“I’ve got good news.” My husband was calling unexpectedly while he was at work last Thursday. Typically these calls are about what we’re fixing for dinner, but he was considerably more excited than usual. “I got us tickets to see Dave Chappelle tomorrow night.”
I was shocked and elated by the news. Just days earlier, Chappelle surprised locals with a three-night, pop-up comedy series called Dave Chapelle & Friends: A Talk with Punchlines, with shows June 5-8.
I thought I missed out on seeing one of these intimate comedy shows, so to hear I had a second chance to experience it myself was definitely exciting.
Chappelle hinted he might do more of these pop-up events, but when those would occur was anyone’s guess. He’s known for throwing his pop-up “Juke Joint” music parties out in Yellow Springs as well. Using the frequency of those events as a guide, I figured it would be a few months before he’d do another series. This time, he waited just a few days to do more shows.
Chappelle released tickets for Thursday, June 11, Friday, June 12, and Saturday, June 13, for shows again happening at the Wirrig Pavilion in Yellow Springs. The tickets, as usual, sold out instantly.
Chappelle just added three more dates added to the series: Wednesday, June 17, and Thursday, June 18 and Friday, June 19. Tickets are now sold out for all three of those shows, posted through Eventbrite.
🎤WHAT TO EXPECT AT THE SHOW
In the wee hours of Friday, June 12, Chappelle in partnership with Netflix released a 30-minute video entitled “8:46” on YouTube filmed at the June 6th show. The clip showed Chappelle delivering a passionate commentary on George Floyd’s death, racial injustices that have gone on for centuries, and how his own great-grandfather, William David Chappelle III, led a delegation to meet with President Woodrow Wilson.
I was fully expecting to hear a similar talk from Chappelle when later that same day I attended A Talk with Punchlines. That’s not what happened however. The evening was pure fun, full of some much-needed levity during these difficult times. There was of course references to current events, but it had a lighter feel than what Chappelle shared on YouTube.
“They locked up your phones and your faces,” Donnell Rawlings, of Chappelle Show fame, joked as he started his set. It was definitely an odd sight to see an audience of approximately 150 people all wearing masks at a comedy show. It was hard to tell if people were smiling or having fun, but the sound of laughter was undeniable.
“I can’t even fathom how hard it is for any comedian to get up and entertain people who are wearing masks,” Ashley Pennington of Centerville wrote us. “It has to impair the feedback loop that these entertainers thrive on.”
Wearing masks wasn’t the only change up from a “normal” comedy show. First off, we were watching live comedy on a lawn, surrounded by trees and cornfields. Secondly, in order to even have an event like this in the age of COVID-19, we all had to sanitize our hands and get our temperatures checked before we could enter. Custom Chappelle masks were given to all patrons, and as with all of his events, phones were locked up in Yondr bags so they could not be used during the performance.
Attendees were led to the performance space, which is a beautiful pavilion normally used for weddings and receptions. Chappelle’s signature “C” logo was not only on everyone’s masks, but also in neon above the pavilion and on posters hanging throughout the space. Below the logo was a single word: Courage.
Chappelle opened the show acknowledging the “weirdness” of it all and thanking Gov. Mike DeWine for personally signing off on these events being able to happen and for the audience participating. He explained that the word “Courage” displayed on the banners was representative of the courage it took for everyone to be there, sharing space together in these uncertain times.
Chappelle launched into his comedy set, and then welcomed his comedian friends to perform sets of their own. Guests at this show included Nimesh Patel, DJ Cipha Sounds, Donnell Rawlings, Michelle Wolf and Michael Che (from Saturday Night Live). Wolf, who has been living in Chappelle’s guest cottage in Yellow Springs since March when the quarantine started, has been a staple at these events.
During his hosting duties, Chappelle came out in between sets to make jokes, as well as call up some of his very famous friends and fellow comedians. He made Facetime calls with Kevin Hart and Chris Rock, who both answered immediately and shared a few jokes of their own while Chappelle held up the mic to his phone. There were even hints that they may come out to Yellow Springs for future shows.
“This is the greatest show on Earth,” Dave proclaimed. He quickly followed up with the context that it is the only show on Earth right now. With the coronavirus shutdown, particularly impacting large metropolitan areas and making it specifically hard to open up small comedy clubs everywhere, he might be right about that.
It occurred to me as we were watching these comedians, who frequently mentioned that they were from New York City, that this cornfield in Ohio might just be their new Comedy Cellar. The Cellar is a famous comedy club in Greenwich Village where all the top comedians go to work out their material. The Cellar is closed, and it’s not clear when it will be able to reopen.
So for now, the next best option is to get on a private plane and do stand up in cornfield in Ohio where everyone has their phones locked up. Michael Che, the headliner of the evening, seemed particularly appreciative of the opportunity. He said the last time he had performed stand up was in February, with no opportunities other than this on the horizon.
One of the comedians referred to this series as the “Woodstock of comedy.” Sitting under the stars at the first show of any kind for months, without my phone (that I’m addicted to), in the age of coronavirus, it certainly felt freeing and even slightly rebellious. Maybe Woodstock is a good comparison, I thought.
At the end of the show, Chappelle expressed his gratitude to his “friends and neighbors” for attending the performance. I truly hope he knows how grateful we are to have this level of talent literally in our backyard.
Note to readers: I received several inquiries, but unfortunately I do not know how to obtain or buy extra Chappelle face masks. If I hear of additional shows, or a way to purchase masks, I will share that information with readers.