DAVE CHAPELLE AND THE LESSONS OF AUDIENCE ACCOUNTABILITY

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Dave Chapelle is one of the legendary voices in American comedy, on that there is not a single doubt. The man has worked his way up from the bottom, taken the slings and arrow about his material and act, at the same time staying true to what his comedy is and what he believes is funny. Sure, he’s not for everyone. but you can’t take away his immense popularity.

In more ways than one, Chapelle has torn down plenty of walls about comedy and taken some real risks. If you look over the generations of great comics, you find those who did the same and are those who today are the icons still driving a lot of excellent talent to get on stage, write the tough lines, take the heat and keep plugging forward.

Lenny Bruce was tireless in his search for cutting edge comedy. Redd Foxx broke just about every rule on stage. Richard Pryor feared nothing and became a star. George Carlin changed the way comedy was performed and crafted. Joan Rivers took every slap in the face and came out on top. George Lopez has generations of fans and comics laughing at how he poked fun and made people think. Loni Love took comedy from tough beginnings and blazes across every stage she commands.

But when it comes to standup comics on stage and those who pay to see them, where is the responsibility for ensuring “the show must go on”?

Chapelle brought this to the fore on the second night of his 5-night set at the Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood FL December 2023.

Like most arenas and venues, Hard Rock has a strict and no-nonsense policy about recording devices in the audience. These policies have been refined and are a necessary part of every performance, as plenty of wankers look to use their smartphones in recording events of every kind and then sharing them for free (or in some cases for a charge they set) on every known form of social media. This is called “STEALING”. Performers are there in their craft, what they deserve to be paid for. Unless someone marks it for charitable purposes and allow for such recording, any form of copying is theft.

Chapelle’s performances, like that of many artists in so many forms of entertainment, have been stolen in such a manner for years, with little anyone can do about it. In this case, despite all the warnings, (and I’ve been to those shows witnessing them first hand), someone wasted no time yanking out their manhood (in this case the ubiquitous smartphone) and cheerfully started recording away. Chapelle saw it, became angry and walked off stage, cutting the performance short and leaving a sold-out theater with nothing to do but go home. At those ticket prices, which Chapelle has earned and that everyone willingly paid, no doubt plenty of people fell cheated.

Chapelle could have stayed on stage, called the idiot out, had him ejected and went on with the show. Then again, the moment he would have reacted thus, every damn smartphone in the building would have been recording his every move and word, and you can guess what the uproar would have been had that made the social media rounds. In almost every aspect, it was a no-win for Chapelle, and he likely knew it.

Audiences need to be more responsible, and be held to account for their actions, especially when warned. They knew the rules, yet it was one jerk who ruined the night for everyone. I’ve yet to hear or read about anyone who was angry with Chapelle, instead and correctly pointing the finger at the idiot who just couldn’t follow the rules. There also was no word on what happened to this person, but if they were rudely escorted out of the venue. no one would complain.

Dave Chapelle is protective of his image and his craft. He knows his worth, and understands he is there to entertain. But he is not there to allow his intellectual material to be copied and then flung about the social media universe. Me? I might have left the stage and refused to go back on until the offending assclown was ejected, then come out and finished the gig. But that’s me, and I thus respect Chapelle for what he did. I may not agree with it, but I respect it.

The moral is simple. Be a fan, but don’t be someone who destroys a good time for everyone else. Be accountable and responsible.

Don’t steal.