October 22, 8pm. Skydive Dubai, Dubai Marina.
Dave Chappelle’s first-ever performance in the Middle East began with Palestinian American comic Mohammed Amer, whose jokes about his painstaking 20 years to becoming an American citizen (“being on the phone to immigration where even the hold song was [En Vogue’s] You’re Never Gonna Get It”) had the largely Arab audience tickled.
Next up was Donnell Rawlings – no stranger to the UAE. He performed in Abu Dhabi, which was so alien to him he couldn’t pronounce it. A friend asked him where he was. “I said, I’m in Abra Cadabra!” he joked. He was thrilled yet baffled by the opulence of Emirates Palace. “Even the water had gold flakes in it. I was drinking the water smiling and spitting out the flakes,” he laughed, following Amer smoothly with his crowd-pleasing (if controversial) brand of comedy.
The MC then got the packed auditorium to their feet, playing tracks including Bob Marley’s One Love and Queen’s We Will Rock You, creating a party atmosphere before Chappelle’s silhouette appeared behind a screen, making the crowd erupt with cheers and applause. “Dressed like Forrest Gump” in a mustard suit, his controversial routine focused on subjects including race and politics, for which he apologised, saying, “Sorry to anyone who will get into trouble for this!”
We learnt that he took his Filipino wife to see Manny Pacquiao fight Floyd Mayweather (“that was a quiet ride home”). But perhaps best was a joke about his son punching a classmate in the face because he believed she was taking bites of his sandwiches, Chappelle later admitting it was him all along – he built this up expertly through the show. And most heart-warming? He brought his 15-year-old son on stage at the end to wish him happy birthday.
Those who weren’t familiar with Chappelle before this show were given the best introduction to his comic genius. We’re already looking forward to his return.