Dave Chappelle back in action at secret Pittsburgh show

Dave Yochum

After turning down a $50 million Comedy Central deal, taking a low-profile “spiritual retreat” to Africa and numerous media rumors claiming he is being treated for insanity, Dave Chappelle took the mic at the Pittsburgh Improv on Sept. 16 and proved his comedy is still “rich, bitch!”

Dressed in a classy blue T-shirt and jeans for the occasion, Chappelle performed magnificently for a sold-out, adoring Pittsburgh crowd that included, in Chappelle’s words, “A total of eight black people in the audience, all in the front row, all playing professional football.”

Recalling his humorous real-life experiences with racism, drugs and sex as themes throughout the evening, Chappelle quickly convinced in-house skeptics that his once-lethal arsenal of punchlines has remained fully intact since canceling production on a third season of Comedy Central’s mega-hit, “Chappelle’s Show.”

Currently touring without a manager, agent or entourage, Chappelle showed that he is still, arguably, the top comedian in the world, as he played to the crowd beautifully for nearly the entire hour-and-a-half-long set (all while calmly taking down five or six cigarettes, two beers and dinner on stage).

Chappelle, who has only appeared publicly a few times in random comedy clubs throughout the year, didn’t seem to have any rust on his vocal cords, joking that it was as if he never took a break from the comedy circuit.

As one might come to expect from someone who has made a handsome living off of impersonating former news-maker Rick James, Chappelle unleashed a comedic fury that targeted current events including musician Kanye West’s comments about President Bush, the invasion of Iraq, the 2008 presidential election and Michael Jackson.

Opening up with what has been on the minds of those both supporting and opposing President Bush, Chappelle praised fellow friend and African American hip-hop icon West for calling out Bush on NBC’s nationally televised Hurricane Katrina relief effort.

In regards to West’s statement that, “President Bush doesn’t care about black people,” Chappelle began, “I think what Kanye did was what every black person wanted to say. It was very courageous what he did – and I am going to miss Kanye West.”

Chappelle continued to torch President Bush, hitting the President’s handling of Iraq next.

“You gotta know that Iraq didn’t have weapons of mass destruction,” the comedian said. “I knew that Iraq didn’t have weapons of mass destruction because we invaded them – America doesn’t set foot in any country that we know has those.”

Staying in the realm of politics, Chappelle even shared with the audience his personal prediction of who the next president of the United States will be.

“The next presidential election is gonna be special,” he said. “Hillary Clinton versus Condoleezza Rice. Two women going at it for the top seat in America. You know who’s gonna get all the votes there – Ralph Nader.”

Aside from the verbal beat-down of politicians, Chappelle shared an interesting belief regarding the King of Pop, Michael Jackson.

Theorizing that Jackson is gangsta, Chappelle pointed out, “Michael did a duet with Paul McCartney and then right after, went out and bought all the Beatles’ song rights. That’s gangsta. He bought all of Elvis’ music, then hooked up with and married his daughter. That’s gangsta. Michael Jackson is so gangsta he even figured out what no other black gangsta figured out – you gotta be white to do all that.”

Chappelle’s show was outstanding, but as with any live performance, it wasn’t perfect.

With about 15 minutes remaining, audience members could tell the comic was running low on either planned jokes or time, for Chappelle began pausing longer between jokes and he seemed a little distracted by the torrential rains coming down on the roof of the Improv that night.

On a grand scale of comedy, though, Chappelle’s worst 15 minutes still proved to be better than the best 15 minutes from any other Improv act that Friday night – or perhaps, even more accurate, this past year.

Contact features reporter Dave Yochum at [email protected].