It's hard to believe that it's been over seven years since the world received a new episode of Dave Chappelle's hilarious Comedy Central sketch series 'Chappelle's Show.' When Chappelle suddenly left the series in 2006 (due to various factors such as burn-out, loss of creative control, and a growing feeling of discomfort over the series' increasingly mean-spirited racial humor), it became a big public spectacle. That was fairly understandable, as most people wouldn't walk away from $50,000,000, and Dave's out-of-nowhere trip to Africa made folks wonder if the man was in his right mind.
Since then, Chappelle has mostly flown under the radar. While he's done a few impromptu stand-up performances here and there, and appeared twice on Bravo's 'Inside the Actors Studio,' he has for the most part avoided the public eye. Chappelle finally made his "official" return to stand-up this month, co-headlining the 'Funny or Die Oddball Comedy & Curiosity Festival.' The first few shows went off seemingly without a hitch, but that all changed this past Thursday night in Hartford, CT.
Attendees insist that the first few minutes of Chappelle's set were exactly the kind of entertaining material you would expect from the comedian, but a few minutes into the performance, Dave stopped telling jokes and began doing random things like reading passages from a book and smoking cigarettes on stage. Chappelle also reportedly rambled for minutes on end about unrelated subjects, and openly insulted his own audience on several occasions. These insults included: "I like some of you, I hate some of you. I forgive some of you, but I don't forgive all of you." The audience responded with a chorus of boos, eventually leading Chappelle to offer a quiet "thank you' and 'good night' before walking off stage and never returning.
While several accounts from audience members claim Chappelle's actions were unprompted, others took to social media to defend the comic, pointing out the fact that the crowd had been shouting things at Chappelle the entire time he had been on stage. Chappelle has had memorable encounters with hecklers before, including an instance at the height of his show's popularity. The unruly spectators kept shouting out "I'm Rick James Bitch" during the performance, annoying Chappelle to the point where he said: "The show is ruining my life. You know why my show is good? Because the network officials say you're not smart enough to get what I'm doing, and every day I fight for you. I tell them how smart you are. Turns out, I was wrong. You people are stupid."
As a long-time Dave Chappelle fan, I can't really blame him for reacting angrily to hecklers. Buying a ticket does not grant one the right to actively interrupt the performer on stage. That said, spending nearly a half hour talking about nothing, reading a book, smoking, and telling the fans that he'll get paid either way, doesn't make him come off too well either. As of this writing, Chappelle has yet to address the situation publicly.
What do you think? Was Dave right to leave the stage amid heckling, or did he owe the paying audience a performance?