Touted as Dave Chappelle’s biggest comedy comeback since retreating from the white-hot spotlight of his eponymous Comedy Central show eight years ago, the 15-city Live Nation-Funny Or Die Oddball Comedy and Curiosity Festival will put the reclusive entertainer in front of some of the largest audiences in standup history.
The tour, which kicked off last week before a crowd of 14,000 in Austin, comes to the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View on Sept. 20, where Chappell—armed with an arsenal of stories and American Spirit—will share a stage with Flight of the Conchords, Kristen Schaal, Aussie-born raconteur Jim Jefferies, roastmaster Jeff Ross, Bay Area transplant and Daily Show correspondent Al Madrigal, Demetri Martin, Chris D’Elia, Hannibal Burress, Brody Stevens and John Mulaney.
“I’m really excited to be working with Dave Chappelle and Flight of the Conchords and the other guys,” Jefferies, 40, says. “I’ve worked with Flight of the Conchords before, way back in England, so it will be good to see them again.”
Jefferies, who moved from Australia to Los Angeles by way of London a few years ago, will perform at four of the tour’s West Coast stops, including Mountain View. The rest he can’t attend because he’s filming the second season of his show Legit, which reprises its run from FX to FXX next year.
“These will definitely be the largest audiences I’ve ever performed for,” says Jefferies, whose iconoclastic act has earned him a reputation as a dirty comic—and a storyteller, too, whose material, like Chappelle’s, grows less setup-punch jokey and more autobiographical with age.
“I’m super excited about the whole thing, mostly to play in front of that many people,” he says. “I don’t know how it’s going to look or feel. Normally before I do a gig, I’ll get there 20 minutes early to the show to get a feel for it and relax a bit. But here, I want to show up earlier in the day, hours earlier to wander around and take it all in. It’s going to be a new experience for me as much as anyone.”
Though TV filming has limited his standup show schedule to once or twice weekly, Jefferies actively writes new material all the time. His next hour-long special—even though he’s not sure where to film it and who will buy it—is already written.
“I talk a lot about what’s going on with my life,” says Jefferies, who met his girlfriend and mother to his first and only child, Hank, on the set of his show’s pilot, (when she played a hooker he hired for his wheelchair-bound friend to lose his virginity). “I hate to be pigeonholed as a dirty political comic or whatever they say I do, the things that I was doing in my 20s. I think I’d be a little childish doing that material now. It’s not fitting who I am these days. I just try to do what I find funny at the moment, and hopefully it relates to someone somewhere.”
To avoid falling into the trap of becoming famous enough to start writing jokes about being famous (like Ricky Gervais, for one), Jefferies has made a habit of actively seeking out or accepting situations that would lend themselves well to his act. So when his mom asked him to join her for a family cruise with a bunch of kooky relatives he fought his inclination to refuse and told her, sure, he’ll go. Enough hilarity shall ensue to make it worthwhile, he figures.
The beauty of the Oddball lineup is the diversity of talents, from storytellers like Jefferies and Chappelle to exaggerated personas like the ever-eccentric Schaal or the one-liner-happy Martin. Even in a massive arena, Ross is sure to deliver his quippy brand of insults to the audience (so those in the front row should be ready to get singled out).
A second stage will feature local acts for each metro market; the lineup for Shoreline’s auxiliary stage has yet to be announced. But each event comes accompanied by buskers, vendors, psychics and novelty acts.
Oddball Comedy and Curiosity Festival
Sept. 20, 5pm; Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountain View