Oddball Comedy Festival in Dallas: Sweaty, Weird and Fun, Even if Chappelle Was Rusty

Categories: Comedy

By the time I muscled through the traditional Fair Park gridlock traffic and made it inside Gexa Energy Pavilion for last night's Oddball Comedy Festival, the place was flooded, with thousands splayed on the lawn waiting for the main stage and hundreds more in the concession area. 

The "Curiosity" part of the festival's title wasn't just an ironic misnomer: The grounds feature a couple of good ol' fashioned sideshow freaks from the Cut Throat Freakshow, who were more than willing to swallow swords, put their faces dangerously close to chain saws and staple things to their bodies for our twisted amusement.
The secondary stage gave us a taste for the comedy to come inside the main arena. The closer, Chris Cubas, stole the stage with his dark, twisted tales of living next to a "dead Mexican field" where bodies of recently deceased Mexican immigrants often turn up ("People ask me, 'Doesn't that scare you?' I'm like, 'No, I'm not Mexican.'") and renaming Texas' famous large sweet teas to "super-sized diabetes." He has an awesome rhythm and timing that could keep up with the standing only crowd that has to endure 1,000-degree outdoor heat and Budweisers that cost as much as an electric bill.

As we shuffled into the outdoor area, the crew wasted no time launching the show with the high-energy Godfrey serving as the evening's emcee. Since all the main show's roster of comics are out-of-towners, each treated our climate as if it were sitting in a roast chair on the stage. It got repetitive after a while, and it's probably no coincidence that the night's best act, Flight of the Conchords, never mentioned it.

The Daily Show's Kristen Schaal opened, and clomped out on stage in a Dallas Cowboys hat cocked to the side, a thuggish-ruggish accent and some heavy misogyny. Then she whipped the hat off to reveal her long brunette locks, playing on the fact that she was the night's only female comic. It was weird, but it worked.  She also had the greatest Dallas joke of the night, lauding the city for having "the best food, the best music, the best book depository." 

Schaal's fellow Daily Show correspondent Al Madrigal also had a great set, with material about buying a house and raising a family in L.A. His best bit centered around his home life and the purchase of his tiny $700,000 home. 

"Do you know what we can buy in Alabama for $700,000?" Madrigal asked in an extreme Southern drawl. "Alabama." 

Hannibal Buress worked hard to steal the show, withstories about taking MDMA that "made me OK with pissing myself" on the dance floor because he could "dance this shit dry." He had the strongest closer of the night, with a performance of his gibberish-filled rap song that even he couldn't understand when the background music was turned off with a group of ballerinas dancing away in the background. 

Demitri Martin struggled some -- wordplay, his go-to, wasn't in this crowd's wheelhouse -- but he had a couple great jokes about the venue, wondering, "Is there anything sadder than a ferris wheel that's not used all the time?" He even managed to get in some nice banter with the crowd, even though it was a festival size and heckling was pretty much out of the question. That didn't stop them from trying. Fortunately, Martin stayed one step ahead of the assholes by doing it to himself. 

"Sometimes I feel like I'm being watched but then I realized my show got canceled three years ago," he said. 

Finally we got to the meat of the show: Flight of the Conchords and Chappelle. The Kiwi music duo delighted the crowd with stories of being on the road and all the mischief that a rock band will get up to in between gigs, whether it's enjoying one too many complimentary muffins or being momentarily trapped in an elevator.

They performed most of their classics, including "The Most Beautiful Girl in the Room" and "Inner City Pressure." My personal new favorite is a medieval-style retelling of ways men of yore would pitch woo called "Summer of 1353," which you can hear above.

Chappelle eventually made his way to the stage after what seemed like an unexpected delay. Seeing him at this stage in his career felt strange, given his infamous exit from his Comedy Central show and resulting reclusiveness. He, of course, addressed all this quickly, telling a story about hearing on a CNN report that he was making a comeback. 

"I didn't see it that way," Chappelle told the crowd. "I thought I was just catching up on some bills." 

His set was long and aimless and he seemed genuinely hampered by the heat. It ended with a failed improv bit and some awkward standing around. But his material, while not plentiful, was still sharp. 

He immediately ripped on Paula Deen, noting that there is "no statute of limitations for catching people saying the word 'nigger.'" His best work of the night came midway through his set, as he talked about hope and hopelessness and related the sad but inspiring story of a baby born in South Africa with no feet who rises above adversity and disability to become an Olympic runner. Then, when we realized he was referring to the sad saga of the Oscar Pistorius murder case, he called him "the footless OJ." 

The row of plastic seats were shaking by the time he reached the end of it.
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15 comments
LucyLou
LucyLou

Saw Dave at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion outside of Houston. Sounds like Dallas got a couple of tidbits that Houston didn't.

Dave's people brought out a cake towards the end of his set. We didn't get the skit part. Oh well.

Hannibal killed. Flight of the Conchords was good, but was about 20 minutes too long. Al Madrigal was funny as heck. And of course Demetri was low keyed funny as ususal. Schaal redeemed herself at the end. The opening part of her set was too vulgar to be funny

I had great seats right up near the stage.

I noticed that Dave touched his face a lot and moved his hand to his chest quite a bit. At one point, I noticed his hand shake a bit. Shortly after that, he lit a cigarette.

Dave's eyes looked swollen and tired. His sclera looked a little yellowish. He actually looked like he needed about 12 hours of sleep and a juice fast.

At moment's I saw the old Dave, the Dave that we all feel in love with, shining through. At others, not so much.

But, he's still Dave and we still love him. But yes, I agree that the act needs a lot of polishing before he can reach the heights of Killin' Em Softly or his HBO special in San Francisco.

Fortunately for Dave, his fans are willing to wait, and pay for, him to get it right!

manpanties
manpanties

the funniest part was seeing dave completely flustered at the crowd leaving during his failed skit.

Brian Dungan
Brian Dungan

Yeah, he was still trying to "find his groove". The cowboy tangent was just plain bizzare.

Christopher Cyrek
Christopher Cyrek

It would be nice if we could post snipers to take out bootleggers and hecklers. Paid legal tender to hear the comics, not dumbfucks yelling out bits from the 90s.

Dallas_dude
Dallas_dude

Make no mistake, everyone was there to see Dave.  Huge arenas typically don't make good venues for comedy.  His sketch bit at the end failed, and to say his ending overall was anti-climactic is an understatement.  Regardless, the talent was and still is there.  You just kind of felt like he was constrained.  I'm not saying he was mailing it in, but if you're the guy who turned down 50 million on principle, then don't make a cash grab at a huge venue.  Do a smaller venue, and do one show a weekend.  GET SOME REST AND A/C.  I'm willing to wait for him to get his shit together.  Dave get's a life long free pass in my book.

Stacy Winsett
Stacy Winsett

From all the laughter and tweets to the contrary, I was starting to think my husband and i were the only people who thought Chapelle was pretty awful. Guess it was mostly courtesy gestures.

Nik Shah
Nik Shah

Didn't know DO became amateur bootleggers.

NightSand
NightSand

I feel like this reporter wasn't actually at Gexa.  Flight of the Conchords had the least amount of crowd reaction other than when they first went on and when they left.   Al Madrigal had some of the best pops of the night, despite being still daylight.   Chappelle didn't rip Paula Deen, more commented on her racist remarks.  

  In the end Kristen Schaal was awful other than her 1 liner about Dallas.  Dimitri and Hannibal were both solid.   Godfey is high energy, thats about all you can say without being rude.  

Poop4Daddy
Poop4Daddy

@manpanties The crowd only left after he said he was calling it a night. I wish more would have called for him to keep going because before that skit he was funnier than all the opening acts combined.

Jamie_L.
Jamie_L.

@NightSand @dsmithy3211  

Did you all suspect Chappelle was extremely hungover? It was the worst live Chappelle performance I've ever seen. Very little of it worked.

dsmithy3211
dsmithy3211

@NightSand FOTC had plenty of crowd reaction, only it was of the "BRING ON DAVE!" variety.

For being the emcee (for which I set the bar extremely low), Godfrey was actually funny. As was Kristen Schaal's hook dick joke. 

dsmithy3211
dsmithy3211

@Jamie_L. @NightSand @dsmithy3211 Rustiness? Heat? General ennui? Possibly hungover (from his birthday?) ?

His whole "they charge me $5k/minute if I go over my time" thing killed the end for me. 

dsmithy3211
dsmithy3211

@Jamie_L. Fully agree on FOTC. I'm hoping they sounded better in the seated area, because they sounded horrible in general admission.

Then again, my tickets were $20, so maybe I shouldn't be complaining. The beers, on the other hand, sweet jebus!

Jamie_L.
Jamie_L.

@NightSand @dsmithy3211 @Jamie_L. I thought that venue really gobbled up their sound and made it tough to enjoy FOTC. I saw Chappelle in 2002 and again last year and he does do pretty extemporaneous stand-up, but he's always tied it back together and filled it out with great, winding stories ending in solid pay offs. There was none of that on Sunday. He mentioned he was only doing this to pay outstanding bills enough times that I believed him. Also: Yes, it's hot. We agree. But be a pro about it and play through; don't use it as a crutch with a crowd of 15,000. Those tickets were not cheap. 

NightSand
NightSand

@dsmithy3211 @Jamie_L. @NightSand I think thats Chappelle style now, low energy, observational humor.  He was solid, but agree that compared to past performances it was lacking.  I just thought it was funny that FOTC was listed as the best act of the night by the reporter. I thought their new song "daddy" fell flat and to the point where they completely lost the crowd.   

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