The vaccine-mandatory world premiere of Dave Chappelle: This Time This Place reopened Radio City Music Hall Saturday night for the first time since Covid hit.
“I’m so sorry if you lost someone, or lost something during this pandemic,” Chappelle said, taking the stage when the film ended.
“We did what we could,” he said.
One thing he could was a series of comedy shows in a neighbor’s cornfield that drew his friends and colleagues – from Jon Stewart, Chris Rock, Kevin Hart and Trevor Noah — and fans to the town he calls home, Yellow Springs, Ohio.
The closing night film of the Tribeca Festival was directed by Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar, Chappelle’s neighbors, who won an Oscar for American Factory. “I literally knocked on their door,” Chappelle said.
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“He’s a neighbor. We see him in the grocery store. He said, ‘I’m going to try something. A week of outdoor comedy shows. I have a friend who has field, and you need to document it,” Reichert told the audience. The shows lasted for months.
“Documentary film [and] comedy. You may think, pretty different. But it’s all about storytelling and trying to find the truth,” she said. The film weaves in challenges faced by the town during the pandemic and the emotion of the Black Lives Matter movement that exploded after the murder of George Floyd.
Radio City (which seats over 6,000) is a massive theater, not easy to fill, said Tribeca CEO Jane Rosenthal in her intro – “unless you’re Dave Chappelle.”
“I love New York City. I made my name in New York City. I met my wife in New York City. I had two of my three children in New York City,” said Chappelle. “I am proud to be the opening night of Radio City.”
His remarks were followed by a concert featuring Q-Tip, De La Soul, Fat Joe, Redman and others that took the delighted audience by surprise. It had their full attention as all phones had been placed in Yondr pouches, meaning were disabled during the event.
Attendees included Tribeca jury members Sharon Stone, Iyabo Boyd, Judith Godreche, Sabrina Schmidt Gordon, Delroy Lindo, Omar Metwally and Hari Nef as well as Jesse Williams, Bob Saget, Dale Moss, Zoe Kravitz and Anthony Anderson.
Tribeca, which wraps tomorrow, is the first in-person festival in North American since Covid shut down live events in spring of 2020. It has hosted 250 in-person events, many outdoors, with close to 100,000 attendees across NYC’s five boroughs. New York and California both formally removing most pandemic restrictions five days ago.
The Tribeca Festival was launched after the September 11th attacks in 2001 to help revive the city. “We would never have imaged that our 20th festival would face challenges that were even more unprecedented,” Rosenthal said.