I’m not sure what I can say about the Dave Chappelle news that I haven’t said a million times already except, perhaps, with the caveat that I’m the luckiest boy in Boise, I regularly have nightmares where I somehow find myself in a room full of maskless people and wake up terrified and sweating until the fog gradually clears and I remember this can never happen because the pandemic stranded me in a city where I only know my roommate and haven’t seen anyone else in my life for almost a year. So it honestly fills me with fear and disgust to see pictures like these—
—of this traveling ensemble of comedians and their friends going about their lives performing indoors and eating indoors and carousing indoors in one city and another city and another city after that as if nothing unusual is going on, as if they’re free of the impossible burdens borne by everyone else in the world and have no duty to suffer any inconvenience for the greater good. I was glad to read that Chappelle’s spokesperson says he’s asymptomatic; I hope he recovers swiftly, I hope his exposure’s impact on the people around him is minimal, and I hope anyone else infected recovers swiftly too. I also hope the rest of us are able to call his conduct during the pandemic—and Joe Rogan’s, and Michelle Wolf’s, and so many other comics’ and clubs’, and sure why not throw in Elon Musk while we’re at it—what it is: reckless, dangerous, inexcusable, and unconscionable.
I’m sorry to sound dramatic but I’m feeling dramatic. This shit pisses me off! The unstated promise Chappelle made his fans and coworkers and support staffs was that he’s too rich and smart and careful for this to happen. A great many people believed him and spent time around him and partied with him and performed with him for unmasked audiences who paid money to see him. It was obvious this would happen, now it’s happened, and there’s no excuse not to learn (and ACT ON) the obvious lessons we already learned when it happened to Donald Trump. No amount of money can protect you from this virus. No amount of rapid testing can protect you from this virus. No amount of saying you’re DOING EVERYTHING RIGHT can protect you from this virus. No combination of these things makes it safe to do unsafe activities and none of them protects the hundreds or thousands of people you encounter in the course of those activities. You cannot cheat your way around the obligation we all have toward each other right now—the obligation to make difficult sacrifices, to give up our favorite things, to miss our friends, to be unhappy for a while so fewer people die.
As I wrote when Brian Regan tested positive on tour last month, this news exposes failures at numerous levels: the clubs that remained open, the governments that didn’t close them, the comics performing at them, the media naively promoting their shows. These failures are ongoing. Next month Tim Dillon is headlining indoor shows in Baltimore and Ohio. Whitney Cummings is scheduled to headline in Tempe, Reno, and Salt Lake City. Shane Gillis is performing in San Antonio next weekend and Raleigh the weekend after that. Tony Hinchcliffe is headlining in Phoenix. Corinne Fisher and Jessica Kirson are playing Helium Philadelphia; Steve Rannazzisi, Tony Rock, and TJ Miller are playing Helium St. Louis; Dan Soder and Andrew Schulz are playing the Columbus Funny Bone; Mark Normand, Rosebud Baker, and Big Jay Oakerson are playing the Omaha Funny Bone.
It’s my newsletter, I’ll keep going if I want to: Joe Machi, Jared Freid, and Yannis Pappas are headlining Side Splitters in Tampa, where there are functionally no safety protocols. Shawn Wayans, Bassem Youssef, and Christina Paszitsky are headlining the Houston Improv; Brent Morin and Darren "Southern Momma" Knight are playing the Addison Improv. The next couple weeks at Zanies Nashville include Dusty Slay, Theo Von, TJ Miller, Big Jay Oakerson, Josh Wolf, and Rob Schneider. The next two months at the Tampa Improv include Russell Peters, Pauly Shore, Covid-survivor DL Hughley, Ali Siddiq, DeRay Davis, Marlon Wayans, and Brendan Schaub. The February calendar for Wiseguys’ three locations in Salt Lake City lists Pauly Shore, Whitney Cummings, Andrew Schulz, Russell Peters, and Big Jay Oakerson. Next week The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon will air one of Pete Lee’s sets this weekend at the Acme Comedy Company in Minneapolis, effectively giving NBC’s stamp of approval to a potential super-spreader event. (No surprises there, I suppose.)
Need I tell you whether any of these clubs require their audiences to wear masks at their seats? I’ll tell you anyway: they don’t. Well, Wiseguys says it does, but photos tagged at the club paint a different picture. The de facto policy every club has adopted since comedy reopened is If you care about safety, don’t come; if you don’t, do. It’s selfishness: the policy is selfishness. And everyone on the road right now thinks that policy is well and good.
None of this should be happening. It’s been happening the whole time. I don’t know what else to say.