This June 24-26, Dave Chappelle will host a residency at Radio City Music Hall in New York, with musical performances from Erykah Badu, Janelle Monáe, The Roots, Busta Rhymes, DJ Premier, all backed by a full orchestra, plus more acts to be announced later. Think of it as a sequel to his 2005 Block Party, which was also a concert film directed by Michel Gondry.
You can also see him do solo standup shows at the Hall from June 18-22, if you already have tickets (it's sold out). Here's what you can expect from watching Dave Chappelle in 2014:
I saw him do standup in Montreal last year.There was a strict no recording policy. The guy next to me started smoking an e-cig, and as soon as that red bulb lit up, Dave stopped his joke, whipped out a flashlight and shone it directly in my face, thinking I was holding a camera. Security guards primed for such a transgression very nearly hustled me out, till my neighbour owned up to Dave. He made a joke about it, and the show continued.
For a moment, I was the locus of all the resentment Dave holds for the people who come to his shows. They earn it though. They heckle him with dead catchphrases and behave in such an obnoxious, racially vicious way that it confirms his reasons for leaving Chappelle's Show over ten years ago. His shows have become a sort of Andy Kaufman-esque anti-comedy, with centuries of racial tension at its heart.
Dave Chappelle onstage is both a reaction to this assault as it unfolds in real time and what he's endured since he left the spotlight. It makes us face our illusions of black performance in a way that's as unpleasant for us as it has been for him. The manic personality we fell in love with has been suppressed by his need for confrontation, and it's a bittersweet transcendence.
You'll laugh because your $120 is forcing you to, because he's a famous comedian and you're on his side, and because what made him a star is too precious to be taken away by you and me. But if you go to these shows, every laugh will be half out of a singular discomfort only a Dave Chappelle show in 2014 can deliver, thanks to his reactions to the people expecting him to amuse them. He didn't want to be doing stand up, at all. He said that. And we laughed heartily for a lot of reasons, but not because he didn't mean it.
Maybe a musical extravaganza where he's (somewhat) less of a centrepiece will produce the kind of laughs his audience expect. But I would be shocked if he was looking to "come back" from anything. His audience is living in the past, and that's the last place Dave wants to be.