Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra has weighed in on the Chappelle controversy currently making his city Internet famous.
If you missed the controversy- in late August, reports surfaced that Comedian Dave Chappelle– on tour with Funny or Die after a long hiatus- had a “meltdown” during a set in Hartford, Connecticut.
Ebony writer Lesli-Ann Lewis, who was present at the show, took to the web to not only correct the story but to give it some context.
Her account, and the dozens of videos posted to Youtube after the fact, offer a different account of what occurred– one in which Chappelle was interrupted minutes into his set– a mark of a crowd that became increasingly rowdy as he went on.
At one point he informed them;
You are booing yourself. I want you all to go home and look in the mirror and say boo. That’s how I feel about you.
Lewis’ article puts his reaction in context:
“While the racial makeup of the crowd was incidental, the way they treated Chappelle is not. It speaks to a long complicated history: the relationship between the White audience and the Black entertainer. This is a relationship you can easily trace to early minstrel shows, to archetypes of Blacks that still define the roles we’re offered today. We have seen more Black comedians bow to racist tropes, demean themselves—albeit unintentionally—for White audiences.
Chappelle wasn’t having a meltdown. This was a Black artist shrugging the weight of White consumption, deciding when enough was enough. This isn’t the first time Chappelle has done so and it isn’t the first time his behavior has been characterized as a meltdown.”
The crowd at Hartford had something in mind that they wanted to see. They wanted to hear bits from The Chappelle show– when he refused to comply, they got angry. Not because his material was mediocre but because it wasn’t what they anticipated. There was no interest in listening to his set. What should have been a monologue turned into a dialogue featuring a hostile party.
He was being urged to shuck and jive and he refused.
Chappelle’s comments days later at another show in Chicago give us more insight into the comedian’s state of mind. Cheered on by the crowd, Chappelle tackled the controversy.
So much better than Hartford. I will never go back- I won’t even go to Hartford for fucking gas. I don’t want anything bad to happen to the United States but if North Korea ever drops a nuclear bomb on this country I swear to God I hope it lands in Hartford Connecticut… that crowd was evil.
Addressing the racial dynamic of the crowd, he joked:
I wanted to pull a reverse Kramer and call them all crackers or something like that. I knew that shit would be on Youtube. ‘Funnyman Dave Chappelle calls a room full of white people crackers. Couldn’t do that. ‘Cause I felt bad when Kramer did that shit to us.
The Mayor of Hartford’s response?
Dave Chappelle asked the crowd in Hartford to respect him.
He pushed back.
The city’s mayor told him to do some Yoga.
It’d be easy to brush this off as folks being overly sensitive or projecting racial insecurities onto something unrelated. But in truth– whether we’re discussing black women being used as props in Miley Cyrus’s act, or Dave Chappelle being drowned out by a hostile crowd– what we’re ultimately discussing is respect and the difference between delivering the joke as opposed to being its subject.