Thursday, September 19, 2013

Oddball Comedy Tour: chagrin and Chappelle

Posted By on Thu, Sep 19, 2013 at 5:01 PM

click to enlarge GRACIE RAMSDELL
  • Gracie Ramsdell
If it were possible to have multiple messiahs of comedy, Dave Chappelle would be in the top five. This was more or less my thinking when I decided to drive to Denver on a whim and see Funny or Die’s Oddball Comedy Tour at Fiddler’s Green last night. I proceeded to kick back on a blanket, don my rain jacket and treat myself to some marvelously over-priced water-beer.

The acts leading up to Chappelle were varied, including Kristen Schaal, a Colorado native. Josh Blue, who currently lives in Denver, also performed a set that highlighted his talent at self-deprecation, poking jokes at himself and his struggles with cerebral palsy. Joey Diaz was the emcee for the night and used vulgarity as a comedic crutch, but I’m pretty sure the entire audience was onto him.

Flight of the ConchordsBret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement were wonderfully charming, as one would expect. I had already seen a fair amount of their material on YouTube, but it was just as funny to see it again. The crowd might as well have been a horde of crazed One Direction fans for the amount of singing along that they (we) did, particularly when the duo started in on “Most Beautiful Girl (In The Room).”

The crowd seemed eager and yet also somewhat tentative as we waited for Chappelle to appear on stage. If you follow his career, you know that his history is marked by controversy and a few hurt feelings. We all remember Chappelle’s Show which died in 2006 almost as fast as it rose to fame in 2003. The story goes that the comedian got sick of all the fan attention and wasn’t satisfied with the direction of the show, and so promptly quit after the second season and moved to South Africa. In the last seven years, his public presence has been sporadic and seemingly hesitant.

But he’s back now, albeit somewhat on edge: In August, he became irate at a crowd in Hartford, Connecticut for being heckled, so he sat on the stage for 25 minutes, refusing to tell jokes and later commenting that if North Korea were to drop a bomb on the U.S., he hoped it would land on Hartford.

So, understandably, his crowds are anxious — perhaps just as eager to see him succeed as they are intrigued by the possibility of a dramatic nosedive. In a self-conscious moment, Chappelle echoed this sentiment himself last night when he commented that he knew everyone was waiting to see him fail.

All that  said, the show was great and hurt feelings were kept to a minimum — or, at least, as low as possible at a stand-up comedy show. Of course, Chappelle’s set, and some others that preceded his, included a handful of ever-classic race jokes.

However, Dave is older — age 40, now, with three kids and a wife; probably an AARP membership too — and his material reflects that. One of my favorite jokes from last night was when he started talking about his relationship with his son and his son’s experiences at school. What do you do when your kid starts bitching about their new after-school program? Dole out some sage wisdom, he said, and tell ‘em to “fuckin’ quit!” 

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