I grew up in Ft. Myers, Florida, a retirement town at that time, though the gorgeous beaches and bountiful fishing there might’ve tricked you into thinking Florida was America’s greatest state. The area was also bountiful with professional wrestling, which as a kid I loved. On its tours, the then-peaking WWF almost always filmed in Ft. Myers, and only on TV were belts lost, friends transformed into foes and new alliances forged, officially, for the world to see. And so, I was lucky to see Hulk Hogan himself fight in steel cages at least twice. I witnessed all two minutes and 30 seconds of the first-ever televised match by The Ultimate Warrior. I saw the Iron Sheik vs. Hacksaw Jim Duggan main event where, directly afterwards, police famously caught the two driving around, blackout drunk, snorting coke.
I offer this reminiscence as the only comparison I can make to the surprises that unfolded Saturday night at the first of three New Orleans shows on comedian Chris Rock’s Total Blackouttour.
Emotions had already been running high for Rock’s return. He hadn’t toured a new standup act in almost a decade. His new set reportedly detailed his divorce from his wife of 15 years—I say was, because I still haven’t really seen it, despite buying tickets. News reports have described the new set as maintaining his usual levels of funny, despite being decidedly… different. For a true fan, it’s not fun to think of Rock getting a divorce—though true fans surely saw it coming, given jokes like, “Only people who are married know what it feels like to love someone and hate them at the same time.” I was certain, though, that one of my favorite comedians could deftly navigate this sad territory.
And so I found myself lost in my feelings, sitting in the balcony of the gorgeous Saenger Theatre in New Orleans, a constellation of fake stars above me. I laughed at half of Eric Andre’s opening jokes, anxious to finally see Rock for my first time ever.
A muffled voice finally, suspiciously announced Rock’s name as if reading the title of some quiet storm slow jam. A giant set of letters blazed across a digital screen—”CR”—-and out onto the stage strode…
Dave fucking Chappelle!