Just after finishing his last set at the Netflix Is a Joke 2022 festival in Los Angeles, Dave Chappelle was assaulted when a spectator rushed onto the stage and tackled the comedian. But even before the attack, the evening had an eerie tone – an incongruous event that sometimes felt more like a rally than a comedy show.
Guests were asked to store their phones in Yondr pouches ahead of the final presentation of ‘Dave Chappelle and Friends’ at the Hollywood Bowl, a showcase hosted by the comedian and frequent Comedy Central roaster on Tuesday. Jeff Ross. By the time my phone had been properly sequestered, Michael Wolfwho welcomed the ephemeral Breaking up with Michelle Wolf, was on stage, in the middle of a joke about the lack of female world leaders. She was followed by British comedian jimmy carrwhose particularity Its dark material is now streaming on Netflix. Carr eschewed normal stand-up conventions to read a series of offensive and “cancellable” jokes primarily relating to the trans community. “These are jokes,” he repeated several times between punchlines, to the roar of the crowd.
The evening continued to bounce between these two opposing impulses, progressive and conservative. Sebastien Maniscalco followed a cautious path, mostly telling jokes about his wife, but indulging in softball and vaccine-sighting humor near the end of his set. Actor Earthquake also managed to avoid overtly political material, sticking to jokes relating to Los Angeles and sex. After Earthquake was filmed, Ross announced to the crowd that the widow and children of the recently deceased Bob Saget were in attendance, receiving a roar of approval from the fans.
Ross then introduced the latest recipient of the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, Jon Stewart. Stewart, as his friend Stephane Colbert, was obviously less concerned about telling jokes on Tuesday and more concerned about taunting the government, continually returning to recent news about the leaked SCOTUS project that would overturn Roe v. Wade. “What the fuck are we doing?” he repeated several times, clearly annoyed. Stewart said he “wrote a bunch of stuff at the hotel” before launching into an emotional tirade about the state of democracy in America. “It’s over. You must have babies,” he lamented, backed by a bright blue backdrop – a stark contrast to the red screen that lit up behind Carr.
Stewart continued on the political beat, telling jokes about the war in Ukraine while comparing Vladimir Poutine to Hitler. His progressive, improvised and not fully formed material didn’t seem to land with pro-Chappelle audiences in the same way as Carr’s. Stewart, however, laughed a lot when he used the word “faggot” in a joke about other rights the Supreme Court might take away.
Throughout it all, celebrities and friends of Chappelle watched and laughed. Singer Jessie J was spotted shopping for early evening snacks. Rapper Busta Rimes and his entourage entered after sunset and took their places towards the front of the bowl. And a very enthusiastic cowboy hat wearing Jamie Foxx– who would later rush to the stage and entertain the crowd after the assault – lovingly embraced Didi and his team when they entered the room.
After Stewart, the scene darkens and Chris Rock came out on stage to a standing ovation, dressed in all white. “I’m fine. I’m fine,” he told the crowd, slyly referencing Will Smith slapping him at the Oscars. Rock’s roughly 30-minute set also focused on the state of democracy. He began by confidently proclaiming that “America is almost over,” then went on to rail against the public’s “selective outrage” – often spouting the refrain “who gives a fuck?”
After Rock, the scene went dark again. Instead of Chappelle arriving on stage, video footage of Chappelle accepting the Just for Laughs Festival’s Comedian of the Year award was played to a confused and slightly agitated crowd. The video, which showed an emotional Chappelle sincerely accepting the honor, focused on Chappelle’s undying love for comedians, especially those who have recently passed away like Saget, Louie Anderson and Gilbert Gottfried. The video then moved on to an In Memoriam segment for comedians and artists who have passed away over the past year, including Halyna Hutchins, DMX, Biz Markie and Paul Mooney.