Last week, Dave Chappelle took Portland by surprise, something he has been known to do for a quite some time. Testing out some of his material on friendly and somewhat manageable Portland crowds to prepare for a longer stint in New York City, the shows lasted from Wednesday through Saturday, and tickets sold out within minutes. So naturally, the last thing I expected to find when I woke up at 7:45 on Sunday morning from a weird dream to compulsively check Facebook in bed (a terrible habit) was a link posted by Ian Karmel for tickets to a performance on Sunday night. Stumbling groggily to the bathroom with phone in hand to double-check that I was not being deceived, yes, there were tickets available. A couple taps and about $120 dollars later, I had two tickets for the 9:00 pm show. I climbed back into bed, content to drift asleep, knowing that in 13 hours I was going to see a special comedian perform.
Showing up fashionably late guaranteed an intense wait outside Helium, but eventually the sell-out crowd was seated, informed multiple times that no heckling, cell phones, or shouting out in general was to be tolerated.Local comedian Shane Torres was the opening act, and he brought a lot of his best material, warming up the crowd with jokes about being fat, jokes about being fired, and jokes about not getting laid. My favorite part of comedy is when the performer says something poignant and insightful, and there was a little bit of this as well. “The lack of something bad does not equate to something good,” in the context of a previous relationship, is a piece of advice that everyone can relate to. Shane Torres showed a level of professionalism that befit his status of Portland’s Funniest Person, which he was awarded in 2013.
Finally it was time for Dave Chappelle to grace the stage. Coming out and immediately sitting down to light up a cigarette, the his first thoughts were about the great Portland e. coli scare of 2014, saying that he didn’t know that “one piece of shit could shut down an entire city.” After that he moved on to a subject near and dear to Portland’s heart: marijuana, saying “Denver’s got you beat. They legalized it, now they tax it. I recently bought a dimebag on the street. $13.84.” After a strong start, Chapelle settled in to the comedy he is known best for, rambling, almost improvisational stories and anecdotes about a wide variety of topics from marriage to masturbation, sex tapes to raising children.
A review of the Sunday night show wouldn’t be complete without calling out the dude from Indiana sitting in the front row who Dave decided to engage, to mixed results, as the man eventually started to interject at various times throughout the set. It wasn’t exactly heckling, I’m sure he meant well, but for the rest of us it did get somewhat grating. Fortunately Dave was seasoned enough to make the most out of it, and when he suggested that anal sex with the crowd member’s mother was a possibility, he had no choice to laugh along with the rest of us when the Hoosier replied, without missing a beat, “I’d be honored.” Through laughs Dave had to ask:”You would be honored if I sodomized your mother?” Being from Illinois myself, I can’t say that I was too surprised.
By the end of the set, it was apparent that Mr. Chapelle had run out of planned material and was, well, winging it, and once again the results were mixed. When he said it was a slow news week, I thought “No, there was just a mass shooting yesterday” but when I whispered that to my girlfriend she gave me a head shake and a look that suggested maybe it was a bit too soon for that to be comedic fodder, though I’m sure if any comedian could take a tragedy and give us funny and insightful ways to learn from it, Dave Chapelle would fit the bill. The set felt full but was over quickly, and as we all shuffled out of the room shortly after 11, we knew we could count ourselves lucky. Good luck to Dave Chapelle in New York. I’m not-so-secretly hoping that his trip to the Big Apple also has some time for him to have a cameo appearance on the brilliant Louie.