There were some seriously high expectations surrounding reclusive comedian Dave Chappelle’s recent shows, with a lot of hype surrounding his first tour outside North America after a long hiatus. Lucky for his eager audience, meeting these expectations was clearly on his agenda.
At the recent Just For Laughs comedy festival in Montreal, Chappelle sold more tickets to his show than any other performer in the history of the festival. Free from the constraints of his own brilliant TV series, Chappelle proves that his trademark razor-sharp wit hasn’t been blunted during his recent break.
As he leans forward on a stool, chain-smoking and intermittently readjusting his baseball cap, he appears to exhibit a haphazard approach to tonight’s show. This illusion is soon dispersed, as Chappelle storms through a hilarious story about his first impressions of Australia, his job offer to Paula Deen and what Lil Wayne would sound like if he appeared on CIS. As the crowd rollicks with laughter, a number of unorthodox punchlines are delivered that, it’s pretty safe to say, have not previously been used on the hallowed State Theatre stage.
It’s apparent throughout that you’re witnessing a comic who’s still at the top of his game. There might not be any Rick James catchphrases or ill-fitting Prince costumes but the set showcases a number of delightfully crude jokes delivered with the touch of a surgeon. One throwaway comment from the beginning of the night sets up a joke that closes the show. This is a man who takes the craft of being funny tremendously seriously.
Chappelle is that playful subversive that you wish would come to your house party and stand near the dip, nonchalently cracking jokes at your friends. Let’s hope he plans to drop in on us again soon.