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While the first set reportedly went off without an kinks, several reports say that during Thursday’s second set, Chappelle chain-smoked, slurred his words, and repeated jokes. TMZ, always the most astute critics of popular culture, called the show “half baked” and a “drunken catastrophe.” A spokesperson for Chappelle told TMZ: “Out of the 50 shows on the tour, Thursday was definitely not his best set. On the flip side, the incident inspired some additional sharp-witted material and [Friday] he came back with a vengeance.”
In this short clip recorded by an audience member (despite requests not to film), Chappelle can be heard addressing hecklers:
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If you’ve been to a Chappelle show in the last couple years, you may have noticed that his audiences are often, well, vocal is a generous way to put it. When I saw him in Dallas in 2012, he put on a gold-star set, despite people in the audience drunkenly yelling things at him or calling out for him to do specific bits (Rick James). His Austin set that same month did not go well.
This adversarial relationship between Chappelle and his fans is unfortunate, but the Detroit show was not the first time this dynamic presented itself. Some comedians know exactly how to deal with hecklers—how to lure them into the bit and then swiftly dropkick them into silence. I’ve seen Chappelle perform around hecklers. Others have seen him walk off stage because of them. Earlier this year, a fan at a New Mexico gig allegedly threw a banana peel at him.
Sure, this could have been an off night, but others on social media remarked that a handful of audience members were to blame.
I just watched Dave Chappelle be verbally harassed for an hour and a half by a disgustingly drunk Detroit crowd. He couldn’t get a word in.
— Jake Blankenship (@jakeblank35) April 24, 2015
An April 24 review from Click On Detroit explained that the last time Chappelle played the Fillmore, he was “heckled so hard that he stopped performing material, and just talked with the crowd for three hours.”
Fans are demanding refunds for the Thursday show, though the venue told TMZ it’s not responsible for artists’ content. Apparently during his Friday gig, Chappelle made a joke about the refunds, “and he got plenty of laughs for it.”
Audra Schroeder is the Daily Dot’s senior entertainment writer, and she focuses on streaming, comedy, and music. Her work has previously appeared in the Austin Chronicle, the Dallas Observer, NPR, ESPN, Bitch, and the Village Voice. She is based in Austin, Texas.