Who's laughing now, Hartford? Camden is.
A fair portion of comedian Dave Chappelle's triumphant show at the Susquehanna Bank Center on Friday night was devoted to his infamous appearance last week in Hartford, where in the face of sustained, rowdy yelling from the audience, he walked off stage.
But as he pointed out Friday in a bit about losing an argument with his wife, he's got "a creative outlet" as a performer. In other words, a guy who goes to work every night with a microphone will always get the last word.
"You know how scary it is," Chappelle joked on the Susquehanna stage, "to get booed by a room full of people with alligators and [stuff] on their shirts?"
He talked about subsequently getting dissed on national TV by the city's mayor. "What kind of mayor gives an interview on TMZ?" he asked.
Wearing a black leather jacket that he acknowledged was "too small" and looking buff despite chain smoking through his set, Chappelle covered a lot of ground, from hiring Paula Deen as his personal chef to imagining an episode of CSI with guest star Lil Wayne.
The Oddball Comedy Tour, which brought Chappelle to town, is something of a comeback. At the height of his fame in 2005, when his Chappelle's Show was arguably the hottest thing on TV, he walked away from showbiz.
So, yeah, he has a history of being mercurial. Which may be why he greeted the crowd Friday with "Welcome to the Dave Chappelle meltdown."
The material reflected the fact that he's been away a long time. The longest bit involved the 2008 election of Barack Obama.
But there was no rust on Chappelle's act. He was quick, sharp, and spontaneous all night. At one point he was talking about a broke friend eating cold Campbell's Soup when an audience member reminded him that he was performing in the soup's kitchen.
"I know Campbell Soup is made in New Jersey," he responded. "I can taste the anger in the recipe."
Second on the bill was Flight of the Conchords, the musical-comedy duo from New Zealand. Think a far drier and wittier version of Tenacious D. In the night's longest set, FOTC performed songs like "Hurt Feelings," which filters hip-hop through Kiwi sensibilities, to a warm reaction.
Fresh off the James Franco roast on Comedy Central, insult comic Jeff Ross brought an unusual point of view. He had a cameraman positioned behind him, taping the crowd so everyone could get a good look on the venue's big screens at the people in the front rows that Ross was shredding.
Having people milling around and darkly muttering is probably not the best way to start a comedy show, but that was the case Friday. The gates opened at the show's announced starting time of 5 p.m., but the crowd was not permitted to enter the main pavilion.
For more than an hour, the only option was the "Festival Stage," a jerry-rigged setup tucked in the far end of the compound.
There in cruel, slanting sunlight, a handful of lesser-known comics tried to amuse a restive crowd.
Hey, comedy can be a brutal business. Just ask Dave Chappelle.