Friday, December 31, 2021

Met Dave Chappelle on New Year's Eve

At the end of November I received an email from my big boss at Climate Pledge Arena saying that a last minute show had been booked on New Year's Eve with an unknown performer, asking us to sign up to work the shift. Uh, no thanks. Over the proceeding weeks more details emerged: we would get paid time and a half and the performer would be Dave Chappelle. Uh, yes thanks.

Dave Chappelle is my favorite comedian. I have fond memories of driving around in highschool listening to his stand up specials, and in college I remember Chappelle Show was stupidly popular. We quoted lines from it to each other obsessively. In particular I recall a Phi Alpha Literary Society business meeting being brought to a standstill by people yelling lines from the episode where Chappelle impersonates Lil Jon. "WHAT?!" I was also super excited to find out who the "friends" the show promised were going to be.

Lydia was a pretty good sport about me abandoning her on New Year's to pursue my comic hero. We prepartied with some champagne.

Dave recently made fun of people with an underdeveloped sense of humor so there was a bit of controversy about his visit.

As I have documented, this job is extremely boring and involves standing around doing nothing for extended periods of time while not being allowed to look at your phone. I'm not a lawyer but I believe this is defined as torture under the Geneva Convention. Anyhoo, there was a nice old Japanese man that worked as an usher in my area, so one of my favorite ways to kill all that horrid time was to speak my terrible Japanese at him.

One thing that was new about this show was that they were locking up everyone's phone in a little magnetic bag so that you didn't try to record the show. That only applied to the guests, it seemed, as the magnet bag company people were not present at the staff entrance. There was abnormally tight security at the staff entrance for this show only, however, and they were checking our ID badges. I wonder if that was in response to an incident or just a precaution. I actually had a sort of fantasy about how this show could go for me. I was going to meet Dave and get a nice selfie with him, but I didn't want to be in my stupid work uniform in the picture, so I bought a Kraken hockey jersey that I would... have hidden somewhere nearby that I could pop on at a moment's notice. I'm usually not the excitable type so all of this silliness was definitely out of character. It was fun to dream though so whatever.

I usually laugh when they give us these backstage credential sheets because there's no way I would ever remember all of these complicated rules, and I don't care to enforce them anyway. But look at how rad that all access pass looked!

There were a few little extras out for the staff in a dining room we didn't usually have access to. There was food but I had already eaten. I was excited about the hat selection though.

There were a couple of openers but one of them was Patton Oswalt which I thought was super cool because he was actually doing a show earlier today. Some suckers paid just to see Patton but here he was just a free appetizer to get us hungry for Dave. Ok so the arena is kind of oval shaped, as they often are. My world on the lowest floor is kind of like a big donut. There's the seats surrounding the center ice rink area, and then on the outside of both is this big hallway that all the service people use. Usually I can pretty much go wherever I want in this hallway to get various places, including the staff locker rooms and the break rooms. Well on concerts and shows like this the area directly behind the stage is no man's land. This is annoying because it makes my walk to some of those places really long. Also very tempting to me was the fact that while security was posted to keep guests out of this area, they were still letting me through. There was sort of a hierarchy of staff that I was, or at least imagined I was, towards the top of. I know for a fact we made more money than security or the normal level ushers, for example. Also tempting was the fact that our big boss was sick or something and so was not present to scold me for the slightest infraction of her ever changing stupid rules. So I was taking shortcuts through the off limits area anytime the whim struck me. I chatted at the security people a lot anyway out of boredom, so I asked some of the sentries back there if they'd seen Dave. One guy had stopped Dave's wife from entering a restricted area because she didn't have credentials, so Dave had to come out and vouch for her. Very cool! This only served to increase my level of daring. I think I went back there after Patton's set was over just in case he was milling around back there. No dice.

Later in the night my mandatory 30 minute arrived and I again took the forbidden shortcut to get to the breakroom. This time, he was back there. I think the reason he was out in the open instead of the green room or somewhere relaxing was that he's a big smoker, and he was smoking right near where they park the zambonis. Now this was still covid times, and I was serious enough about it that I was wearing not one but two masks, the outer mask on this occasion being the custom Chappelle masks they were handing out to guests. Dave was accompanied by two massive dudes I later learned were his bodyguards. So I wasn't trying to get up in his face unless invited, so spoke to him from a distance that was a bit farther than normal. The day dream of meeting Dave Chappelle that I had harbored for weeks was actually somehow happening. I played it super cool though so that Dave would know I was a normal guy and not some crazed fan in a plastic top hat. The first words out of my mouth were “oh my god it’s fucking Dave Chappelle!”, and he laughed. Then I said “hey Dave can I take a picture with you?” and he said “no I’m about to go on.” Then I said “break a leg man” and he said “thanks” and that’s the story of the time Dave Chappelle politely told me to eff off.

I was so excited that I continued to the breakroom and wrote out the entire very brief and embarrassing encounter on my phone so that I wouldn't forget. I was so happy and probably shaking a little bit, like when you get dealt an especially good hand at poker. I was so happy in fact, that when walking back to my post I passed by my shift manager Dan, who I'm pretty friendly with, and recounted the whole story. He thought it was cool and told me so, and the rest of the night went great. Dave had a recurring joke where anytime he said the new covid variant "omicron" in a story the DJ would play some techno and Dave would do the robot. Another amusing incident involved the bodyguards I'd seen earlier backstage. Dave joked that one of them could sing really well, and that the guy would kill you and then sing beautiful spirituals at your funeral. At one point the guy got up on stage and whispered something to Dave which kind of freaked me out because I thought there might be a security threat or something, but then he took the mic and sang a spiritual. It was really funny.

There were a few outbursts that I assume were related to the haters I referred to earlier. I've never been posted on any floor other than the lowest, but there are a few select luxury areas on the upper floors. I saw a video later on social media with two drunk ladies fighting outside of the fancy Moët & Chandon Impérial Lounge and a couple of my coworkers were visible in the background. What a night!

Patton got a pic with Dave. Must be nice!

Well I'm annoyed that I don't have any actual evidence of meeting Dave Chappelle but I swear it really happened!

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