The trampish costume that Ian McKellan wore in the 2010 stage adaptation of Waiting For Godot was so convincing that while he was taking a break outside the theatre, passersby actually stopped to give him change. McKellan took it in good humour, describing the dollar he received as his “lucky talisman.” But when something similar happened to comedian Dave Chappelle, no one was laughing.
During a recent performance in New Orleans, Chappelle revealed that while working on the set of his first movie two decades ago, in which he played a mugger, he had a dangerous run-in with the police.
Jarvis DeBerry, a columnist for NOLA who attended Chappelle’s set, describes how the comedian recounted the incident:
He was dressed for the part. The movie set was surrounded with police tape. He ducked under it. Then a police officer set upon him and immediately started choking him.
The officer only released the then-19-year-old performer after someone on the set intervened. “Why didn’t he say something?” the cop reportedly asked afterwards.
Chappelle told this story while discussing the fate of Eric Garner, a black New Yorker whose death at the hands of police officers has sparked angry protests across the country. Garner died after being placed in an illegal chokehold by an officer, footage of which was caught on camera. The failure to indict the officer has reignited fury over the perceived unaccountability of law enforcement, months after the shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson sparked extensive protests.
The incident involving Chappelle took place in 1992. The status quo of the time was such that, as the comedian lamented, “You don’t even wonder why it’s happening. You just think…‘OK, here we go.’”