My wife and I went to see Chris Rock last night at the Peabody. We had never seen him in concert (only on TV), but he was in top form as he talked about Trump, guns, and religion. He also was very candid about his divorce — which he claims was his own fault for not being a good husband — and his return to the dating scene. Most of what we saw will probably show up in the first standup show in his new Netflix deal, thus you’ll get a chance to see it, too, so I won’t give any of it away.
The evening included two other comedians: opener Ardie Fuqua was mildly amusing and is best known as one of the survivors of the incident known as The Tracy Morgan Crash. The featured act was Anthony Jeselnik, with his dry delivery and cleverly-phrased jokes, who doesn’t mind testing the limits of taste (his final bit was a funny extended riff about taking a friend to an abortion clinic).
They set the stage for Rock very well, but then there was an intermission, which was odd, because if their role is to warm up the crowd, then why cool us down again with a break of at least 20 minutes? It’s not like the stage crew had to move the opening act’s equipment out of the way. Perhaps Rock gets a cut of the alcohol concessions, which were plentiful.
Last year, I wrote about a new trend at live performances — phone-free events, where attendees have to leave their phone in the car or put them in pouches from a company called Yondr. That was the case last night, too. Here’s how if works. On the way in, a staff member give you a pouch that you slide your phone into. Then they lock it and give it to you to hold onto, thus removing the company from the liability of possibly losing your phone. On the way out, you return to the Yondr desk and have your pouch unlocked very quickly, retrieve your phone, and go on your way. It’s a lot less hassle than it sounds, and a major positive for the concert environment because it means you can can’t annoy other attendees by checking your screen multiple times during the show or blocking someone else’s view by holding up your 4″ screen.
But that’s not why Rock — whose tour is titled “Total Blackout,” after all — and other comedians and music acts insist on the policy at their shows. As Dave Chappelle explained in one of his new Netflix specials, it’s so their material doesn’t get online without their permission, thus making them take fewer risks when trying out new material, or spoiling the surprise element necessary in standup comedy for others who will eventually come to see them, or ruining the context for those who will watch the entire performance when it’s released on Netflix, HBO, or wherever. I heartily endorse it.
One last note about the Peabody. Our seats last night were in the Left Center section, Row W, Seats 1 and 2. We entered through a door under a sign reading “Left / Left-Center,” so I assumed we were in the right place when we got to Row W and sat down in Seats 1 and 2. My wife asked if I was sure, and I said, “Look, seat one, seat two.” Then an usher came by and asked to look at our tickets, and it turned out I was wrong. This was Row W, Seats 1 and 2 — in the LEFT section. My wife suppressed the urge to say, “I told you so!” as we walked around, went through another door, and sat in our correct seats.
In my defense, I blame the venue. There shouldn’t be two different seats with the same number in the same row. Either start with Seat 1 on one side and move up numerically until you reach the other side, or split the place down the middle with the odd-numbered seats on one side and the even-numbered on the other. On an airplane, you won’t find a Row 19 Seat C on each side of the aisle. So why do it in an auditorium? The Peabody doesn’t have two Row W’s. Even when you get past the 26th alphabetical row, they don’t start with Row A again, it’s Row AA.
That aside, we had a great time seeing Chris Rock, who provided plenty of laugh-out-loud moments and a few elbow-each-other lines, too. It’s good to have him back.