Over the past week, Dave Chappelle has spent several late nights of his most recent trip to New York City dropping in at the Comedy Cellar to work the crowd and work out new comedic material.
Over the past few months, Chris Rock has done likewise, albeit more methodically on the mechanics of a specific new hour-plus of stand-up.
Early Wednesday morning, they performed together. Onstage. At the same time. This was not a dream. This was not a drill. This was real. Rock and Chappelle, onstage together. Riffing off of each other. It was the first episode of a podcast you may never hear. Or the first stop on a fantasy stand-up comedy tour — a tour that very well might happen sometime later in 2013, if the two comedians could put their business heads and their schedules together. Which they actually began to do onstage right in front of the unsuspecting audience last night at the Cellar.
“Come out to Oakland,” Chappelle told Rock.
“You should come down to West Palm,” Rock replied.
Chappelle: “After next Tuesday, I’m free for like 11 years.”
Rock said he has a new movie of his own he’s going to film later this spring, and would be cutting it over the summer. “I’ve got time between now and the movie,” Rock told Chappelle onstage. “By Halloween, I could do dates.”
This all took place over the course of a couple of hours after midnight. After the final scheduled act on Tuesday’s double bill at the Cellar, host William Stephenson beckoned for the audience to remain seated, apologizing briefly for having told them the show would be over, then quickly adding he had a good excuse to change course. Stephenson then introduced Chappelle, who performed solo for 40-45 minutes. Just as Chappelle was thanking the audience and preparing to leave, Rock hopped onstage, too, still clad in his hat and jacket.
“Aw, you lucky mother fu@&3rs.” Rock told them.
For the next hour, the two comedic icons just riffed. On the Oscars and Seth MacFarlane’s performance as host. On Kevin Hart showing up at the Cellar the other night, and his two sold-out concerts last fall at Madison Square Garden. On Prince, who’s supposed to be in the city this coming weekend. On Jay-Z and President Barack Obama, and the sights and sounds of a $20,000-per-plate Obama fund-raiser last year at Jay-Z’s 40/40 Club. On passing on the chance to open for Jay-Z during his sold-out concert run at Barclays Arena in Brooklyn. “I had no material!” Rock demurred. “Neither do I!” Chappelle countered. They joked about eating fast food. And on the prospect of calling up another famous friend for a late-late-night outing to eat spaghetti. Just because it’d be funny to Chappelle to have strangers see a group of famous men (married with children), out late together doing something completely normal and boring. Chappelle convinced Rock to text Jay-Z at around 1:30 a.m. After a lack of a reply, they called Arsenio Hall and left a voice-mail message; then later the same for Lenny Kravitz.
“This could be the show,” Chappelle said. “Fireside chats with Chris Rock.”
“I’m in,” Rock replied.
So are we.
Rock joked that he needs time to prepare for an actual tour, stand-up or otherwise, before committing. “Dave’s like, let’s just do it Wednesday. Unannounced!” he said.
Just when they were saying goodbye to the audience and reminding them to tip their waiters and waitresses, Marlon Wayans rolled into the club. They brought him onstage for about 15 minutes of an ad-hoc interview. Then Rock left for home, bringing a DVD of the club’s recording to show his wife why he was out so late on a Tuesday night. “I’ve got proof,” he told The Comic’s Comic before leaving.
Wayans hopped back offstage.
At 2:50 a.m., Chappelle remained once again a solo act. He jokingly bragged he remained standing so he could be the last comedian onstage. “Well, that happened,” he said.
And it could happen again later this year.
Instead of writing your local congressional representative, perhaps try contacting HBO, Showtime, or your own favorite TV station to help put together a national tour, a limited Broadway run, and a cable special that’s truly special.
UPDATED (2/28/13): Here’s something I left out so as not to spoil it. Rock had told Chappelle that night that he was having dinner on Wednesday with Kevin Hart (in NYC this week to host Saturday Night Live). Chappelle joked about staying in the city a bit longer, even if just to prank Hart. What they did accomplish was more than that, as all three men showed up together onstage late Wednesday night at the Cellar, as did Marlon Wayans (again) and Bill Bellamy. As Questlove described alongside his Instagram photo early Thursday morning, it was an epic night that kicked off with a solo set from Hannibal Buress.
Related: The Comedy Cellar informed fans earlier this week via email that it’ll launch regular stand-up shows this weekend at its larger basement performance space around the corner on West Third Street’s The Village Underground. “The Comedy Cellar at the Village Underground” shows happened semi-regularly last year for events such as CMJ, book release parties and tapings of Tom Papa’s SiriusXM show, “Come to Papa.” The stand-up showcases beginning this weekend are meant to complement the existing Cellar as well as the continuing late-night concerts and music jams at the Village Underground, which have attracted their own surprise celebrity guests, including John Mayer and Shaquille O’Neal.