Dave Chappelle used the audience member’s ignorance to start a discussion on racism and the experiences of being Black in America.
A story about how Dave Chappelle once confronted a heckler during a surprise set is going viral on social media.
On Wednesday (June 3), comedian Kenny DeForest shared a story on Twitter where he was hosting a show at the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn in 2015. Chappelle happened to be in New York City to support Kevin Hart, who was serving as the host of Saturday Night Live that week. Knowing that Chappelle was in town, DeForest reached out to fellow comedian Joyelle Nicole Johnson to see if Chappelle was interested in dropping by and doing a surprise set.
Ultimately, Chappelle ended up appearing and served as the last guest for the night, where he took the stage and asked the audience for “headlines to riff on.” At one point, an audience member said “police brutality,” to which Chappelle started talking about Eric Garner (as DeForest noted in his Twitter thread, the show had occurred days after Garner’s death in Staten Island).
“So Chappelle starts talking about Eric Garner and wathching him get murdered in cold blood on camera and how it makes him scared for his children. I remember he said ‘I thought body cams would help, but what good is video evidence if y’all don’t care?'” DeForest tweeted.
“A clearly privileged white girl (she had a wide brimmed felt hat for chrissakes) shouts ‘Life’s hard, sorry ’bout it!’ and it takes the air completely out of the room. A collective gasp. Chappelle zeros in on her. ‘What did you say?’ She repeats it. Chappelle starts going in,” DeForest wrote in a follow-up tweet.
Chappelle responded to the heckler by speaking about racism in America, with DeForest recounting: “He starts educating the crowd on the history of black people and the police. He talked about slave patrols and Rodney King and Watts and Emmett Till and Black Wall Street. He talked about Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and he talked about John Crawford III.”
From there, Chappelle also recounted how he was once pulled over by the same police officer who ended up killing Crawford, the man who was killed in a Walmart in a city near Dayton after the cop mistook a BB gun Crawford was holding for a real gun.
“He says ‘the cop approaches and he can tell I’m nervous. I have both my hands on the wheel and I say ‘officer my license and registration is in the glove box. I’m going to reach for them now. I’m promise not armed’ I could tell the officer was offended that I was nervous. He said ‘I know who you are Dave Chappelle’ & I said ‘so why do you need my license and registration?’ He gets off w/ a warning. The twist? The same cop would go on to murder John Crawford III. His take away: ‘I shouldn’t have to be Dave Chappelle to survive police encounters,'” DeForest recalled Chappelle saying.
Once the show ended, Chappelle met the woman who heckled him during his set, and she apologized to him.
“You’re ok. That’s all we can ask,” Chappelle said according to DeForest. “Know better, do better. I want to thank YOU for hearing me and listening. That’s your role. And now you know. Now you’re part of that critical mass we talked about and next time you hear a friend say some ignorant sh*t like you said, it’s your job to correct them and share with them what you learned tonight. THEN, you’re no longer part of the problem, you’re part of the solution.”
The Twitter thread can be read in its entirety below.
My coolest night of comedy was when Chappelle dropped by @ComedyAtTheKnit when @MrWillMiles @theeclarkjones & I were still hosting. We were in the back room & he was in town supporting Kevin Hart hosting SNL. I texted @joyellenicole like “any chance Dave wants to go up?” THREAD
— Kenny DeForest (@KennyDeForest) June 3, 2020