Dave Chappelle and Friends Tour Rocks Madison Square Garden
Written by: LaKisa Renee
Dave Chappelle made his return to Madison Square Garden with the Dave Chappelle & Friends Tour and screening of his documentary “Untitled” Directed by Steven Bognar & Julia Reichert. This was the first time that he headlined the famous arena that he sold out for the event. As a mandatory requirement by Dave Chappelle, guests had to lock their phones and smart watches away in Yondr pouches so that none of the event was recorded or leaked to the internet. The night began with a comedy roast by legendary comedian Jeff Ross, then a showing of his new documentary, which first premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in June. And of course the night wouldn’t be complete without Dave Chappelle hitting the stage to deliver a series of infamous, hilarious jokes. The focus of the night was his documentary, "Untitled," that reflected on the numerous “Summer Camp” comedy shows Chappelle held in a cornfield in rural Ohio during the summer of 2020. He brought in more than $7 million into Yellow Springs’ struggling community that was hit hard by the covid pandemic.
I was expecting the documentary to be a typical comedy special but it was the total opposite. While funny, the film was very emotional, painful, touching and made you think. It showed how people tried to process the loss of so many people from covid and how to deal with the grief while being isolated from each other. The true feelings and fear of the pandemic as business were shut down, the economy collapsed and customers disappeared. It captured the uncertainty of the future, the economic devastation from covid, racism in America, George Floyd's death and the Black Lives Matter Movement. The documentary also featured rising comedians as well as comedy veterans including Chris Rock, Jon Steward, David Letterman, Kevin Hart and Trevor Noah. A very memorable and stand out moment of the film was Poet Amir Sulaiman's performance of "We Must Win.” His message, delivery and passion brought me to tears. It was absolutely amazing, heartbreaking, authentic and relatable.
After the documentary was over, Chappelle surprised the audience with performances from H.E.R. Fat Joe, Rakim, Busta Rhymes & El DeBarge. The audience went wild as he introduced each surprise guest, as they were unaware of who would perform next. It was great to see them truly enjoying themselves with no phones and no distractions. H.E.R started off the performances with a medley of hits with her live band. She wowed the audience with her vocals and ability to play multiple instruments. Fat Joe performed his classic hits including “Lean Back” and brought out a surprise guest, the legendary El Debarge. He performed the hit “I Like It” made famous by the group “Debarge” that featured him and his siblings. Legendary Rapper Rakim also hit the stage performing his classics. I was in awe as I’ve never seen him perform live and he’s one of my favorite hip hop artists of all time. Busta Rhymes stole the show with an amazing high energy performance like no other, accompanied by the best hype man in the game, Spliff Star.
Behind the Scenes with Dave Chappelle
After the performances Chappelle shocked the audience once again by bringing out comedy legend Jon Stewart. The event ended with all of the documentary’s cast, performers and special guest attendees coming onstage for the finale and pictures. Many celebrities were spotted in attendance such as Dennis LA White, Woody McClain, The Jabbawockeez, Omar Dorsey, Tasha Smith, Donnell Rawlings, A.J. Calloway, Dwight Howard, Rajon Rondo, Justine Skye and more. After the show, VIP guests were treated to two afterparties both hosted and attended by Chappelle. The first was backstage in the “Red Room” and second was at Lure Fishbar. Guests were treated to food, drinks, pictures and music. The atmosphere was wonderful, everyone talked, danced and had a beautiful night. It was an honor for me to be included in this experience as Dave Chappelle is one of my favorite comedians of all time. He has brought so much laughter and joy to many around the world. In the words of Tammy Reese, “Dave has shown the world how Black Men have the right to use their gifts to start much-needed conversations unapologetically. Our culture loves and values you Dave Chappelle.”
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