In 2005, after a two-year run on the incredibly popular Comedy Central series, "Chappelle's Show," comedian Dave Chappelle abruptly ditched the limelight and went to South Africa.
After nearly 10 years of more or less being off the radar with the occasional stand-up gig, comedian Chappelle decided to embark on an earnest comeback tour and many presumed – although some questioned if – he could bring it back.
The answer is yes. Tonight’s show was one of six sold-out Milwaukee Pabst Theater performances that have so far received rave reviews and social media commentary.
Indeed, Chappelle delivered many laugh-out-loud lines and scenarios. In true Chappelle form, he talked frankly, intelligently and hilariously about race relations, Paula Deen, family life and more.
Chappelle opened with Milwaukee-flavored comedy that, at first, seemed forced. Open with the same local-specific jokes over several nights and they are bound to get better, but an example of the strengths Chappelle provided throughout the night is when he revisited the joke referencing the one black character on "Happy Days" (Sticks, the drummer in Richie’s band). Chappelle brought up how supporters had to fight for the Sticks character and also how it’s equally challenging for a "Sticks" to exist in modern-day Milwaukee.
Making people laugh is one thing, but getting them to think and converse after the show is another. And this, perhaps, is Chappelle’s greatest gift.
There were moments that were downright hilarious. He admits to putting one of his sons in public school and one in private school "as an experiment."
But there were also moments that were at best complicated and at worst questionable.
He includes in one run a bit about being lost while traveling and how finding a Starbucks in Mississippi made him feel relieved, because a gay man working behind the counter is like a "canary in a coal mine" (if he isn’t scared to be there, a black man shouldn’t be either).
Yet, at one point, Chappelle denied being able to relate to a male friend who was engaged to a man because he was married to a woman. And, although it hit this reviewer as a little off, many in attendance found Chappelle’s equations of his foot fetish on par with being gay (as if the idea of heterosexual privilege being a factor never entered his comedic mind).
His commentary on marriage and parenting is similarly both complicated and exactly right on. He described marriage as "not being for the squirmish" and, in general, that it’s a sexless oasis. Certainly, this is true for many couples but is also a tired stereotype. Reinforcing that marriage is boring and physically lonely only makes those in such relationships feel better about a situation they could reconsider.
That said, some of his parenting schtick was genius and, again, although a stereotype, true. At one point he told a story that illustrated how much his wife was in charge. He said to his son, "Let’s watch television" and his kid reminded him that mom said, "No TV."
Worth noting was the diversity of the crowd, as well as the politeness. Fans received harsh warnings that shouting out, heckling, recording – even texting – during the show would be grounds for eviction. And, good for us Milwaukee, no one yelled out a single "I’m Rick James, b*tch."
Chappelle told more jokes about fatherhood than drugs – unlike the Chappelle of comedy past. He wanted a comeback and, without a single mention of weed or crackheads, he got one.
(OK, there was one brief reference to weed in the ongoing, and hilarious, bit about the family dog. But that was it.)
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.