Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock bring tour to Memphis: Here's everything you need to know
Memphians will have a rare chance to witness a historic comedy summit, as standup legends Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock team up for a co-headlining tour that will hit Downtown’s FedExForum on Monday night.
The show — one of only a handful of current arena dates Chapelle and Rock have announced for the U.S. — will bring two of the nimblest comic minds of their generation to Memphis.
Here's what to know before you go.
Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle: Excitement and controversy
Longtime peers and admirers of each other’s comedy, Chappelle and Rock first joined forces last fall to much anticipation, with a joint tour of the U.K. They followed up with a short run of the Western U.S. in December. The current tour, which kicks off Jan. 20 in Oklahoma City, will see Rock and Chappelle play a total of five dates in cities across Missouri, Tennessee, Alabama and South Carolina.
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Rock's and Chappelle’s recent careers have been marked by controversy. Last March, Rock was the victim of the slap heard 'round world, when actor Will Smith walked onstage during the Academy Awards and smacked the comedian across the face in response to a joke Rock made about Smith's wife, actress Jada Pinkett Smith. Meanwhile, Chappelle placed himself within a media firestorm, attracting criticism for jokes on "Saturday Night Live" and on other stages that some people condemned as anti-Semitic and transphobic.
Over the years, Rock and Chappelle have become known for cannily exposing, diagnosing and lampooning political, racial and cultural hypocrisy and identity, building on the foundation of such predecessors as Richard Pryor and George Carlin.
A 'unique' tour
The material from the tour has been closely guarded — likely because both men are working on new standup specials for 2023 — with a press release ahead of the show announcing that “any jokes and sketches delivered during (the) performance... may not be copied, translated, transmitted, displayed, distributed, or reproduced verbatim" without express prior consent from Pilot Boy Productions, a film and TV production company founded by Chappelle. However, a few reviews of the pair’s European tour dates did surface, offering look at how the Rock/Chappelle pairing might play.
Bruce Dessau of London’s Evening Standard noted that Rock and Chappelle’s O2 arena date was “a flawed yet unique encounter with two comedy titans.”
“Rock’s material on race was strong and maybe no surprise his set felt more polished as he has been touring for a while,” wrote Dessau, noting however that, “Chappelle was the more muscular in every sense of the word, smoking and stepping back to laugh at his punchlines even when they were not quite as razor sharp as they could have been.”
A review of the pair’s Liverpool show by The Guardian’s Brian Logan noted that “Rock’s outlook is not always the freshest. He admits as much here and makes an effort, I think, to soften the harder edges of his occasional chauvinism. Chappelle shares many of the older comic’s assumptions... but makes no apology for it. Rock sees the funny side of male behavior; Chappelle, the alpha ne plus alpha, celebrates and even solemnizes it. See a closing routine in which, all joking apart, he holds up the Rock v Will Smith fracas as an emblem of maleness: 'This is what men do.’” Logan added, “That’s Chappelle for you: no comic is so skilled at hanging you from their every word, none can switch so seamlessly from preaching to comedy then back again. But the charisma isn’t always backed up by strong material.”
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Chappelle/Rock show a no phone zone
As has become the custom with certain bigger shows — especially comedy events, where standups are working out material — the Chappelle/Rock date will be a phone-free experience.
According to FedExForum, “the use of phones, smart watches and accessories will not be permitted in the performance space. Upon arrival at the venue, all phones, smart watches and accessories will be secured in individual Yondr pouches that will be opened at the end of the event. Guests will maintain possession of their devices at all times and can access them throughout the event only in designated Phone Use Areas within the venue. All devices will be re-secured in Yondr pouches before returning to the performance space. Anyone seen using a during the performance will be escorted out of the venue by security.”
An expected sellout at FedExForum
Although the show was only announced in early January, most of the tickets sold instantly given the unique nature of the pairing.
As of Tuesday, the bulk of the lower bowl seating is gone — though a few platinum ticket options near the stage (ranging from $396 to $546) remain. A larger number of upper level tickets, costing $96.50 are available, for the moment. But the event is expected to sell out before showtime. To purchase tickets, go to Ticketmaster.com.
Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle in Memphis
7:30 p.m. Monday at FedExForum, 191 Beale St.
Tickets: $96.50 to $546, at Ticketmaster.com
This article originally appeared on Memphis Commercial Appeal: Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle: What to expect at Memphis show