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602 S. Gay Street
Knoxville, TN 37902
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.