Two down, eight to go. Comedy legend Dave Chappelle delivered a pair of stand-up performances Tuesday night at First Avenue nightclub in Minneapolis, and he was just getting started.
The star of the revered Comedy Central TV series “Chappelle’s Show” — who famously went into seclusion in 2005 and is still on a gradual comeback — booked six gigs at First Avenue this week. When the club dates sold out, he tacked on four sets Friday and Saturday at the State Theatre, making it an even 10-show run in Minneapolis.
A well-known Prince fan who spoofed the singer and then became his friend, Chappelle seems to share Prince’s soft spot for First Ave. He did a 10-show marathon there in 2013 and became the first comic to get a star on the club’s wall. This week’s gigs were booked after Prince’s death.
Tuesday’s early set kicked it all off but felt more like the approach to a finish line. Chappelle, 42, has been doing many dates across the country in recent months and seems to be working toward a long overdue comedy special. His last HBO special aired in 2005.
Unlike his more free-wheeling and off-the-cuff 2013 shows, Tuesday’s 75-minute performance seemed well-rehearsed, even conventional, especially when it came to the topics covered.
Sporting a muscle shirt and long shorts whose casualness contrasted with the serious tone of the set, Chappelle tackled everyone from Bill Cosby to Caitlyn Jenner to, of course, Donald Trump. Prince did not come up until the very end, and he was the only one for whom the comic didn’t have a bad thing to say.
“You guys really gave the world a juggernaut,” he said. “It says a lot about your city he stayed here.”
The montage on Jenner felt harsh and just plain hateful, but the rest of the set was grade-A Chappelle. It says a lot about his talent that he was able to touch on such touchy subjects as ISIL, transgender politics, George Zimmerman’s auctioned gun and the Cosby rape allegations and still have the liberal Minneapolis audience in stitches. About Cosby, he mentioned “all the big things he did,” but then brutally deadpanned, “I guess 54 rapes is bigger than that.”
Given the artfully choreographed nature of the set and the fact that he’s here all week, a lot of Chappelle’s best moments Tuesday would be spoiled if recounted here. But there were some unplanned moments that seem like fair game, including a comment he made after a loud disturbance in the crowd while he riffed on the presidential election.
“I know they weren’t Trump supporters, because I heard a black voice in there,” he cracked. And when he was handed a Stella Artois beer later in the set, he quipped, “I don’t drink Budweiser. It tastes too much like poor white people’s problems.”
One of the biggest surprises of the night was the double bonus of noteworthy opening acts: “Chappelle’s Show” cast member Donnell Rawlings and renowned stand-up Hannibal Buress each delivered about 20 minutes apiece. Known for bringing the Cosby allegations into the limelight, Buress left that topic alone but didn’t spare Trump. However, his swipe at Bernie Sanders earned some of the biggest laughs.
“I’m not saying old people shouldn’t have dreams,” Buress said of Sanders, “but maybe not one quite that big.”
Chris Riemenschneider • 612-673-4658