My friend Bill Herman tells a story about visiting a club in Detroit with BB King hosting and then Aretha dropped by for a couple of songs. My brother and his lovely wife got to see Alanis Morisette live in a tiny club at the exact moment she could sell out a stadium.
I have been to New York three times, not for very long and not without multiple competing agendas. It seems like all the cool comedy clubs are far, far away. All the cool touristy stuff in the middle of Manhattan island. All the cool comedy clubs seems to be a block apart at the bottom of the island. Like 40 blocks. at least. Far.
So I found myself with no obligations on Thursday night in midtown Manhattan. I watched the Singing Hoosiers backing up my amazingly talented niece in a transcendent performance at New York Society for Ethical Culture. Dined with my amazing sister in law at David Chang’s Momofuko Noodle Bar. I should have just called it a night and went to sleep.
I got on a the 1 subway and rode all the way to the bottom of Manhattan. Arrived about 11pm. I bought a ticket to the bringer show at Grzly Pear, just in case and kept going up the block. If you have watched comedy on television or television about comedy, you have seen the Comedy Cellar. From street level, the sign is about waist high and there is a staircase leading down. The bouncer let me know that the doors weren’t open yet, but the 11:30 show was sold out. There was a standby line around the corner. So I went around the corner.
The ticketed line was already forming to the right. The standby line was eight people deep. The first person in the standby line reported that she saw/heard Dave Chappelle enter earlier. She had been waiting in line since the 9:30pm show. God Bless and keep this dear woman.
It was her, this big group of guys, Other Guy and me. So I just hung out at the front and talked to everybody until the line started to get serious. Then I went to dip back into my spot the Other Guy was gone. WTF? So I started talking the flight attendants who according to my line rules were immediately behind me. Other Guy shows back up with slices for the flight attendants and himself. Other Guy was awesome. Like a younger Keith Richards/Hunter Thompson funny, drug fueled bi-coastal probably bi-polar world traveler stories. The standby line was now down the block.
We had to bag our phones and smart watches. I ended up sitting next to Other Guy. I wish I had brought pen and paper, but it wouldn’t have worked because I couldn’t see to read or write. The Comedy Cellar is very dark, very low ceilinged, very packed. The sound system is turned up to 11. The speakers are always in compression. In other words, AWESOME. Exactly, what I expected but more.
You don’t realize how often and how useful your phone is until you need it to read a menu. If you plan a visit, look at the menu ahead of time or bring a flashlight.
The regular show was great. The highlight was Dulce’ Sloan. She has a great hunk on bad boyfriends. I am very interested in seeing her next special. It was an absolute highlight.
The guy from this Progressive commercial was extremely funny.
It’s frankly hard to keep track without notes. I listen to two stand-up comedian podcasts twice a week and didn’t know hardly anybody. There was a guy pretending to be Norwegian or Danish who had a lot of time to limp through some marginal jokes. Probably the next Andy Kaufman, but not how I would have spent my time.
According to the internet, a regular Comedy Cellar show is about 1 hour 15 minutes. Some percentage of the audience knew there was a buzz in the air. Apparently, not everybody got the message. About the time my butt was getting tired, more people started filtering in. A few people got their checks and left. Some dude in a Kool Mo Dee hat walked by a couple of times. I think I saw Wanda Sykes briefly. Dulce Sloan was still around.
Then the host comes up and says we have one last comedian tonight… Make some noise. Dave Chappelle. The whole room went deafening. Up on stage, was Dave Chappelle.
Sometimes I forget to mention that I am one lucky SOB.
It was awesome. After a bit, he invited Michael Che from Saturday Night Live up to join him. They riffed. Michael has a very public day job. David is very publicly self-employed. They covered a lot of ground with that dramatic tension between Michael keeping his day job. Funny.
Dave’s special guest was Posdnuos from De La Soul. De La Soul was supposed to be celebrating the rights to their music this weekend. They instead had to merge the celebrations with a memorial for Trugoy (David Jude Jolicoeur) who had passed on February 12th. De La Soul had been denied the right to share in the profits from their work for a really long time. This is an issue very close to Chappelle’s heart. Chappelle doesn’t currently have control over the distribution of the Chappelle Show.
I listened to the NPR Fresh Air podcast with De La Soul on the flight into LaGuardia. The first song I played while test driving MrsJonTheBruce’s new airpods was De La Soul’s “The Magic Number”.
De La Soul had an important moment in my early DJ career. They were fun, danceable, and not gangster. They could fit in a set with Arrested Development and Black Sheep and Dee-lite and Steve Miller and the Animal House Soundtrack. Back in the day. I remember my astonishment a few years ago in Hawaii when De La came on the speakers at Target. So random. A nice reminder of how wonderful their music is.
Busta Rhymes was in the room too!
Busta- Make it Clap
The Guy in the Whodini hat is D-Nice
I hate to name drop but,
There were several other DJs in the room where it happened. DJ Clark Kent, Stretch Armstrong. I might have been the oldest by a couple of years, except for those two. Chappelle was born in 1973. So he probably didn’t get to attend Swatch Watch presents New York City Fresh Festival with Run D.M.C., Kurtis Blow, Whodini, The Fat Boys, and Newcleus. My little brother did because somebody else bailed on their ticket because “take it from me mom’s just don’t understand”.
I am old AF.
So when I rolled out onto the mean streets of NYC at 3:45 in the morning I was ready to sleep, but also aware that I might be murdered at any point in time. The doorman was really tremendously pleasant and helpful. He gave me enough information to get home with a dying phone and no previous experience. I ended up getting a cab from 3rd Street to 54th and Broadway for $20 cash. #capitalism
You might get fooled if you come from out of townNew York, New York
But I’m down by law and I know my way around.
Song by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five