Dave Chappelle Turns Hartford Incident With “Room Full of White People” Into Comedy

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Slate's Culture Blog
Sept. 5 2013 11:54 AM

Dave Chappelle Turns Hartford Incident With “Room Full of White People” Into Comedy

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Dave Chappelle

Photo by Chad Buchanan/Getty Images

If North Korea were to drop a nuclear bomb on the United States, Dave Chappelle would “hope it lands in Hartford, Connecticut.” Not that he’s hoping for such an attack to occur or anything, but that’s just the way he feels, as he told a Chicago audience on Tuesday night. The comedian took a few minutes early in his set to clear the air about the incident in Connecticut from last week, when he refused to perform his routine during the Funny or Die Oddball Comedy Tour in front of an increasingly disruptive audience.

Chappelle had more choice words for his Hartford hecklers, and the riff reached its comic apex when he wove in an old riff about Michael Richards’ infamous rant at the Laugh Factory. “I wanted to, like, pull a reverse Kramer and call ’em all crackers or something crazy like that. I know that shit’ll be on YouTube,” he said. But he decided against it, because he remembered how much it hurt to hear Kramer say such things.

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Chappelle’s focus on race—he also called the Hartford crowd “suburban torturers,” a “room full of white people,” and “young, white alcoholics”—more or less confirms the interpretation of the incident offered by Lesli-Ann Lewis, who was in the crowd for that previous performance. Lewis put the night in the context of a “complicated history” of “the White audience and the Black entertainer.” Chappelle compared going to stand-up shows to seeing Siegfried and Roy perform, knowing that much of the pleasure comes from the possibility that the performers might get eaten.

That bit, too, comes from his old riff on Michael Richards, which is worth watching in full. You can check it out below.

Aisha Harris is a Slate staff writer.

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