Just as expected, visiting comic Dave Chappelle won his audience over last night at the Theater at Solaire by dishing out jokes that touched on the Filipino experience. It was the first of a two-night show and on its first minutes alone, Chappelle had brought up our beautiful beaches (he just came from Palawan) and a certain erupting volcano.
“I’ve never seen so many Filipinos in one room since my mother in law threw a party,” he said, sparking laughter among the mostly Pinoy crowd. Chappelle is married to a Filipina named Elaine Mendoza Erfe who was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York.
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The 46-year old comedian entered the stage after two front acts: the wiry-haired, brilliant Michelle Wolf, famous for her hilarious stint as featured performer at the White House Correspondents Dinner in 2018 (“I would drag him here myself, but it turns out the president of the the United States is the one pussy you’re not allowed to grab,” she said in that controversial monologue); and Arab-American Mo Amer of the Netflix standup special The Vagabond.
Chappelle took to the stage in a blinding white pullover and dark jeans, and smoked almost the entire performance (cigarettes, relax, not weed), appearing restless. But maybe that’s his natural state (sorry, it’s our first time at a Chappelle gig).
Expectedly, the Emmy and Grammy-winning standup comic touched on gender and race, at one point launching into a series of bits on transgenders which he said was dedicated to a lady named Daphne, who had endeared herself to Chappelle, and who happened to have committed suicide early in their friendship.
The comedian also talked about marriage and the three rules for a lasting one: 1) Don’t count the injury or the favors. 2) Remember that you’re here because you want to be. And number 3) Cheat! You would have had to be there, though, for his explanations. (Maybe those are not his exact words; we would have wanted to record his quotes but our phones were required to be locked in pouches right at the entrance.)
There were many funny moments in the show, some parts that are cringey (like the one discussing a particular rock icon’s sex tape), but there were also poignant junctures. He found the presence of a cowboy hat-wearing man in the audience a curiosity. And when he saw another black guy in the room, Chappelle got excited and started asking him questions. “I know why you’re here,” he added. “For the pussy.”
But to the Pinoys, Chappelle didn’t really have to try so hard. His Filipino connection is very much part of his life, having been married to a Pinay for 20 years and having known her for longer. Towards the end of the show, he paid tribute to his Filipina mother-in-law who he said bravely struggled to make a life in the United States, and without whom there would never be an Elaine Chappelle. Hence, this MIL only deserves top-tier treatment. The comedian brought her back to Manila via a private jet, he told the audience, and had a Rolls Royce pick her up from the airport.
For a country raised on biyenan jokes, that was refreshing to hear. How can you not win that crowd over?