The Watchtower of Destruction: The Ferrett's Journal - Why It’s A Good Thing Dave Chappelle Told His Audience To Fuck Off
[Recent Entries][Archive][Friends][User Info]
Why It’s A Good Thing Dave Chappelle Told His Audience To Fuck Off|
So last week, Dave Chappelle told his Hartford, Connecticut audience to fuck off.
He came on stage for the Oddball Comedy Tour – whose tickets are not cheap – and decided that the audience was too loud and rowdy for him, yelling out catchphrases from his old show and (according to some reports) heckling. And so after a couple of minutes, early in the show, he sat down and started smoking, doing his contractually-mandated thirty minutes of some definition of performance. Then he told the audience, “I only have three minutes left. And when my three minutes is up, my ass is gone. I’m going straight to the bank and doing night deposit.”
Interestingly enough, I don’t have a problem with that.
Comedians are an extension of service culture in America, which is a thing I have severe problems with anyway. I’ve long said in my Yelp reviews that I like my restaurant service a little al dente – which is to say I love a join like the Velvet Tango Room, which has rules for you to follow and will throw paying customers out if they show up in a white limo and start disrespecting the place. That’s the VTR, which is upscale, but I love Old-Fashion Hot Dogs equally, with its friendly servers who don’t take shit. You make them feel bad, you’re fucking out on your ear.
This is inexcusable behavior in a chain restaurant. You wouldn’t find some mass-produced chain with a policy of “We have our standards, and you’d better live up to them or we don’t want you here.”
In America, if someone’s paying you, they are your master.
America’s business is founded on the idea that “the customer is always right,” which any retail associate will tell you is wretched, wretched bullshit. The customer always has the money, it’s true. The customer will keep you in business. But right? Just work the returns desk for a while and see the ridiculous things that customers try to pull, returning fully-eaten meals because “They didn’t taste good,” returning clothes they’ve obviously worn on their entire vacation and now want to return because they don’t need these shorts any more, returning dog-eared books with coffee stains.
We want our clerks servile.
And I think that’s an extension of America’s decaying slave culture.
I know America’s all supposed to be the land of the free, but you hand someone minimum wage – which, as Chris Rock reminds us, is your employer saying, “We’d pay you less, but it’s illegal” – and there’s this silent expectation that you give up all your dignity. For that $7.25 an hour, you’ll wear this funny hat, and smile for hours on end, and if someone screams at you because their french fries had salt in it, we are going to take their side. Because those people are paying our bosses money, and when someone pays you cash you don’t question them, you don’t make them angry, you assuage them.
Which, I think, creates monsters. I think humans largely take their cues from other humans about what’s acceptable, which is why it’s so important to speak out when you see the subtler forms of discrimination. Laugh at that joke, and you’ve just told someone, hey, that’s okay. And endemic in American culture is the concept that if you pay someone, they – the workers – are actually being obnoxious if they demand you treat them with respect.
Lay down and remember who’s right: the guy with the wallet. This cash? That’s the respect.
Now shut up.
That’s terrible, both from a human rights aspect and an experience aspect. The human rights aspect is terrible because it has the assumption baked in that if you pay someone a wage that is literally not enough to live on, they can still control your life: hey, we woke you up on your day off to cover for someone else and you didn’t make it? Fuck you, fired. Want a different schedule than what we gave you? Fuck you, fired.
And hey, you may need to fire people if your staff is unreliable enough, but what I’m getting at is that underlying sense of they had it coming. They knew the deal: minimum wage jobs are shitty, and for that small not-quite-livable cash you should be willing to fuck your kids over because hey, better than broke, right?
Let me be clear: That is not slavery, because hell, at least you can quit, and I’m not going to go the moron route of drawing a direct comparison between Mickey D’s and Roots. The horrors of the slave trade are manifest, and not quite over, as there’s still bits of slavery floating about the world. I’m pretty sure those poor bastards would be quite happy to work the Taco Bell experience.
Yet I think there’s an element of culture handed down here, because I think America has this attitude of wanting absolutely mindless drones to work for them, and a moral outrage built in of “We gave them $7.25, Christ, why are they still upset? Don’t they know the rules?”
But even if we ignore the degrading aspects of what we want people to shell out for, there’s still a problem:
It makes for shitty experiences.
The reason mass chain experiences are invariably bland is because you can change the decor, you can shuffle the food about, but you can’t change the experience. Because a lot of experiences are defined by what you can’t do. The ballroom dancing experience isn’t the same if you can show up in a baseball cap and jeans. The fine dining experience isn’t the same if you can bring in a six-pack of PBR. Hell, the seeing baseball experience isn’t the same if you can’t cheer when your team scores – no, the crowd can’t stay silent!
We often call this “snobbery” in America, but fuck if restricting the potentials doesn’t lead to a more interesting experience. Because yeah, maybe it’d be more convenient if you showed up to the opera in light-up deelybobbers, toting a vuvuzuela, but the atmosphere is ruined for everyone else.
If you’re trying to create a certain mood, the people who aren’t working with you to try to create that mood have gotta go.
Which means that in Service America, only the lowest of the low get thrown out. You practically have to crap on the table before they’ll show you the door. Everyone else, well, they’ve paid the cash, they can’t be expected to live up to a standard – the cash is the standard. So movies become shitty because while most theaters will pay lip service to folks talking over the movie and texting on their phone, they won’t act upon that until other customers have reported the crime and made it clear that hey, it’s not the theater, it’s other cash-givers getting upset. A place like the Alamo Drafthouse, which I’m told actively polices its customers, is rare indeed. A place that takes money and expects the customers to act a certain way even when other customers aren’t complaining? Holy shit, that’s insane.
Which brings us back to Dave Chappelle.
He’s a comedian, and he’s trying to make the audience feel a certain way. To do that, the audience actually has to work with him a bit. And if the audience is shouting “I’M RICK JAMES, BITCH!” and interrupting his punchlines with their own stupid observations, well, that fucks with the experience a comedian is trying to provide. Dave is actually less funny when he’s trying to deal with these morons, and if a comedian takes any pride in what s/he delivers, then s/he must be furious when these lowest common denominator folks bring it down for everyone.
Comedians hate hecklers, on the whole. But they have to endure them, because the audience has paid, and snapping their fingers to point security at these assholes to haul them off would, somehow, make the comedians a dick. That would be an uncomfortable inversion of power in America, the guy you paid cash to telling you how to act. And so comedians do shitty routines that are less amusing for everyone, dealing with morons who should not be in the crowd.
He’s got, as they say, “Fuck-you money,” and the willingness to utilize his power.
So when Dave said, “I’m not dealing with this, I’ll do my bare minimum” and left, as craptacular as it was to the rest of the audience, I actually cheer it on some level because Dave refused to go along with what we all expect, which is that if you get paid you have no right to have expectations of your employers. It’s a potent statement, and in many ways one of the most insidious, because shit, it points out that even the rich and famous are actually held hostage to this goddamned paradigm.
I have other thoughts on Dave, many of which aren’t quite as complimentary; I may get to the actual performance he gave in Detroit, and the useless draconian lockdown on cell phones. But in this, I cheer the man, because I think he did the right thing, just like the minimum-wage walkouts in major cities, just like the VTR and Old Fashion Hot Dogs alike are a subtle battling of one of the most entrenched and toxic American ideas:
You don’t get everything for your ticket price. You just don’t.
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.
This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/328383.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.
I had a boss once tell me "The customer isn't always right, but the customer always wins". Being back in the retail business this last year & a half has reminded me of this over & over. But, I do find myself smiling more when I'm the customer & making a point to tell workers have a great day. I'm lucky that the majority of my regulars are sweet, patient, & kind.
|Date:||September 3rd, 2013 02:20 pm (UTC)|| |
OMG! I can't wait to share some of these with my co-workers. Especially the gerbil one. I work at a pet store. This made my day!
|Date:||September 3rd, 2013 03:00 pm (UTC)|| |
My wife and I have both worked at pet stores, and both worked IT and customer support, so waaay too many of those are close to home. :D
I do like that rephrasing.
|Date:||September 3rd, 2013 01:44 pm (UTC)|| |
I did, actually. Read it to Gini on the drive back from Philadelphia. Really, really good stuff.
You don’t get everything for your ticket price.
Good advice to remember when choosing how to entertain one's self.
|Date:||September 3rd, 2013 02:15 pm (UTC)|| |
I like your icon.
|Date:||September 3rd, 2013 02:14 pm (UTC)|| |
I have to say that this is one of your best essays, ever. Considering how long I have read you, that says something!
|Date:||September 3rd, 2013 02:18 pm (UTC)|| |
Sadly, money just doesn't guarantee class. Good for the VTR for establishing and maintaining standards. Bart Simpson is partially responsible for the "hey, man, it's no big deal" attitude today. We should still "have a cow" when somebody's being obnoxious at the expense of other peoples' comfort.
On the other hand, I believe my money is as good as the next guy's, and places that deny me service or make my experience unpleasant because I don't APPEAR to belong in their rarefied air are taking it too far. Mother used to say a cat can look at a king. I should be able to browse through Lord and Taylor without the staff ignoring me or looking down their noses. There's a lot of emphasis on class envy, nowadays, and the mistreatment and demeaning of customers as well as service personnel pours gasoline on that fire. Just because you have money doesn't give you carte blanche to bypass common courtesy.
There's always gonna be some asshole in the crowd of spectators at a golf tournament who has to holler distracting comments. Thankfully, so far, management has and still does reserve the right to toss that boor. And there still are a few theaters that police the viewers (Cinemark, for one) for blatant disregard of the rules of common courtesy.
It would be instructive to see if Dave Chappelle's next audience takes the hint and is better-behaved.
Considering I was Dave Chappelle's next audience, they were, but that also involved security being really unneccessarily harsh.
I also agree with the snobbery, at times. I've been to good restaurants where I was underdressed, and they were nice to me. They got a lot of my money from then on. But there were times when I was out of line to show up shabby. Tough call.
|Date:||September 3rd, 2013 09:37 pm (UTC)|| |
A bit OT:
The comment about being underdressed makes me think of something. I've had this idea, and I can't pinpoint where it comes from (a mishmash of reading history, etc.) but isn't there an 'unspoken rule' that the upper classes (and I won't get into a whole dissertation on class and bloodlines and money) are supposed to be gentle and kind--that it's a mark of good breeding to be hospitable to those of lower classes, rather than to be rude and shitty? Somehow this has gotten all skewed over time, like how the definition of 'condescension' has become about being rude to others rather than recognizing those of a social class lower than your own. If I'm on the right track, I think it may come from ancient rules of hospitality--that welcoming others into your home was the height of manners. A gain this is just me riffing on an idea that's been rattling around in my brain.
That's kind of like chivalry, I think; more the exception than the rule, and made much of because of it.
|Date:||September 3rd, 2013 02:19 pm (UTC)|| |
|Date:||September 3rd, 2013 02:36 pm (UTC)|| |
Customer service rules> apparently feels that the customer should never have to queue. Not sure what planet they come from. Maybe planet "super luxury" where every store has more members of staff than customers...
Then again I'm English. Queuing is in my DNA. (AFAICT from reading stuff online Americans have this "customer service workers should be servile" meme much much worse than we do too)
|Date:||September 3rd, 2013 02:39 pm (UTC)|| |
Unfortunately, that's not the article I was looking for, but it's the closest I could find. Many years ago, Tino wrote an article elaborating on how "The customer is always right" was one of the worst things to happen to the customer service industry, and from an entitlement-of-customers standpoint, I'm inclined to agree -- but that in no way frees up service providers to think that *they* are always right, either.
I'd definitely agree with that.
|Date:||September 3rd, 2013 09:40 pm (UTC)|| |
Being an American living in the UK, the difference in customer service is something I've had to get used to. But it has brought out clearly the fakeness that so much CS is in the states. And I agree that Americans expect service workers should be 'servile'. It's vile. And I love how here in the UK there are signs in certain places (train stations, etc.) that make a point of telling people to treat workers with respect and that being abusive will not be tolerated.
ever go watch your favorite band from back in the day and you remember all their hits, and you just can't wait to hear them played. And when the band gets on stage, there is all this new stuff that's awful. Meatloaf would never do that to his audience, he'll give him the bat out of hell. There are those who say that's what happened in Hartford. That chapelle didn't shuck and jive didn't give the audience what they wanted. That maybe he should have.
I don't think that's what happened. Chappelle said this: "That crap was evil torturers, an arena full of suburban torturers, young white alcoholics, just booing and talking all kinds of s***."
Sometimes you get an evil audience, they get way too drunk and don't actually like you. I wouldn't read too much more into this, racial components, minimum wage, it's just a bad audience, drunk stupid and bored. It happens.
|Date:||September 3rd, 2013 09:13 pm (UTC)|| |
When David Bowie toured with NIN,he only played songs off of his album that was just released...until the encore when he played Under Pressure.
The crowd didn't boo him. His songs were met with polite applause. Perhaps the reaction would have been different in a more intimate venue.
i think instead of "more intimate venue" you need a "more drunk and stupid audience"
then you'll get booed.
This is why I'm glad I work in an area that has "clients" and not "customers." You can fire a client--and at my work, the #1 reason for clients being fired is if they abuse the staff.
I recognize how lucky I am in this regard.
I went to a comedy night with some friends once, and it was complete ruined by hecklers.
A year later we went back, and the venue has a "no-heckling rule" posted up in several places. One party of drunk people heckled the first comedian, and when I came back to my seat after the first interval the drunken idiots were gone.
Now _that_ is service.
Yeah. But you have to justify that shit in terms of "It makes other customers miserable." The concept of the establishment wanting it is just... alien.
God bless you.
This side of the issue has never been covered this well in my appallingly wide experience. I'm all but certain that any random person can tell at least one story about going to spend money somewhere and having the staff treat them like they're scum for, apparently, having money and not handing it over yet. But for someone to stand up for the quality of life of the people not getting paid for abuse is far too rare.
|Date:||September 3rd, 2013 09:19 pm (UTC)|| |
A friend of mine owns a small business. He will give a customer a quote to do X for a certain price. There are people who,when his crew arrives, tell him "I want you to do Y and Z for free while you are here, and if you don't I will slam you on Angie's list. "
He says overcoming a bad review there is a bitch, so he ends up doing the work, sometimes at a loss.
In the future if that person contacts him he either blows them off or adds an additional asshole buffer to the quote. So while the customer may enjoy an initial smug "victory", that customer loses in the long run.
This is why Angie's List should (if it doesn't already) allow service providers to rate customers. That's how Uber works-- riders rate drivers, and vice versa.
The problem with that, as ebay found, is the "if you give me a bad review I'll give you a bad review too" threat. Though I'm not entirely sure that that [i]is[/i] really a problem, so long as 95% positive is considered good for a customer.
|Date:||September 4th, 2013 12:05 pm (UTC)|| |
I think they have recently given vendors the ability to respond to comments left on the website. Of course, those could turn into pissing matches.
|Date:||September 4th, 2013 12:10 am (UTC)|| |
I always wanted to do the math on rude customers. If a person is working for a (generous) $8 an hour, that means the 15 minutes they dealt with you is only $2 of their paycheck. You want a $100 experience for $2? What world are YOU living in?
Or conversely: they're getting $2 for putting up with your shit, why do you think you get a discount?
Absolutely right. Cash shouldn't entitle you to behave how you want, it's simple human decency...
As far as Chappelle goes, though; he may hate hecklers, but he should be able to deal with them by belittling them in an amusing manner... Part of his job should include the ability to improvise according to the temperature of a certain room - NOT just being funny when following a prepared script.
You can have expectations if you want, but it shouldn't be viable to just leave... We all gotta put up with aspects of our existence that we don't like - for rowdy audience members that might include getting ripped a new one by the headlining act... but for the performers themselves, it should also include tweaking the act so that hecklers don't disrupt the entire spectacle.
If you're the heckler, and you get your target to stop and leave the stage, then you've won... What sort of precedent does THAT set?!
"As far as Chappelle goes, though; he may hate hecklers, but he should be able to deal with them by belittling them in an amusing manner... Part of his job should include the ability to improvise according to the temperature of a certain room - NOT just being funny when following a prepared script."
NO NO NO NO NO NO NO.
That is a thing that many comedians end up having to do, but it is absolutely not part of the job.
Doing that *encourages* hecklers -- it makes them think that they're 'part of the show' and that what they're doing is helping, rather than what it actually is -- making the comedian go from their prepared material, which might actually have something in it of worth, to obvious put-downs.
The people at the Chapelle gig weren't hurling abuse, they were *trying to join in*, but in a way that spoils the show for everyone else. That kind of behaviour *destroys* live comedy, which is a very, very fragile art, and it *needs* to be squashed. And humorous put-downs won't do that.
If they end up having to do it, then it IS part of the job, by default… In a perfect world, it wouldn't be, but that isn't the world we live in.
Encouraging them may be detrimental, but it has to be less so than abandoning the show altogether… If you stay on the stage then you at least have a chance of getting back on script… If the comedian gives up and leaves, then they more than anyone have derailed proceedings.
I've SEEN comedians win a room back by destroying hecklers… It's more common in the UK (which doesn't make it right… but it is the case).
If the comedian encourages the heckler, then they've not only participated in the destruction of their own show, but of all future shows that heckler (and others who see that behaviour and wish to emulate it) decides to wreck.
I've seen comedians win rooms back that way too (and I *am* in the UK). But it always, *always* wrecks the show.
And saying "If they end up having to do it, then it IS part of the job, by default" is the justification for people having to deal with every bit of crappy behaviour they ever have to put up with in their jobs -- which is rather what the original post was arguing against.
It HAS to be less of a destruction than just stopping completely - that is a self-imposed moratorium.
Wrecks the show from whose perspective? The comedian's? Surely the goal is to make the audience laugh, and if they're still doing that, then that has to be qualified as more of a success than depriving people who are present AND well-behaved of enjoyment.
They can choose NOT to do it - as Dave did (we don't live in a dictatorship, after all) but if you know that there's a strong possibility it could happen, then it's only wise to be prepared. Not playing along doesn't eradicate the problem, after all… It only delays it, in that instance… Having your show interrupted must be horrible, but once it's happened, what else have you got to lose? Why not try to fight fire with fire? At least make an effort!
|Date:||September 12th, 2013 10:13 pm (UTC)|| |
Word. If I managed a store or restaurant, I would make sure my employees knew that I would back them up against unreasonable customers, and I would have no problem telling asshats they were no longer welcome at my establishment. I don't understand why bad behavior has to be tolerated.
|Date:||October 1st, 2013 02:00 am (UTC)|| |
I so get it...
I like going to the movies... I like to sit and laugh when it's funny and jump when it's scary... I do not like to hear someone's side of a domestic squabble with all the teen angst and I'm a tough little thug wanna-be bravado thrown in... After the third time he called his 'woman' a bitch, I got up and walked over to him and took his phone away from him and told her he would call her back... I then shut the phone off... I told him to sit and watch the movie or go to the lobby to fight with his woman...
I then threw his phone at him.
I went and sat down... Other than what was going on in the movie... There was not a sound in the theater... until he got up and left.
Once he was gone people started clapping and cheering and I had to "Shush" them... Which got a chuckle...
People talked to me after the movie and told me they are afraid to get involved...
Big guys and even an off duty cop.
They did not want to start trouble.
My wife wanted me to go get a manager...
But... I was sick of it...
Was I right?
I didn't feel like I was doing anything special...until later.
But I just wanted to watch the movie...