I literally just got home from the Tinley Park stop of the Oddball Comedy Festival, and normally I like to let my thoughts stew for a bit before writing a review, but I figure I should get all of this out right now while it’s still fresh. First, a tiny bit of backstory for anyone who’s missed the last few days in pop culture news.

There’s a comedy tour  by Funny or Die called the Oddball Festival that’s going around major American cities. The supporting headliners are a diverse and interesting collection of comics, including Demitri Martin, Hannibal Buress, Kristen Schaal, Al Madrigal and others in assorted cities. The main headliners are Flight Of The Conchords and DAVE CHAPPELLE. That’s right. Just about everyone’s favorite comedian is BACK, and on TOUR. Great news, right? Hold up, waitaminute.

On Thursday night, Dave Chappelle headlined in Hartford Connecticut, and from all accounts it was disastrous, and it had everything to do with the audience’s reaction. Some called it a “meltdown.” Others saw racial undertones in the crowd’s response, and pretty much predicted an end to Dave Chappelle’s already-too-brief return to the stage. Everyone was trying to figure out what happened.

After seeing Dave Chappelle kill the game tonight in Chicago, I think I’ve got some answers.

First of all, it must be hard being Dave Chappelle. You’re known and beloved as one of the greatest living comedians. Everyone wants you to go back to doing the things you used to do, even if you don’t want to (or can’t) do them anymore. And everyone’s waiting for you to make this big, impressive comeback. It’s not enough to just return to doing stand up – no. You’re expected to return at the top of your game and make everyone forget that you ever left. And now you’re headlining this comedy festival and everyone’s mainly excited to see you, and you’re the one getting all the big press about being on tour. Pretty much everything you do is newsworthy.

I’m just saying, the man’s got pressure on his shoulders. And you can sense it when you look at him. Dave isn’t as gangly and boyish as you remember. He’s bulked up a bit. He’s older. He’s clearly learned a lot from his experiences and it’s safe to say he’s a bit jaded from some of them. As he’s entitled to be.

Tonight on stage in Chicago, he came out ready and received nothing but love and respect. The security at the First Midwest Bank Amphitheater was super tight, and over the course of the evening we saw no less than three people get kicked out – two for trying to take photos with their cellphones. Drunken shenanigans and heckling were not being tolerated. That ensured that the audience was respectful during the sets. Also it appeared that the festival was being recorded, so here’s hoping we’ll all get to watch these acts on Comedy Central or something soon.

From the minute Dave Chappelle took the stage, he was ready to address the Hartford issue. He brought it up right away and let us know that Chicago was an immeasurably better crowd than the one he’d encountered earlier in the week. He ripped on the Hartford audience hard and for a good while. And I can’t say that he brought up any deeper cultural implications in what he’d encountered – the audience was drunk, rowdy and ignorant and the yelling frustrated Dave, but in the run of his jokes tonight he didn’t allude to feeling like there was a racist tone to what happened. He did make mention of Michael Richards and his infamous meltdown, and said that despite his feelings as a fan (or, former fan?) who felt disappointed in Michael Richards for his racist reaction, the comedian in him understood that he’d just had a bad night.

From clowning the heck out of Hartford to Michael Richards, Dave Chappelle then did some of the material I’d been reading about online – bits about his wife observing him telling jokes about her at a comedy club, jokes about his kid’s interactions at school and the lessons he’s teaching his children. Some of his material had a sharp, introspective edge to it. Some of it was just silly and loose and goofy (a lot of it involved strong language, which then made me wonder why so many people around us had brought their kids with them to this kind of show, but I digress).

At one point Dave got flat on the ground to chat with a security guard about what he learned from reading The Secret. Later in the set he discussed his love of hip hop but shared his shock at what kind of lyrics get radio play nowadays. Even the jokes he described as weak, killed the crowd. His set was raunchy and sharply observant, deep, poignant and always HILARIOUS. The glimmers of brilliance that made the world love Dave Chappelle to begin with were on display before the Chicago crowd.

From the Hartford incident we learned that Dave Chappelle’s contracted time is 25 minutes per set. In Chicago he was on stage for a bit longer than that, lingering to tell us stories about meeting Kanye West for the first time, and sharing Chappelle Show skits with him before they aired on TV.

I shared this via social media but I’ll say it again here – seeing Dave Chappelle on stage again felt so heartwarming and familiar. It was like seeing an old best friend who now travels a lot for work. It’s great seeing them but you almost don’t want it to end. Because who knows when you’ll get to enjoy their company again? The audience didn’t want Dave to leave. And when he finally did, everyone within my eyeshot gave him a standing ovation.

In Hartford on Thursday, Dave walked out to Kanye West’s New Slaves. Tonight in Chicago, he walked off to NWA’s Express Yourself. Since everyone else is reading his exit music like tea leaves, I’ll make a hopeful prediction. I hope that the experience in Chicago (and hopefully the experience on all the remaining cities in this tour) is what Dave Chappelle remembers when he contemplates a return to the stage or the screen. I hope he recalls what it feels like to be loved by an audience who’s here for your new, evolving persona and material instead of feeling reduced to a barrage of catchphrases. And I want to believe that he’ll come back to a larger audience in some capacity that fits his life and fulfills his creativity.

Whatever he decides to do, fans like myself will be waiting with baited breath.  After all these years, it’s hard to think of anyone else who does it better.

Tickets to the Oddball Festival are still available – click here to get yours. Hannibal Buress was awesome, and Al Madrigal was hilarious! Full disclosure – I’m not the biggest fan of Flight of the Concords or Kristen Schaal, but their fans seemed to really enjoy their material as well.

Have you seen Dave Chappelle’s stand up lately? Let me know your thoughts and experiences in the comments!



Jordyn says:
September 1, 2013, 3:18 am
Bella, as a black woman (im ashamed to have to say my race because its unnecessary) you need to stop being so racist. Terrible journalism.
Downtown Abigail says:
September 1, 2013, 4:25 am
Not one thing Bella wrote was racist. Somebody needs to cut it out.
Kayin says:
September 1, 2013, 5:46 am
Perhaps instead of mentioning that you are a black woman, you could have taken the time to identify exactly what you thought was "racist" in the post.
MrsNumbles says:
September 1, 2013, 7:11 am
Thank you for this article. Everything I've read about the Hartford debacle speaks more towards drunken foolishness and an unwillingness to think outside of Chappelle's former comedy "box" and appreciate his new direction than any real racist undertones. I'm so glad the Chicago audience showed him the love and appreciation he deserves, because we need him back!
torris says:
September 1, 2013, 7:50 am
First of all with the exception of maybe 2 comedians that performed, I thought everyone did a good job. Hannibal, the concords, & the hispanic guy who's name I can't recall kept everyone entertained until the main course was served. Truly seeing Chappelle live made me think of how it must have been to see Pryor, Ali, or Jordan perform after peple thought that they were finished with there careers. Personally I thought his performance could have been longer but for the time that he was on stage there was nothing but laughter, applauses, & tears running down peoples faces. Im not sure about anyone else but I would much rather listen to 30 minutes of good ass comedy, than a hour long set of bullshit like Let me explain. His new material still remains relevant, & funny as hell, from bashing on the Hartford show to the Lil Wayne pussy juice jokes he kept the crowd rolling, & left you wanting to hear more, like please stay a liitle while longer. Anyways I along with many others hope that he does continue to restablish himself as the funniest person in comedy today, & I think lastnite was a good start.
Jason says:
September 1, 2013, 10:03 am
You forgot to mention the part about the DJ falling asleep during Dave's set! lol I can't believe he did that. poor Dave... but he had fun with him! I loved the show and Dave had me cracking up! and yea I can't believe people had their little kids there... I was like... come on man. Why you do dat! All in all a good show!
jonnyp says:
September 1, 2013, 10:27 am
HEY! this is a really well written review. this show was one of the best nights of my year! when jeff ross told us that this was the 1ST comedy show at this venue it really made it that much better. we all made history last night. it went over so well i hope to see more comedy festivals in the future!!! kristen Schaals set was funny well thought out, roast master jeff ross lived up to his name no doubt, al madrigal very funny, hannibal was great really creative set and his song gibberish rap was great, flight of the concords couldnt have performed any better, demitri martin was a nice surprise fresh material didnt seem like he was re-hashing the past. and THE KING dave himself came onstage and proclaimed F**k hartford. on the way out the door every person had a huge smile on, telling everyone who would listen about how great the show was.
Tasha says:
September 1, 2013, 11:22 am
I recently saw Dave Chappelle in Houston and I was kind of disappointed. First, he told a story about being afraid of coming to Houston because there was someone raping men. That was strange. He then talked about Paula Deen some. Again, the jokes weren't that funny. The crowd was okay, but some people yelled out things that I wish they wouldn't have. Eventually he told them to be quiet and everyone cheered. I looked like most people had a good time.
bella says:
September 1, 2013, 11:50 am
would love you to explain exactly what about this post was racist, since you hurried to comment so soon after I posted it. I'll wait.
bella says:
September 1, 2013, 11:54 am
thank you! i really re-read my own words like 5 times to see what on earth she could have been talking about. Ah well.
bella says:
September 1, 2013, 12:17 pm
I think it was a case of a few bad apples in the crowd at Hartford ruining it for everyone else. Maybe their security was too lax. Either way, Hartford's loss was Chicago's gain. Dave rocked! I love that he's an ever evolving artist.
bella says:
September 1, 2013, 12:27 pm
I agree completely, it was like watching a genius return to work! I think the guy you're trying to remember was Al Madrigal. He's hilarious too!
bella says:
September 1, 2013, 12:33 pm
LOL the way the DJ woke up was SO FUNNY!! After the Lil Wayne joke I looked around and there were little kids sitting right behind me. They learned some new words last night, jeez...
bella says:
September 1, 2013, 12:54 pm
Thanks for commenting! The crowd last night was awesome, such a great turnout! I've been to many concerts at Tinley and last night had better attendance than some I've been to! LOVED Hannibal's set and Demitri was funny too! Dave was everything though!
RozB says:
September 1, 2013, 1:21 pm
Bella, the only thing your post does for me is makes me jealous I wasn't there. I wish he was coming to Hampton Roads, and your post gave me a terrific insight. Good job!
bella says:
September 1, 2013, 2:42 pm
Maybe he was sharpening his material then? He didn't do any of the raping men jokes in Chicago but his Paula Deen jokes were funny to me. We had fun! Thanks for commenting!
Mike says:
September 1, 2013, 3:14 pm
From the diverse acts to the diverse crowd, last night at Tinley Park, the Oddball Comedy Festival lived up to its name. I went with no expectations as to how the night would unfold and had one of the most enjoyable times at an event in recent memory. My friends and I love Flight of the Conchords, and Dave Chappelle was our teenage generation's comedian of choice. So for us the pairing was perfect To see Dave nine, ten years removed from his show and all the events that transpired that gave him his infamy was a true treat. He was sharp, honest, introspective, and really just held the entire audiences attention the whole time he was onstage. I don't know how you couldn't be emotionally moved by the time he finished. It was great!! The part with the security guard was classic!! Im glad I was part of the history of last night. Great article too by the way. Thanks.
dale says:
September 1, 2013, 4:27 pm
Thanks for the review. I was at the show last night and loved it. I thought he was sharp and had some great stuff. The Paula Deen stuff was highlarious. I also loved that bit on quitting and the pope! I also hope that Chicago is the start of many great stops for him and help him to work on his jokes and come out with a hour special. I feel lucky to have witnessed it.
mark b says:
September 1, 2013, 6:36 pm
Hey! Stop trying to act like Chicago was the first to embrace Dave after the Hartford incident! It was Pittsburgh on Friday night who first welcomed Dave back to comedy and you seem to be purposely trying to leave that fact out.
pets says:
September 1, 2013, 6:41 pm
As usual, a well thought out and thought provoking post.
Vic says:
September 1, 2013, 7:55 pm
I was at that show at First Midwest Amphitheatre, and I'll admit I was somewhat nervous because of some of the stuff that was posted online about Dave quitting standup after that Hartford show. Then once he started his act, it was like a complete 180 degrees and I was entranced like everyone else in the audience. Dave had no barriers and he put himself out there kind of like Pryor did in the past. There was no "stage face". I imagine the way he acts onstage is not much different from him telling a funny story to his friends at a barbecue. The Hartford bashing, the Paula Deen jokes, whispering the Secret to a security guard at the edge of the stage, funny stories about his family, waking up his MC, and offering his take on 50 Cent and Lil Wayne's lyrics were all hilarious. There was a moment I felt like I was an audience member on the Chappelle Show. After he finished his set, I just had a dopey grin on my face for the rest of the night. I was pretty impressed with the performances from the rest of the lineup (Ross, Schaal, Madrigal, Demetri, Burrell and Flight of the Conchords). You could tell everyone had their game honed in tonight and I had a complete blast. Ross did a good job as the host and he got the laughs and the energy with his modern day Don Rickles/Friar's Club Roast routine. Schaal (who was on Flight of the Conchords), Demetri (kind of like if Zack Galifinakis had a younger brother), and Flight of the Conchords had a quirky, off-beat kind of sense of humor which were less topical and more about being absurd. The Gibberish Song by Burell and Hiphopappotamus vs Rhymenoceros by Flight of the Conchords were some of my favorite highlights besides watching Dave.
Aj says:
September 1, 2013, 8:40 pm
Best part of the show was when Dave said he personally wanted all our numbers to call and thank us. He was very thankful for us and expressed it profusely. Hannibals set was very good as well. Thank you for the review.
VNikol says:
September 1, 2013, 9:34 pm
Loved this review! I felt so bad for Dave after reading about the Hartford performance, but glad to see it wasn't so much about Dave's jokes as it was a neglectful audience. Reading this made me feel as if I were there & being such a fan of his, I'm glad he rocked my city!
bella says:
September 1, 2013, 11:08 pm
I honestly didn't look to see what the previous date was, or where. All I did was write about my experience at the show. Wasn't purposely trying to leave your city out. Also, didn't see any reviews of the Pittsburgh show when I did my research. Sorry...
bella says:
September 1, 2013, 11:09 pm
you nailed it, and I was absolutely moved! I hope he comes back on the road, I'd happily see him again and again. Thanks for commenting!
NV says:
September 2, 2013, 8:23 am
I'm glad you had a good time. It sounds like this show went better than Conn. I hope Dave does well - I love him to death. No comment on trolls and people who drag their children to inappropriate shows. Oh wait, I will comment on people that bring their children to inappropriate shows. These same people won't spend money to take their kids to kid friendly fare like the circus or the Sesame Street or Disney shows, but they will spend money for their kids to hear adult language and topics.
Reality says:
September 2, 2013, 12:42 pm
A millionaire has pressure? Boo hoo. He should move to Alaska if he has so much pressure from the world around him. No arrogant celeb has apologists like this guy. It's equally funny and sad how certain people immediately defend his actions.
Isaac Abraham says:
September 2, 2013, 5:05 pm
I was in sort of Chicago on Saturday night (Tinley pk) , and I cannot honestly speak for anyone else, that being said it was so great. I loved Jeff Ross (and his Franco inspired cornrows), Al was great, Hannibal was pumped up and spreading the love,energy, and jokes all while rappinrapppinrappin. I enjoyed the dryer side of things as well Demetri, Schaal, and FOTC they were all delightful, but I'd be lying if I said anything or anyone other than Mr. Chappelle himself was the reason that I clicked buy on my computer several moths ago. I am a twenty seven year old Caucasian man born in raised in the Blue ridge mountains of NC.Why does this matter or need to be known you may be wondering... and ehhhhhhh I guess it doesn't. I suppose I'm trying to express the impact that such a powerhouse like Dave Chappelle has had on many walks of life. I grew up watching the man, from Achoo, to Pinball, to Theregoode, to razzing Sherman Klump in The Nutty Professor, and of course The Chappelle Show. Now I can watch all of these things and enjoy them in my own time ( as I'm sure I will, just like I did the 1st times) but I was hoping to see what's up with Mr. Chappelle today or in this case August 31, 2013. I got my wish, he owes me nothing (as far as I'm concerned all who GET to see him perform (including myself) are more than lucky . To me it was like Beethoven coming back from the dead and somehow I'm one of his endless fans that the man has, that was lucky/blessed enough to catch his performance. I loved it , I keep looking over my shoulder like I got away with something because I got to go. This review was lovely in my opinion and am glad you got to enjoy the show as well. As far as the future goes for Mr. Chappelle, well it's none of my business I wish him and his the best, he has given the american public more than anybodies fair share of talent and time and then some already. So if he wants to do whatever he wants to do I say do it Dave. I paid to see him and hear him speak not the other way around. Great show , great time , great to see a living legend and some of his odd friends.
David says:
September 2, 2013, 8:30 pm
Awesome review Bella! That was actually the first comedy show I've even been to so my opinion of the show could be skewed by inexperience, but that was one the most entertaining nights I've had. Everyone from Jeff Ross to Dave was great. You could tell how much fun they all were having and it was contagious for everyone else as well. Chicago had a pretty good sense of humor as well when Jeff Ross was ripping us(save for the sports joke which sounded like the crowd was about to rush the stage after he said it). After hearing about Dave having a nasty spill in Hartford, I was quite upset that someone who was gone for so long would get treated like that. Honestly, as dumb as it sounds, I was ready to throw down to anyone that heckled him, but after that crazy standing ovation for him, I knew I had nothing to worry about. I can't speak for Chicago as a whole, but as for myself, I'm very thankful to Dave for coming here and sharing his gift with us. I wish I could tell him in person how much I appreciate him and how I can just see him in a YouTube video, start laughing, and totally forget anything that has been bothering me in my life. You're the man Dave and you alway will be! Thanks Sho
Cairo says:
September 3, 2013, 11:15 am
Spot on to the reviewer of this blog. Dave rocked the crowd @ Chicago's Tinley Park Saturday night. I can't remember when I've enjoyed myself more. I think the best thing that the organizers did was to post and post everywhere what was to be expected from the crowd. (No picture, cell phone or heckling tolerated, violators will be thrown out) Just like the poster mentioned I too witnessed security swoop in on several occasions to handle the situation. It’s a shame the organizers in Harford put Dave in that position and not having a better handle on security issue that might occur. One person had mentioned to me that there is no way that security could address issues with crowds this large but Chicago was a prime example that person was wrong. There is no way the Hartford crowd was anywhere near the estimated 15,000 people that were in attendance at Tinley Park. I feel sorry for those fans in Harford that did not get to experience the brilliance of the man because of others that felt because they paid they could act anyway they wanted and had the right to ruin everyone else’s experience in the process. He back and I can wait to see more, and if you live in Harford and want to ever see him again you better move because he’s never come back there again.
ChilltownTV says:
September 3, 2013, 2:09 pm
There was nothing racist about your post. But it not only was a great thing to read, it popped up in my FB timeline (a friend posted it) and a few other people who were at the Chicago show co-signed what you wrote. Glad you posted this.
Isaac Abraham says:
September 3, 2013, 4:36 pm
Jealous, noboby much ?
Eric says:
September 4, 2013, 6:02 pm
Well, Dave used to clown white people on his TV show. Whether it was his idea or not..he can't not expect some audiences to behave like they did in Hartford...nobody wants to be played like a sucker.
billy mac says:
September 5, 2013, 5:04 am
Don't waste your money .A professional is exactly that , the show goes on regardless. To pay a large ticket price and to be not sure what Chappelle shows up is not a professional
Deborah says:
September 6, 2013, 4:30 pm
I was very curious as to how this tour was going to turn out. I was at the Hartford show, and I was amongst the many LOVING fans of Dave Chappelle. Were there some drunk losers in the house? Absolutely. But most people wanted what you received. For Dave Chappelle to speak to us. One audience member even called to him, "We love you Dave! Please talk to us!" I am glad that he isn't having the nervous breakdown that seemed to be happening that night, but extremely disappointed that he didn't even start the show. Shame on him.
lee says:
September 19, 2013, 4:16 am
Dave and the show were equally well-received in Irvine, California (I know, right!). I feel sorry for those fans in CT who were not the cause of his ire...I do wonder why those who were there (the true fans) did not (by comments on this and other sites) understand WHY Dave may have been so offended. After gentle nudging to allow him to perform his new comedy, the crowd felt that their [humor injection here] velour track suits and $100 bought them the ability to "run the show" (kinda like another group/network). That I spent a significant portion of my paycheck months in advance to ensure that I had great seats and parking only cemented in my mind that I would not miss a single moment of the show he and the others labored to create! I hope those who were let down will laugh at how that show they attended provided fodder for the entire shows that followed and made us all laugh--made us all remember that we are the audience and "they" are the talent!
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September 23, 2013, 8:55 pm
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