Sticks & Stones Versus Thoughts & Prayers

Somewhere in the middle of “Sticks & Stones,” just before landing the punchline to a joke, a phone rings. The room stops. Chappelle stops. Everyone freezes.

In case you don’t know, if you see Dave Chappelle live, you’re required to lock your phone in a pouch. On the way in the door, phones are secured in a pouch just after you get wanded-down to make sure you’re not carrying a fucking gun.

In the world of comedy, I’m not sure what’s more dangerous, a phone or a fucking gun.

Of course it’s a ridiculous thing I just said – the fucking gun – but we’re Americans, which means we’re not going to do anything about it.

So about the phone…

Aside from Texting and Tweeting and Hashtagging and Facebooking and Liking and Instagramming and Whatever The Fuck it is you do on Fucking Instagram, phones are tools for takedowns.

Too many comics to name have been undone by some asshole with a phone in the audience who’s recording a comedian trying out new material in the infancy of landing a joke. Bombing is just another word for trying and there’s no other way to polish your act. 

If you ask me, you’re lucky to see a comic bomb, you’re actually witnessing a step toward mastery. Instead of taking them down, you’re supposed to take it in, let the vulnerability of failure remind you to go back into your own life and take a chance. You know what happens after a comic bombs?

Nothing. The show ends. You pay your tab. You go home. The comic goes home. The sun rises the next morning, no one is scarred, no one is shot, and now you’ve got a funny story to tell. Not bad for the price of a few drinks.

Chappelle has mastered stand up on a level few comics attain. He’s been doing it since he was 14 years old. After he walked away from his show, he returned to stand up. Most comics give up on the mic or get lost in the fame or make a few regrettable movies and then retire from life, coasting on their reputation, getting off on their reputation instead of getting their lazy ass back up on the stage.

It ain’t easy building stamina to get to the other side of bombing. Mastery is a bitch! It ain’t easy, getting up there, getting knocked down, getting heckled, sparring with the expectations of the audience, the room always wins. But I cannot imagine a better feeling than landing a joke – even better than a knockout punch – it’s pure connection, a connection of the heart.

So when a phone rings somewhere in the middle of “Sticks & Stones,” everyone is in on the joke and what I love about Dave Chappelle is that he leaves the moment alone, he plays through the moment, he drops the set up, he leaves the punchline dangling, he pushes through bombing to address the phone.

Someone in the room is breaking a rule and Dave Chappelle leaves it alone as if to say this is what my show is really about…

Rules are bullshit and even my rules are bullshit so why in the fuck are we all running the fuck around destrying each other over bullshit rules when people are getting gunned down in elementary schools, high schools, colleges, strip malls, gay dance clubs, why are we all running around obsessed with stupid fucking rules when people are getting shot and nobody seems to care, including Chappelle, who admits he doesn’t care.

He’s not immune to getting shot. Neither are you. Neither am I. So what in the fuck are we doing about it? I’m not setting up a question because there’s punchline. I’m asking…

What. Are. We. Doing about it?

I vote for joking around as soon as there’s breaking news of another mass shooting. What are jokes for? If you’re boring enough to deconstruct the purpose of a joke I’d say jokes are for normalizing something we’ve all accepted as normal but nobody is ready to admit.

To answer my own stupid fucking question…

We’re doing nothing about mass shootings which means we’ve accepted the mass shootings as normal which means nothing is going to change which means the thoughts and prayers are useless which means it’s time to accept the mass shootings as normal and get on with the laughs.

I remember when there was a shooting in a church. I remember when there was a shooting in a temple. I remember when there was a shooting in a mosque. I could google the names but who cares? They’re all bullshit factories to me but the point isn’t to call out the belief, which is beautiful – belief is raw and personal and beautiful – the point is to call out what was going through the worshippers minds at the moment they were murdered. Do you know what was going through their minds? I’ll tell you…

Thoughts & Prayers. No joke.