irony of causing offence by covering up! How times have changed.
Mobile Phones Banned
The contradictions didn’t end there. Whilst signs in the Electric Brixton clearly stated no smoking for its patrons, Dave Chappelle merrily chain smoked his way through his show.
Mobile phones were banned with threats to evict anyone caught using one. This applied to all Electric Brixton and Camden Electric Ballroom gigs. I don’t think anyone took that risk as attendees were given sealed pouches to contain their phones until the show concluded. Whilst I didn’t miss not having mine to hand, it did add considerably to creating the lengthy queues and additional time taken to get into the venue. However it was refreshing to observe the whole audience focused on the show or talking to one another during the intervals rather being than hunched over their mobiles.
Whist there was plenty to admire, the show often seemed unstructured and a little all over the place, literally so at one point when he tripped and nearly fell over. Fortunately he recovered well with a good ad lib.
Chappelle seemed very laid back adopting a curious leg stretched out stance throughout the show and regularly laughed away at his own jokes. Nothing wrong with that per se but it seemed a bit OTT to be doing it as frequently as he did. It was a very enjoyable show, but for the price charged, a whopping £74, I didn’t consider it very good value for money, especially considering that some of our biggest names like Michael McIntyre and John Bishop charge around £50-60 a ticket and deliver 2 hour long shows in top quality arenas. Sadly the quality delivered in this show overall just wasn’t in that league. Neither did the quality of the venue merit such a hefty price tag.
Kojo and Wil Sylvince
The two support acts, Londoner Kojo and Haitian comedian Wil Sylvince (now resident in New York) were good, although Sylvince was at times a little too crude with his humour, but overall delivered some fine, original material. Kojo also garnered plenty of laughs, but it was a bit of a surprise that he repeated a couple of jokes from last year’s Chappelle shows. Considering he was the support act then, was only on for 5 minutes this time and that people had paid up to £74 for a ticket it didn’t feel right.
Dave Chappelle is a master at translating acute observations of the US political scene into excellent, thought provoking laugh out loud comedy , his infrequent stand up performances are always going to be a must see event. Many will have been delighted that he performed in London, but it would be even better next time if he toured all over the country. After all, there is more to England than London!
@ Tiemo Talk of the Town