Open Letter: Knoxville, About That Dave Chappelle Show...

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602 S. Gay Street
2nd Floor
Knoxville, TN 37902

Dear Knoxville,

You can be beautiful, brilliant, unexpected, and often surprising. But last night, you were awful. You absolutely sucked the life out of what could have been a magical evening for hundreds; you basically pushed it down, unzipped your collective flies, and urinated all over it.

I'm speaking about the show last night [June 25] at the Tennessee Theater, where well-loved comedian Dave Chappelle came to visit and to tell us some jokes. I was so excited to see Dave Chappelle. I've been a longtime fan, as I know many of you are, and was thrilled that he's come out of his quasi-reclusive state to talk to us for an hour or so. The evening started out well enough, with a local comedian who was pretty funny, and though I had to strain to hear over your incessant talking, I thought, "Surely they'll calm down for Dave."

The security people had signs asking for no heckling, cell phones, cameras, etc. I was totally fine with all of this. As a fan of comedy and a visitor of various comedy shows, I understand how frustrating it is for the audience, and the performer, to get derailed. Comedy is a tenuous thing. If done right, it can be one of the best experiences ever. Done poorly, or in an uncontrolled environment, it can be extremely uncomfortable and maddening. But the performance isn't all about the performer. It's also about the crowd. So though Dave came out to bring us the best experience, he relied on us to be there, with him, in the moment. And Knoxville, you utterly failed him. You drank too much, and had to get up to piss so many times, you didn't even hear half of his jokes. You couldn't stop talking to your date about how you loved his "black white-supremacist skit" from a show that ended nearly seven years ago, so you missed a great story, and made others around you unable to hear that story also. Between the catcalls, the heckling, and the blatant use of cameras, it was hard to enjoy anything. In fact, Dave said this was the second hardest show of the tour, second only to Myrtle Beach.

Let that sink in for a minute. Our crowd was second only to Myrtle Beach.

Dave said he'd been told "You're in Knoxville—remember that." This was said early in the show and I thought, that's strange—what does that mean? And then Knoxville showed me. I have been to a lot of shows, and yes, I have seen rowdy Knoxville crowds. But in all of my years of living in East Tennessee, I'd never been so appalled as I was by the crowds last night.

Apparently, what Dave was supposed to remember was that Knoxvillians will pay almost $60 per ticket to heckle and jeer at a national comedy icon. They'll be rowdy and raise hell because you know what? They're from Knoxville! They don't give a damn about your rules, and they want to show their asses! They are so interesting, people won't care that they're absolutely ruining a show! They're so absurdly wrong about everything, and are so oblivious—while being so proud of that fact, they're defiant when you point out what they're doing, like a petulant child.

Knoxville, you are the friend I am so ashamed of today. I have known you all my life. I know you are not completely terrible, but when you get drunk, you get loud, and when you get loud, you're an idiot. I think it's best if we don't see each other for a few days. I won't be able to look at you for a while without seeing the regret on a comedian's face at even inviting you in. Please, just get out, take your beer with you, and clean up the urine from the carpet on your way out.

Melody Gonzalez
Knoxville

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Comments » 24

imjackhandy writes:

100% agree. Knoxvillians are at their worst at concerts. Many of them are there to be able to say they were there. Damn the performers, full speech ahead!

CMHoward writes:

I think that if you two are so appalled by Knoxville audiences, perhaps you should stay home where there is no chance of having your delicate sensibilities offended. God forbid people drink where alcohol is served.

tndiesel17 writes:

I regretfully agree. I've been to comedy shows (including Chappelle's) in other cities and it was embarrassing how our city behaved. And yet we wonder why our entertainment options are limited...

jgl writes:

This is happening everywhere, not just in Knoxville.It is very clear that Dave Chappelle does not have an act anymore and relies on the crowd in order to have this strange love/hate banter. The crowd in Memphis acted the exact same way when he came here. Why? Because he does not have any material and allows the crowd to get this way.

This would never happen to Louis CK if he took the stage in Knoxville. He would simply entertain them and there would be no issues.

Vince_Stormes writes:

It isn't the alcohol that was the problem. It was the redneck, sloped forehead, mouth breathing people in this area who don't know how to behave in public. I was in the orchestra pit right at the stage and could easily hear the commotion from the crowd. And the moron who wasted 15 minutes of our time by throwing a ugly T-shirt on stage - you, sir, are a ahole. People need to respect the performer, other concert goers, and themselves.

cgerberding writes:

in response to CMHoward:

I think that if you two are so appalled by Knoxville audiences, perhaps you should stay home where there is no chance of having your delicate sensibilities offended. God forbid people drink where alcohol is served.

Drinking isn't the problem. Getting drunk and derailing the show you paid $60 for because you're too self-important to realize that other people are trying to appreciate the show is the problem. This is how Knoxville loses performers and the cultural IQ drops in this town. It't not about the author's sensibilities, it's about people in this town (not 100% of them) being dicks and ruining the party (and possible all future parties) for everyone else.

jgl writes:

in response to cgerberding:

Drinking isn't the problem. Getting drunk and derailing the show you paid $60 for because you're too self-important to realize that other people are trying to appreciate the show is the problem. This is how Knoxville loses performers and the cultural IQ drops in this town. It't not about the author's sensibilities, it's about people in this town (not 100% of them) being dicks and ruining the party (and possible all future parties) for everyone else.

This is baby talk. Dave Chapelle has a duty to handle the crowd. He does not do anything about it because the crowd is his material. Why do you think he talked or had a 15 minute conversation about a t-shirt getting thrown on stage. His routine sucks now, stop blaming the crowd.

tcaruthers writes:

Drinking is the problem. Every concert or performance I've been to, there have been people consuming alcoholic beverages and making fools if themselves. It has ruined many an evening out and I wish these venues would either cease to sell alcohol at these events or strictly limit the purchase to one drink. At the late evening show at least one couple was escorted out. But there should have been several more joining them. I also think that the Tennessee Theater staff need to get more proactive and have more of a backbone in ejecting these individuals who ruin the shows for the rest of us.

MGonzalez writes:

Just a few notes here--thanks for the discussion! I think I hit a nerve with some people.

First, my sensibilities are not delicate; I was at a Dave Chappelle show.

As far as Dave's material--we didn't get to see enough of it to know if he had a solid act. Some comics and performers are better than others than controlling the audience. Maybe Dave isn't best at redirecting the crowd right now, but he typically is excellent at being funny. Until the T-shirt incident in the first show, he was being funny, and people were belly laughing around me. After that, and the continued calls from the audience, I think he felt he was fighting a losing battle. Why come all this way just to be disrespected?

Whether or not Dave was at his very best, several members of the audience acted like entitled, spoiled children, with no regard to anyone around them. I'd think that most performers of any genre, when faced with this, would have issues. I just think the show would have gone much better without those distractions, and the audience is certainly not blameless in that.

CMHoward writes:

You can't expect a David Sedaris crowd at a Dave Chappelle show.

Billy writes:

To CMHoward and jgl:

Dave was trying to do something harder than string together one-liners. He was telling comic stories. These were not the kind of stories Mark Twain would tell, but they were in the form of the kind of stories Mark Twain would tell. Build it up, take the listener down lots of dead-ends along the way, then finally reel them in and take them out with a punch.

So it's not that Dave didn't have any material, it's that his material is long-form and more artful, and if you have any sense, hilarious.

We live in a world now where you can sit in your living room and turn on your 50-inch HDTV, tweet and post on your phone, talk to whoever else is in the room and yell at the TV, all at once.

The thing is: the theater isn't your friggin' living room. Your TV doesn't care if you're an idiot. It just keeps going, no matter how loud, stupid, or inane you are. When you're an idiot at the theater, however, you throw off the pacing of the performance, and you piss off the people around you who are pretty sure they didn't pay good money to listen to you, being an idiot. If you can't get over yourself and refrain from being an idiot for just a couple of hours, perhaps it is you who should stay home.

jgl writes:

in response to MGonzalez:

Just a few notes here--thanks for the discussion! I think I hit a nerve with some people.

First, my sensibilities are not delicate; I was at a Dave Chappelle show.

As far as Dave's material--we didn't get to see enough of it to know if he had a solid act. Some comics and performers are better than others than controlling the audience. Maybe Dave isn't best at redirecting the crowd right now, but he typically is excellent at being funny. Until the T-shirt incident in the first show, he was being funny, and people were belly laughing around me. After that, and the continued calls from the audience, I think he felt he was fighting a losing battle. Why come all this way just to be disrespected?

Whether or not Dave was at his very best, several members of the audience acted like entitled, spoiled children, with no regard to anyone around them. I'd think that most performers of any genre, when faced with this, would have issues. I just think the show would have gone much better without those distractions, and the audience is certainly not blameless in that.

I'm not trying to be difficult here, but I think we are kind of missing the point. Dave is considered one of the best ever. Not of his time, he is one of the best that has ever lived. You don't get to that point if you have little control over your crowd (quite the opposite I might say). This has been happening at A LOT of his recent shows. If you read reviews of his last 10 gigs, this has happened at least FIVE other times. Are we going to now point to all five of these cities and talk about how it was the crowd, all there excited to see comedy, that really ruined the whole thing? Let's take a step back and manage our expectations a little bit. As much as we are expected to act civil and not go into a black out, it's also up to the performer to have something planned as well as the ability to control the stage.

I agree that the show could have gone better without the distractions, but that is like saying your favorite football team would have won the game had the weather been better.

mccwhat writes:

the show was poorly managed on both sides.... when you give the crowd two hours of worthless dj music before you even come out to perform... chances are ..... there will be some drunk and obnoxious people.... i wasn't drunk or obnoxious... and my respect/patience for Dave was wore thin by the time he decided to grace us with his presence.... so I think he started off heavily disadvantaged.... still no excuse to be ridiculous though.... anyway the prophetic homeless man told him it would happen that way.

MGonzalez writes:

in response to jgl:

I'm not trying to be difficult here, but I think we are kind of missing the point. Dave is considered one of the best ever. Not of his time, he is one of the best that has ever lived. You don't get to that point if you have little control over your crowd (quite the opposite I might say). This has been happening at A LOT of his recent shows. If you read reviews of his last 10 gigs, this has happened at least FIVE other times. Are we going to now point to all five of these cities and talk about how it was the crowd, all there excited to see comedy, that really ruined the whole thing? Let's take a step back and manage our expectations a little bit. As much as we are expected to act civil and not go into a black out, it's also up to the performer to have something planned as well as the ability to control the stage.

I agree that the show could have gone better without the distractions, but that is like saying your favorite football team would have won the game had the weather been better.

I totally get that he's amazing and one of the best. But he's not done stand-up effectively in 5 years. Some comics test their mettle again by going to smaller local clubs. I don't know where he lives, but from the stories I did hear about his locale, it didn't sound like he could just pop out to a Laugh Factory and test the waters again. Is that irresponsible? Maybe. Perhaps he should have sharpened his comic blade and crowd wrangling skills more before he got back out there.

The point I was trying to make, (and I know your point is different--and I am not saying you're 100% wrong) is that we had every opportunity to have a better show than we did, and even have Dave feed off of us as a decent crowd, and instead, we treated the place like a Chuck-E-Cheese. We took what at worst probably would still have been a "pretty good" show by most people's estimation, and made it awful.

jgl writes:

I hear ya...I hear ya. I guess I still feel a bit cheated that the exact same thing happened at the show in Memphis. Hopefully, for others, the experience will be different.

Trout writes:

Regarding the early show. There was too much time between the feature act and Dave, thus allowing the crowd to get up, start conversations and drink more. Lulls in the show do not typically translate into lulz from the audience. I suspect much of the crowd was lost before he even took the stage. He then proceeded to go into old material that has been broadcast and rebroadcast several times on Comedy Central and other media outlets. The crowd was getting bored and it showed. Once he allowed the hotdog people to interrupt the show, every drunk "funny guy at the office" saw it as his time to share the spotlight. On top of that, you can't tell me Dave Chappelle does not have access to a lighter. Asking audience members to help him light his cigarettes further invited "audience participation". That being said, I thought the crowd work was pretty funny and entertaining. Dave has been doing comedy long enough to know how to control an audience, and he decided to let this one get rowdy. I'm more disappointed by the fact that it seems he has not written any new jokes in the past five years.

ghostkittykat writes:

in response to MGonzalez:

Just a few notes here--thanks for the discussion! I think I hit a nerve with some people.

First, my sensibilities are not delicate; I was at a Dave Chappelle show.

As far as Dave's material--we didn't get to see enough of it to know if he had a solid act. Some comics and performers are better than others than controlling the audience. Maybe Dave isn't best at redirecting the crowd right now, but he typically is excellent at being funny. Until the T-shirt incident in the first show, he was being funny, and people were belly laughing around me. After that, and the continued calls from the audience, I think he felt he was fighting a losing battle. Why come all this way just to be disrespected?

Whether or not Dave was at his very best, several members of the audience acted like entitled, spoiled children, with no regard to anyone around them. I'd think that most performers of any genre, when faced with this, would have issues. I just think the show would have gone much better without those distractions, and the audience is certainly not blameless in that.

I completely agree; there will always be some catcalling/heckling and the performer must choose how to handle it, BUT this went WAY beyond the typical loud d-bag whistle and "love you" shout-outs...the t-shirt incident went on far too long because the immature audience members went ON & ON & ON & ON begging him to put the damn thing on!?! Ask once, he said no, let him move on, back to the show (and the "heavy story" he was going to tell that we never heard). I was mortified at the behavior. (I was @ 7:30 show)

channelz writes:

ghostkittykat, thank you for the comment concerning the "heavy story" we never got to hear. You are absolutely right. I was disgusted with the tee shirt incident and was ashamed that the perpetrators hijacked the show with their own provincial interests (it was a hot dog shirt, apparently, but the color was defintely BEEGARNJ. Why, why, why does this have to be forced into EVERY SITUATION???) I just sat there muttering, "Please, please stop - please shut up and let the man do his show." It was awful. I really wanted to hear what he had to say. I honestly thought a Chappelle audience would be a bit more sophisticated.

utgal writes:

Thank you for saying what I wanted to say in a much more polite and articulate fashion. Hot Dog Guy, I hate you, as well as the idiots that got bounced for interrupting the show to try to get their own picture with Dave. Seriously???

I was so excited after reading this review from the Nashville Scene, where things apparently went much better. You'll notice that there is no mention of using the crowd as props for his jokes. That was not part of the show.

http://www.nashvillescene.com/country...

After investing money and effort to get tickets and arrange for a babysitter for a rare night out, I was sadly disappointed in this show. Next time I'll make a point to see it in a town that knows how to behave.

ghostkittykat writes:

in response to channelz:

ghostkittykat, thank you for the comment concerning the "heavy story" we never got to hear. You are absolutely right. I was disgusted with the tee shirt incident and was ashamed that the perpetrators hijacked the show with their own provincial interests (it was a hot dog shirt, apparently, but the color was defintely BEEGARNJ. Why, why, why does this have to be forced into EVERY SITUATION???) I just sat there muttering, "Please, please stop - please shut up and let the man do his show." It was awful. I really wanted to hear what he had to say. I honestly thought a Chappelle audience would be a bit more sophisticated.

I am so upset we never got the chance to hear that story, plus anything else that he wasn't able to get to between the "t-shirt present" person, the "can I shake your hand" person or the "lemme hit that cigarette" person (ew, why would you ask a stranger, let alone a Celebrity that!!) and the worst, the "i'm so slick I can youtube this because the rules don't apply to me" person; I know if the audience is aware the performance is being taped for TV, there are those who purposefully yell out so that they can identify themselves, elbow their buddy and say "Ay, that was me right there, cool, huh?"
At one point I was so embarrassed that I just loudly blurted out "SORRY!", not that it would have made up for the appalling behavior going on...
Here is a great comedian who has been out of the limelight for a long time & we all paid good money to hear what he had to say. After reading the review from the Ryman Auditorium performance, we unfortunately missed a LOT of material.

ComedianSpankyBrown writes:

Some of these are truly amazing. Here are some things about Stand Up:
Crowd Control is up to the performer to a certain point, then the venue has to step in... but why should there be a need for this? You call yourself a fan? Then Shut up and at least hear what the performer has to say, Just because you paid whatever YOU DO NOT DICTATE WHAT THE SHOW WILL BE ABOUT. It's that simple and if it's not funny TO YOU.Leave or simply don't laugh, but at least respect those who may be having a good time
Hecklers or Heckling IS NOT a part of stand up, it really should not be a part of any live performance...but sadly, many people have become soooooo needy and his has to be all about them.No matter if they paid,others paid, they come drunk, become unruly and then proceed to disrespect he entertainer and the people around them.
As the guy who had the privilege to open for Dave I can say this much...
If you were NOT a fan of Dave Chappelle before the Dave Chappelle Show, you probably wouldn't be a fan now.I'm a stand up 17 years and I'm still a fan. Very heady comedy, a masterful storyteller and absolutely one of the greatest at misdirection. He's a genius.. simply put.
See.. comedy has been so watered down over the past few years, fans cant tell the difference between comedy and gimmickry... damn shame, he's one of the best.Louis Ck who is also a favorite of mine probably would have walked off too out of frustration. See there's a lot of weak a** "Comedians" out here and because the Hollywood machine of 20 somethings can tell you who's funny and who ain't simply through good PR. You bite.. that's why you see some kid on TV, looks funny, you spend your money and leave dissatisfied and you should... he or she had been telling jokes in LA or NYC to smart, pretty crowds, got discovered and then sent to Letterman or Leno as the Nest Thing... never doing 2 shows in somewhere like Macon Ga with a crowd much rowdier than here believe it or not... not battle tested... but I see here that Dave doesn't have an act because he chose to fight off hundreds of people who simply don't know how to act?! Trust me... NOBODY walks out with as much money as he did the other night and not have an act.
Dave is a brilliant artist who deserved so much better than what he got here.I heard the better of 4 sets he did. When he could do material... all fresh, all new and some of you didn't hear it, and judging from what I read here some of you are responsible.
Comics handle hecklers in different ways he chose to engage as many as he could. I'd have quit much earlier and just live to tell jokes another day in a crowd that size .A club is a more controlled environment... the other night was deplorable.
The best show of the two nights I had with him was the late show in Chattanooga, the crowd was very well behaved and when he had a chance to do his thing, it was vintage Dave. Long stories with HUGE punchlines.He did over 90 minutes.
Too bad Knoxville missed it
Spanky Brown

10ga writes:

I have always been a proud East Tennessean until last Thursday night. I wanted to beat the hell out of the people that ruined a show that could of been a once in a lifetime show for me and 99% of the others in attendance. Why did we let 10 people out of 1631 ruin the show? Why can't we ( the audience ) take these idiots out ourselves? The sorry staff at the Tennessee Theater sure didn't do their job. I'm pissed off and not just because I feel like I wasted $120. I guess Dave feels like he's been doing this long enough that he shouldn't have to deal with hecklers and the truth is, he shouldn't. That being said, he poked the lion and then let it take over his show. Why didn't he point these idiots out and make them feel like the white trash they are, in front of the whole crowd. I guess I'm just trying to point blame because of the terrible night and birthday present I gave my wife........now I have to buy her something else. Back to the Tennessee Theater, besides the obvious, I think you get at least 50% of the blame for not getting these people out. I personally watched one “security” member go back to the same person twice and tell him to shut up. Guess what, he was there for the whole show and was running his jaw even as he was walking out. That guy can be thankful I'm not the person I was 10 years ago or I would have thrown his sorry a$$ over the balcony. As far as serving alcohol, I enjoy having a few beers while I watch a show and if you don’t know how to act, stay home. About 10 years ago we had some idiot that kept running his mouth at a Kenny Wayne Shepard show at the Tennessee Theater, we didn’t have to ask security to remove him because I told him if he didn’t shut up I was going to smash his mouth. The guy shut up and never said another word. Maybe more people need to speak up and let these idiots know we’re not going to put up with it. I read another post where someone went to the show in Chattanooga and it was great. No hecklers, no BS. I guess that shows you it was the venue and not the performer. Stay classy Knoxville

icnsydu writes:

in response to Vince_Stormes:

It isn't the alcohol that was the problem. It was the redneck, sloped forehead, mouth breathing people in this area who don't know how to behave in public. I was in the orchestra pit right at the stage and could easily hear the commotion from the crowd. And the moron who wasted 15 minutes of our time by throwing a ugly T-shirt on stage - you, sir, are a ahole. People need to respect the performer, other concert goers, and themselves.

I totally agree. Truly, contempt for my fellow man is the ugliest emotion I can imagine personally. In this case however, it was absolutely unavoidable.

icnsydu writes:

I'm a bit late getting my two cents in on this issue, but I am especially furious at the way this experience was ruined for so many. I was late buying tickets for this show and it sold out before I could buy them at regular price. So, I ended up buying 2 online for a whopping $198. I was supposed to get 4 tickets and now consider myself fortunate that I didn't find 4 together quickly enough, so at least I'm only out that much instead of nearly $400 or more. The money is bad enough, but honestly, I myself have been in desperate need of some good, unabashed laughter for quite awhile now and I was so excited! How often does a comedian of Chappelle's caliber come to Knoxville TN??? So...
THANKS ALOT TO THE AHOLES THAT RUINED THIS EXPERIENCE FOR EVERYONE!! KARMA CAN BE ROUGH...hopefully.

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