First Avenue took on the look of a theater Monday for comedian Dave Chappelle.
***UPDATE: Chappelle has added yet another show, his 10th set this week, Saturday night at the Pantages Theatre. Click here for tickets. He also did 10 sets over a week in Denver two weeks ago
It was somewhere around 1:30 a.m. when Dave Chappelle finally muttered, “I think I’ve officially run out of shit to say.”
Of course, comedy’s most famous missing person didn’t actually use that as his cue to leave the stage at First Avenue -- not even after he had already spent four hours there on Monday night (counting the early show), and would be there for three more nights this week. Instead, he went all the way to just past the 2 a.m. cutoff, bantering with the crowd the rest of the time and using the club’s musical history for inspiration, all to great effect.
“If this comedy show was ‘Purple Rain,’” he cracked, “this part of the act would be the ‘Darling Nikki’ part. I’ll get off stage and the dude there will yell at me: ‘What the fuck was that?!’”
You could have fit two viewings of Prince’s legendary movie inside Chappelle’s late show Monday. He followed up his 90-minute-or-so 6:30 p.m. set -- which my colleague Rohan Preston reviewed -- with a second performance that clocked in just under three hours. And no, that’s not counting locally rooted opener Azhar Muhammad Usman’s own racially riotous set.
This was the comedy answer to the jam-band shows First Ave more commonly sees. Chappelle mentioned that he once performed nearly eight hours straight, a comedic record that Dane Cook conspicuously broke a week or two later. When someone shouted for him to take back the bragging rights, he dryly retorted, “Among the items on my list tonight, one of them is not competing with Dane Cook.”
I know what you’re probably thinking: “Wow, that must’ve been quite a mess. Chappelle is still sort of crazy, right?” Au contraire. The 40-year-old D.C. native was centered and on target for most of the performance, and seemed to be having a great time, too. Sure, there were some parts where the momentum stalled and he rambled for a bit. But those moments were just a blip compared to the other 2½ hours when the 500 or so attendees' guts were busting. It truly was a masterful showing from arguably the most revered comic of the past decade.
A sign of his genius, it was often hard to tell apart Chappelle’s pre-prepared montages – which he’ll presumably be trying out all week -- from the off-the-cuff comments he may never repeat. We would hate to be a spoiler for those of you who have tickets for one of the seven shows left in his run, including Friday’s newly added Pantages Theatre gig. Suffice it to say he has plenty of good lines about his debacle in Hartford, his now-legendary Comedy Central show and (a relatively new topic) his family.
It seems safe to recount some of the random exchanges he had with audience members. Foremost among them were a couple of Native American fellas near the front of the stage. “I’m very sorry about what happened to your property and all that,” he quipped to them, before he respectfully got riddled with questions throughout the show.
When one of them told them there’s a Native American rapper in the Twin Cities making a name for himself, Tall Paul, he responded, “Minneapolis be putting out the wildest rap records: Brother Ali, Tall Paul… .” Amazed by the latter’s story, he commented, “If he really can rap, I’ll sign him up for a million dollars. But he better be more than 5’7”, or I’m gonna be pissed. … And he better have better rhymes than just ‘Tall’ and ‘Paul.’”
Monday’s shows were something of an experiment for First Ave, too, which was converted into a 500-capacity theater with folding chairs across the dance floor and surrounding mezzanine area, plus barstools around the perimeter upstairs. The set-up actually worked well, and the vibe felt way more electric than it probably would have at one of the theaters around the corner. It made for many, many more “Purple Rain” and Prince jokes, too, which we’ll save for the rest of you. Enjoy.
By the way: First Ave issued some late-addition standing-room-only tickets for both of tonight’s sets, and will probably do the same for the rest of the shows.