HARTFORD, Conn. – Both supporters and critics of Dave Chappelle flooded social media sites with comments Friday, after he was heckled at a show in Connecticut and refused to perform his set.
The comedian was the headliner Thursday night at the Funny or Die Presents The Oddball Comedy & Curiosity Festival, which is touring the country and also features Flight of the Conchords and several other comedians.
Fans said Chappelle came out and told a few jokes but stopped because of the heckling. Video posted online shows Chappelle over the next 25 or so minutes sitting on a stool on stage responding to the hecklers, joking about the situation and even reading the first few sentences of an audience member’s book.
He was booed as he walked off the stage of the Comcast Theatre, and some fans demanded their money back.
Chappelle has had trouble with hecklers in the past, including in June when they interrupted his show in Knoxville, Tenn.
It’s also not the first time he has stopped performing his routine because of an unruly crowd. In Florida in 2011, he stopped performing at a charity event – checking his text messages and counting down the minutes onstage. He told a radio interviewer that in a performance in Oakland, Calif., he once lay on the stage for 10 minutes.
Chappelle on Thursday night blamed the hecklers for ruining the Hartford show. He noted his contract mandated that he be on stage for 25 minutes.
“I don’t know what I’m supposed to say for 25 minutes,” he said.
Later on, he said he didn’t blame himself for the situation, which was described as awkward by several fans.
“Hey man, I wanted to do a better show, too,” he said, apparently responding to a person in the audience. “It wasn’t my fault. Quite noisy in here.”
Chappelle called his experience a nightmare and joked he was going back to television, “where it’s safe.”
“I like some of you. I hate some of you,” he said just before leaving the stage and being booed. “I forgive some of you but I don’t forgive all of you. You guys have totally ruined my chances for running for Congress or something. ... Thank you. Good night.”
Representatives for Chappelle and the festival didn’t return messages Friday.
One of those in the audience was Connecticut state Rep. Matthew Lesser.
“He basically stopped his routine and refused to go on and said he was contracted for 25 minutes and said he was just going to sit there,” Lesser said. “He was berating the audience and telling them they were a lousy audience. I think it was kind of sad and disappointing.”
There also were many people in the crowd who yelled words of support to Chappelle.
Comments on Twitter and other sites ranged from criticizing the Hartford crowd to bashing Chappelle for not being able to handle the hecklers.
Chappelle has been making his most substantial return to stand-up comedy with the Oddball Comedy & Curiosity Festival since famously walking away from his hit Comedy Central series, “Chappelle’s Show,” and a $50 milllion deal in 2005. He took respite in South Africa for a time and largely dropped off the comedy circuit.
The Oddball festival was set to move on to Pittsburgh on Friday night.