I was in Nashville this weekend for an amazing charity event at my buddy Luke Bryan’s farm. More on that later.
But I stuck around Sunday and snagged tickets to the Joe Rogan and Dave Chappelle show at Bridgestone Arena that had been postponed last month due to Rogan getting Covid.
It couldn’t have been better timing, with the fallout from Chappelle's "The Closer" Netflix special and all the backlash. He's the last person in the world to shy away from controversy, and last night he did not disappoint.
First off, I have never been to a Predators game inside Bridgestone before but it's now on my list of must-do's. We've all heard how insane it gets for games, and I can only imagine it after going for this comedy show last night. The place is fucking awesome. Couldn't dream of a better location, right on Broadway. You can walk from any of the hundred bars right in the door. The concession setup is extremely well done and the wait times aren't bad at all. And the seats are awesome. The place holds just shy of 20,000 but it feels like you're on top of the floor from any section in the place. And it is LOUD. The acoustics are nuts.
Secondly, I know Covid took away live events from us for a long time, but have the majority of people never been to a "phone free" show before?
Like any arena comedy show of the past 5 years, they made you check your phone into one of those YNDR cases that you can't open until after the show upon entering Bridgestone. And people were losing their minds.
Grown people. Adults.
I know we bust on young people's addictions to their phones a lot, but I was seeing grown men that were absolutely indignant that they wouldn't be able to have access to their phones for 3-4 hours.
The show began with Jeffrey Ross taking the stage and setting the tone. He did a great job of measuring the crowd's temperature, and warming it up with some classic Southern razzing as well as a well placed Dave Matthews Band barb. That segued into a pretty heartfelt set about adopting the first dog he'd ever owned during Covid lockdowns. A 13 year old German Shepard rescue named "Nana" that he nursed back to health before ultimately losing her a few months ago. Like all "non-dog people", he was stunned at how attached he became to her after having her around for a just a short amount of time and he even teared up just retelling the story.
In classic Jeffrey Ross fashion he managed to make light of one of the worst situations every pet owner faces, putting her down, with a well done steak joke (no pun intended) before introducing special guest Tom Segura.
Now full disclosure, I'm not a Tom Segura superfan by any means. I don't dislike him, but I don't love him. I know millions of people do. He obviously has an incredibly successful podcast, and he's friends with some of the biggest comedians on the globe. Some of his standout podcast episodes I've really liked, but I've tried to get into his standup specials but they just haven't done it for me.
Last night that was not the case.
Segura came out the gates flying and had me and everybody else at Bridgestone cracking up after picking up the mic, telling the crowd how much he loved being in Tennesee and then asking, "So can you believe they're taking down all our Confederate statues?"
That set the tone for what was an extremely funny, but risque set, mostly revolving around fatherhood and the dichotomy of his two sons. No spoilers but he got into some very borderline stuff involving child penises that was a lot funnier than it sounds typing that.
After he wrapped, Jeffrey Ross came back out and ushered 20 or so people that willingly volunteered up on stage to roast. He tore some of them to shreds pretty good, especially some kid he asked "are you the one who puts the fentanyl in coke?" to, as well as some chick who thought she was hot shit if she was there to protest Dave because he could see her dick through her skirt.
The place was rolling when he announced there was another special guest coming out, Dave's good friend Donnell Rawlings. Aka Ashy Larry.
Donnell came out to "Ain't Worried About Nothin" by French Montana booming from the arena's PA, and he sang along with the whole song with a giant white security guard until putting the mic in front of his face for the closing hook.
The air in the arena couldn't have been lighter.
The racial tension was put to rest further by Donnell through out his set as he harped on and on about not so much the differences between races, but more so genders. He went into great detail about his many different techniques for fingering pussy before getting into a bit that he hit out of the fucking park- a 15 minute breakdown of Cardi B's infamous song "WAP".
This part of the show was so funny people everywhere were in tears laughing.
Donnell absolutely killed it. After he wrapped up he introduced Joe Rogan and the place went bonkers.
This was my first time seeing Rogan live. I love his podcast, I love his genuine curiosity and distrust for everything we think we know, and now I love his standup.
Rogan brought the pain for over an hour.
He told anecdote after anecdote about (supposed) real life encounters with people where he pointed out hypocrisy or just how fucking banana-land things have become.
One of the best was his joke about going through TSA screening high as fuck on mushrooms, getting randomly selected for additional screening, by an older African American woman who he busted each other's chops with, before calling her out for "assuming his gender" when she yelled for a male assist.
He went into the ridiculousness of the "back of the hand" pat down of your dick and balls (by a UFC fanatic in his case, who couldn't stop asking him fight questions while handling his junk), and was far more vulger than I had ever expected.
He slut shamed the crowd which got more roars, (again, this was an awesome crowd that was there to laugh, not be offended) and busted the balls of just about every group he could possibly single out. Including himself.
One of the finer points Rogan made sure to address, and he did it sincerely, was towards his harshest critics, and most fervent fans. He told the crowd, "listen, if you get your advice from me, Joe Rogan, on anything at all, nevermind vaccines, you have bigger problems. And you're also not listening to me well enough because if you were, you'd be questioning my agenda wouldn't you?"
He finished out with a great bit about evolution, and some great stories about his wife before thanking the crowd for being such good sports, and reminding everybody "how important it is for everybody to be able to take a joke."
Couldn't agree more.
He then introduced the man of the hour, Dave Chappelle, and I thought the roof was going to blow off the arena.
Dave made his way to the stage to a Mos Def song I couldn't make out because the cheers were so loud and so long.
When his security detail finally got him to the stage, and handed him a drink, he proceeded to slowly grab a cigarette from his pack and light it as the cheers slowly began to fade.
As he pulled a drag and exhaled, with the crowd waiting on his first words, he squinted his eyes and looked out over the arena.
"As I look out over this crowd of 18,000 people, it's hard to believe that I've been cancelled."
Bridgestone Arena shook as all 18,000 of us went ballistic.
If you need proof that the cancel culture movement has pushed people too far, do whatever it takes to go to one of these shows.
What transpired over the next hour plus was what I can only call a Master Class in philosophical debate, with comedic undertones.
I wrote this in my last Ricky Gervais blog pertaining to George Carlin, but it also applies to Dave Chappelle. Chappelle is a genius philosopher, that just so happens to be fucking hilarious.
He didn't backtrack from one thing he said, and he dignified many of his critics issues with him and their arguments. Like any respectable, logical human being should. This seems a bizarre thing today because it's so rare in 2021.
He didn't say they were wrong to feel the way they felt, in fact he said he knew it would upset a large amount of people, but stated, "I was surprised by the volume."
He admitted he was shocked at how big of a deal this has all turned into.
He thanked Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos by name for not only standing by him, but for defending numerous shows in the past that the mob has tried to take down.
He made it a point to point out how Netflix employees that staged a walk-out last week went on the record saying "they didn't feel safe in their own place of work anymore", yet "I'm (he) was the one not allowed inside the building anymore."
I don't want to give away the entire show because everybody that is able to should do what they can to see it. They're in New Orleans Thursday night and he hinted at adding 10 more cities to the tour if this demand for "The Closer" to be taken off the air continues, not because it's easy money, but because he knows he has to get his side of the message out.
And his message was that it was important to listen to the WHOLE message.
(Also something Rogan echoed in his set)
Not sound bytes, not quotes out of context, and not other people's “takes” on what he said. Listen to his damn words, in the context of the entire conversation, and tone in which they were said, and then develop your own opinion.
He confessed that not everybody had to agree with him, or like what he said. And that was fine. That was being human. But he had the right to defend himself.
If he doesn't stick up for himself, who cares who else does?
That led Dave to start talking about all the security he’s had to beef up on now that he has so many people upset with him. He’s legitimately concerned about his family and his safety. One of his security guards in particular is a young guy that used to play for the Cowboys that Dave said was a babe magnet and had a voice of an angel. He said he’s dangerous to have around ladies.
The show took a bizarre turn when a guy on crutches in the front row was approached by a police officer and a sheriff. They were trying to escort him out but the kid and his girlfriend made things difficult.
Dave tried to make light of the situation, which led the crowd to wonder if it was all a plant and part of the show, but when the kid began screaming that he was being “singled out” and a bunch of other nonsense the crowd grew tired of the distraction. The police finally got him to go and as he was getting escorted out, his security guard who he was talking about earlier jumped up on stage, grabbed a mic and started belting out Boyz II Men "It's So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday",
which brought the house down.
The best part was that his girlfriend decided to stay and watch the show. Which Dave ate up and made recall jokes back to the rest of the show.
Another guy on the other side of the arena got taken away in cuffs shortly after that and people started wondering what the fuck was going on?
Dave finished his set and told us that he wanted us all to stay because he was going to do an encore which he was taping. The crowd's response was insanity and he dropped the mic as Kanye's "Jail Pt 2" thundered over the loudspeakers.
The crowd went nuts, standing ovation and all and the cheers, mixed with the soundtrack made for what will appear as an amazing "intro" to what he taped, even though it was an outro.
Dave picked up the mic he had dropped moments before, greeted the crowd again, and asked his producers to line up a camera to his right.
He lit another cigarette and half-sat, half-stood on his stool while he delivered what seemed like a 10-15 minute rebuttal to those slamming him over the past couple of weeks.
Without giving anything away, it was in essence much of what he said earlier in terms of the dangers of trying to silence and cancel people, without being repetitive.
He wrapped again, thanked us, thanked his fellow comics, then brought them out for another ovation.
It was a hell of a night and a hell of a show by every single comic on the bill.
Hopefully he drops what he recorded sometime today, and if not, this week.
It was pretty remarkable hearing somebody under such intense scrutiny right now not back down, make excuses, or throw other people under the bus. He accepted responsibility, owned it, and asked other people to see things from a different point of view. Not even to necessarily change their mind or agree with him. But to just consider it. A relatively simple concept on its face, but something that's become so foreign nowadays.
Hats off to Chappelle, Rogan, Segura, Rawlings, and Ross. If you have a chance to see this show in the next few weeks, go!
p.s. - As I mentioned earlier, I was in Nashville for an incredible charity event. This was the third year of the “Red Bird Games” which benefits the Brett Boyer Foundation- a cause near and dear to Luke’s family, and more people than you think, as 1 in every 100 children born are affected by Congenital Heart Disease. Luke’s niece Brett, was born with CHD, underwent dozens of surgeries, and fought like a warrior, before tragically succumbing to it. Her family set up the foundation in her honor and has raised millions of dollars to fund CHD research amongst some of the best cardiologists and hospitals on the planet. It’s amazing.
Donors and participants this weekend got to fish with Bill Dance, and Chris and Cory Johnston. Fire custom-made Daniel Defense AR’s, and bid on getting to have Tim Tebow’s Heisman trophy for a year, in addition to a ton of other things on the down-low before Luke took the stage and performed.
The best part was getting to see my main man Chris Nikic again. He just ran the Boston Marathon and is running the NYC Marathon in a couple weeks. He put on quite the performance himself this weekend in Nashville too. The guy steals the show wherever he goes!
You can follow along with Chris' journey on his social media accounts and donate to help him make it to the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon here.
--------- UPDATE ---------
The video dropped. You can watch it here.
Variety - In the video, Chappelle remained unapologetic about the special — which was accused of containing transphobic and homophobic remarks and led to a walkout at Netflix — saying: “I said what I said.”
“It’s been said in the press that I was invited to speak to the transgender employees of Netflix and I refused. That is not true — if they had invited me I would have accepted it, although I am confused about what we would be speaking about,” Chappelle said in the video. “I said what I said, and boy, I heard what you said. My God, how could I not? You said you want a safe working environment at Netflix. It seems like I’m the only one that can’t go to the office anymore.”
Chappelle claimed that the controversy was about “corporate interests” and that some members of the LGBTQ+ community have been supportive of him.
“I want everyone in this audience to know that even though the media frames it that it’s me versus that community, that is not what it is. Do not blame the LBGTQ [sic] community for any of this shit. This has nothing to do with them. It’s about corporate interests and what I can say and what I cannot say,” Chappelle said. “For the record, and I need you to know this, everyone I know from that community has been loving and supporting, so I don’t know what all this nonsense is about.”
Chappelle also spoke about his upcoming documentary about his summer 2020 comedy tour, claiming that it has now been excluded from film festivals.
“This film that I made was invited to every film festival in the United States and some of those invitations I accepted. When this controversy came out about ‘The Closer,’ they began disinviting me from these film festivals,” Chappelle claimed. “And now, today, not a film company, not a movie studio, not a film festival, nobody will touch this film. Thank God for Ted Sarandos and Netflix, he’s the only one that didn’t cancel me yet.”
Though Chappelle said he was willing to meet with members of the trans community, he jokingly listed off a slew of conditions that would have to be met: “To the transgender community, I am more than willing to give you an audience, but you will not summon me. I am not bending to anybody’s demands. And if you want to meet with me, I’d be more than willing to, but I have some conditions. First of all, you cannot come if you have not watched my special from beginning to end. You must come to a place of my choosing at a time of my choosing, and thirdly, you must admit that Hannah Gadsby is not funny.”