Dave Chappelle brings laughs to Oncenter

Review: The comedian known for his work on "Chappelle's Show" entertains Syracuse crowd with fresh material.

When I arrived at the Oncenter on Friday night, unsurprisingly there was a line wrapped twice around the block with those who were there to see comedian Dave Chappelle perform.

Despite the cold, the crowd seemed enthusiastic. Once in the theater, it was clear just how many people had come out. It seemed to be a full house, besides the two seats next to me that were inexplicably empty the whole show. The crowd was very receptive of the opening acts. When the man of the hour finally arrived, everyone was on their feet, an energy that was amusingly uneven with Chappelle's nonchalant entrance.

It is fascinating that someone who is not constantly high-energy is still able to captivate the audience. Chappelle did joke about his voice being too soothing, as apparently someone in the front row kept nodding off. But besides that sleepy patron, the audience was very engaged.

The show as a whole was enjoyable, and perhaps my only criticism is that there was a good deal of Bill Cosby-related content. I'm not necessarily criticizing the content itself; I turned my tendency for sensitivity off along with my cellphone at the beginning of the show. And it was content very typical of Chappelle's humor, reminiscent of his piece on R. Kelly, which made us all consider, how old is 15?

With changes in culture and society, it is less certain that humor in line with Chappelle's will amuse an audience. In this case, he was met with laughter rather than silence or boo-ing. But again, this content took up a great deal of the show, and while it was good, some of the best moments were when Chappelle appeared to go “off-script,” telling stories and shutting down hecklers.

There were a handful of people who shouted out during the show, but Chappelle remained unbothered, doling out quick, effortless retorts, much to the rest of the crowd's delight. One man decided to yell out the infamous line “I'm rich b----”, which was quickly shut down by the mention that if he had indeed been rich, he would have purchased floor seats and not balcony seats.

The highlights of the show were Chappelle’s personal anecdotes on family life. It is his mastery of comedic story telling, with all the timing and inflections needed to work a crowd, that makes one remember why he is one of the greats. These bits got some of the best reactions from the crowd (and myself), and so it was fitting that the latter portion of the show was comprised mainly of these off-color but perfectly hilarious tidbits from Chappelle's life.

Going on tour after a long hiatus is no small feat. Chappelle could have easily recycled his old, popular jokes, and people likely would have still enjoyed the show. But he made the effort to write new material, keep up with current issues and discuss and joke about them in his well-loved fashion. And making the conscious decision to keep the tour small and not grandiose allows each show to be far more special and intimate.

Chappelle joked during the show about not being ready give up and succumb to being on “Dancing With the Stars” quite yet, and this tour seems like the perfect way to stave off that fate just a bit longer.

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