If there weren't photographic evidence or video proof and we hadn't seen it with our own eyes, we wouldn't have believed it. Dave Chappelle and Katt Williams headlined the WiLD 94.9 Comedy Jam at Shoreline Amphitheatre over the weekend. For stand-up enthusiasts, it was like spotting two unicorns in one evening.
Even though they were the billed headliners, it was anything but a given that it would happen without a hitch. Each comedian is coming out of a period of reclusiveness, and each has had some disastrous onstage experiences in the past month.
For Chappelle, a planned standup appearance at a Florida charity show on July 22 turned into a standoff with audience members heckling him and recording the show with their phones. The latter angered him so much that he said almost nothing until the DJ gave him a musical exit cue. Williams, meanwhile, was escorted by police out of a California comedy club on Aug. 8 after a show somehow went awry, according to TMZ. Retired from stand-up for close to four years, Williams has been a staple on the gossip site for a string of bizarre incidents and altercations.
Lots of comedians take the stage and say how happy they are to be performing in the Bay Area, but we actually believed Chappelle and Williams. The day before, Chappelle briefly went onstage at the Outside Lands music festival in Golden Gate Park and, by way of greeting the crowd, mentioned that he had performed more than 200 hours of stand-up here.
"I forgot how exciting show business is, especially in the bay," he said at Shoreline, pulling on a blunt.
He praised Oakland as "the first openly gangsta city in America" for taxing marijuana -- and he seemed a bit dulled overall by the herb's intoxicating charms. He appeared to run out of steam a few minutes before he finished: "You can tell your career is almost over when you run out of shit to say," he cracked.
He brought up his bad onstage experience in Florida and made fun of his issue with people recording him and putting it online.
"I'm a big fan of YouTube," he said. "You'll see me on there later tonight."
He said that he had been touched to receive a birthday cake onstage at the third Comedy Jam and had never forgotten it. This set wasn't one of Chappelle's mythical six-hour monologues in an intimate Bay Area club, and he didn't seem to enjoy it as much, but it was good to see him.
As befits a man emerging from a self-imposed retirement, Williams made a much more dramatic entrance. A bevy of buxom black women in high heels strutted on stage to Beyoncé's "Run the World (Girls)" carrying strange props that would complete a miniature stage set. Props included an eagle statue draped in a gray and white Louis Vuitton knit scarf; the skull of a bull; plush throw rugs; and copious amounts of smoking sage.
The women walked Williams out. He wore a purple shirt and shoes and a ski cap to match the eagle's scarf. He said "Buenas noches"to the large Latino contingent in the crowd, and warned the white people that there are two places to stay away from in the Bay Area.
"One is Oakland and one is Yosemite National Park," he cautioned. "Fifteen people got killed in Oakland, 14 in Yosemite National Park. White people, don't go there!"
Williams joked about marijuana as well (he said the sage was a decoy in case he wanted to spark up a blunt himself), but he seemed comparatively more upbeat and connected to the crowd than Chappelle.
"I've been retired for 45 months because something happened to me while on tour that fucked my whole world up," he admitted early in his set.
What prompted this talented man to step out of the spotlight while seemingly on top? We had waited years for the answer and were at the edge of our seats.
"I came home from tour," he continued, "and all the children -- even the baby! -- had gotten taller than me."
He finished his set by declaring his candidacy for president in 2012. Then he lingered onstage to peel off a few more layers of accessories and clothing, tossing them to the roaring crowd. If he liked the performance enough to give people the shirt off his back, we hope he's been sufficiently encouraged to stay in the game.