I’m a tenacious motherfucker. I’ll be the first to admit to my obsessive ways. Sometimes (not often, but sometimes) this works out to my benefit; for example, when I buy concert tickets. It’s like I’m an idiot savant and I’m really only good at getting hard-to-get tickets. Seriously, if I spot a show I simply must see, I’ll certainly have my hands on a pair of more-than-decent seats come show day. I’d rather be super good at math, but instead I got this. Whatever.
On the positive side, I’ve seen some crazy shows. I’ve been damn near crushed under a raging crowd at a Cypress Hill performance deep in D.C.—it was terrifyingly glorious. At that same festival, I watched Eminem captivate thousands and command they back down so the show could go on, without incident and he succeeded. He saved the day when the local cops could not and then we all celebrated with a Jay-Z performance. I’ve seen it all. I shit you not. Like I said, tickets I can get, a handle on life, not so much. I suppose that’s all right because who really does?
Anyway, being the tenacious, live-performance loving and experience-addicted human being that I am, I scored tickets to see Dave Chappelle recently at two distinctly intimate venues. Not only am I tenacious, I’m lucky. You see, Chappelle is essentially my comedy hero. I can’t handle his brain and I love that. Comedy is just as much my jam as any concert and so you can imagine how excited I was when I was able to snag seats to a couple of shows he did recently in Santa Cruz and San Francisco.
I’m not going to review Dave Chapelle’s performances because I wouldn’t even know how to go about doing that. Instead, I’ll tell you about something I heard this kid say as I passed his car on my way back to my own ride after the Santa Cruz show a few weeks ago.
As my husband and I walked back to our car, I overheard some guys talking about what they’d just seen. I couldn't quite make out what the first man was saying, but I could tell he was beside himself with joy. The guy that responded said, “That’s some bucket list shit right there, man! That was seriously amazing,” as he slid happily into his vehicle. When I passed his window, I immediately agreed verbally as if he’d been talking to me. “Hahaaa, yes” I said as I turned, looked at him, and nodded in vigorous agreement. Together, everyone smiled in recognition of the performance we'd just seen and we relished our geek-out moment for a fraction of a second. As we bonded, my mind jumped to my own bucket list moment featuring Chappelle. I think it's a good story and proof that magic exists in a good laugh, so here we go...
For Dave's show at the Punchline in San Francisco, I was tenacious enough to show up super early and stand in line for hours (freezing my butt off) to ensure my husband and I would secure a good spot inside this tiny club. Even so, standing in line was easy, getting the tickets was the hard part. This show was already sold out when I had heard about it, but I wasn't about to let that stop me from trying to get in. A couple hours later, after calling the venue, incessantly refreshing the web page where tickets were sold and then calling the venue some more, the impossible happened. Somebody ended up releasing their tickets just as I refreshed the website and after half an hour of clicking, I was rewarded with two golden tickets. As you can imagine, by the time I got to the club, I was excited beyond belief and Christoph was doing his best to keep me from OD-ing on adrenalin.
After talking, twiddling our thumbs and shivering for a couple of hours, we were finally let into the Punchline, slowly--group by group. Tickets were checked, IDs verified, and people were escorted to their tables to sit before the next set of folks were even allowed into the club. This lengthy process only served to intensify the excitement that had been building in my chest since the ticket fiasco. Luckily, my husband was around to make sure I didn’t explode into full hysteria. He's a life saver and always down for a show, even if it’s at midnight on a school night. We live reckless lives, y’all. What can I say?
When it was finally our turn to be checked in, we chatted up the event organizers. Everyone was really great and the gentleman that came to seat us was especially nice. As he showed us in, he asked us if we were aware that Dave smoked. Christoph and I both nodded and with that he said, “Great, then I’ll put you guys right up front.” Boom. My brain felt like it exploded when his words reached my ears. I thought to myself, “Nah, you misheard that. Shut up, dummy. No way.” As a matter of fact, I denied I’d heard anything remotely close to that as we snaked our way through the tables and chairs of the club. I denied it right up until we stopped next to the impossibly tiny stage.
“Anyone sitting on that stool, on this stage, is going to have me looking straight up their nostrils,” I thought to myself, as I took my seat. That’s the thing about getting really great spots at shows; you're awkwardly close to the performers. It’s cool, but then it’s also weird because you don't want to stare up their noses, but it’s kind of hard not to. After I'd sat down, I thought about what the friendly guy had said. He mentioned that Chappelle chain-smoked during his entire set. He wanted to be sure we were fine with smoke being blown in our faces all night. Meanwhile, I was secretly doing mental handstands because I was lucky enough to get picked to sit in his line of fire.
After the initial elation wore off, I took a few seconds to gather my thoughts. I realized then that Chappelle would likely need a light at some point during his set. Without a moment’s hesitation, I decided that if he did in fact ask for a light at any point during the evening, I was going to handle it. With this newfound resolve, I mentally added, “light Dave Chapelle’s cigarette” to my personal bucket list.
Back at the table, Christoph and I ordered drinks. We doubled up because we’re a fun-loving duo who can appreciate a stiff drink. As we settled in to wait some more, I asked my husband to let me hang onto his lighter. I was hoping he hadn't left it in the car and that he had it in a pocket somewhere on him. Lucky for me, after a bit of searching, a lighter popped up and into my hand.
I fidgeted with that damn lighter obsessively. Over and over again I flipped it around in my hands as we waited for our drinks to make their appearances at our table. I know my husband was thirsty too and we’d been waiting a long time... Crap. I was getting antsy.
Finally, the lights dimmed and he walked out. Dave Chappelle was standing less than six feet from my face, you guys. It was awkward and it was amazing. He settled into his set quickly and smoothly. He fed off the vibe of the diversely laid-back crowd and had what felt like a hilarious two-hour conversation instead of a comedy show.
When I think back, all I can remember is that I laughed so hard my face hurt and my eyes watered with delight. I even remember thinking to myself, “The man’s genius especially when he’s not trying. How is that even possible?” As I instinctively rolled my eyes at my pathetically sycophantic tendencies, I noticed that Chappelle was going for a cigarette. Immediately, I switched gears as I summoned a little courage and thought, “it's on.”
Then, just like magic, Dave Chappelle looks out into the audience and says, “Anyone got a light?” When I heard that, I snapped up and out of my chair like a goddamn robot on command. "Yep," was the best verbal response I could manage without getting tongue tied and so I went with it. Amused, he looked at me, stuck his cigarette in his mouth and leaned over. I flicked my Bic and sparked him up. Giddy, I pulled my arm back and sat down. That was when Dave looked over at Christoph and said, “she’s a keeper,” to which my all-mighty husband responded, “I know, that’s why I married her.” Boom again. Panties melted.
The whole thing was almost too much to take in. First, I arbitrarily decide I’m going to add “light a cigarette for Dave Chappelle” to my personal bucket list and then, hours later, it actually happens. Never once did I really think it would come to pass, but here I am with this story and lots of witnesses. Second, Chappelle interacted quite a bit with Christoph, me and the people sitting near us. It was like I was trapped in the most amazing Dali painting with Chappelle himself and I never wanted it to end. Third, I was sitting less than six feet from one of my all-time comedy heroes for an entire evening, listening to all new material. It felt beyond lucky and I’m not usually lucky, so I don’t even know how this happened. I’m just eternally grateful that it did. Remember, I collect stories and this was a doozey.
As it was happening, my mind felt like it was full of Fourth-of-July fireworks, all going off simultaneously. My ears burned warm with disbelief and I did my best not to trip over myself and piss on the whole damn thing. Ironically, this entire experience can be best summed up in a Dave Chappelle quote, which he attributes to the soon-to-be-famous Kanye West. When West is asked how he manages to find himself in unbelievable situations (like in a studio with Dave Chappelle, Talib Kweli, and Common), he responds: "...Because my life is dope and I do dope shit."
And while I will never be rich or famous, my life is already pretty dope and every so often, I do dope shit, too.
(This has been your daily reminder to carpe your diems and your tempus-es, too.)