Dave Chappelle slayed in Toronto last night. It was his fourth stand-up performance of a five-night, nine-show run at The Danforth Music Hall. And let it be known: the man’s still got jokes. Dude had me struggling to breathe. In the parlance of our times, I couldn’t even.
But you know what else I couldn’t do? Check Facebook.
That’s because Chappelle hates it when people use smartphones at his gigs, and he’s done fucking around. He’s teamed with tech start-up Yondr to create phone-free zones at all his shows. It works like this: you drop your device into a sock-like pouch, which then locks once you enter the venue. It’s like smartphone solitary confinement. And you know what? I loved it.
Now maybe you’re a bit apprehensive of this idea. “What if I’m expecting an important work-related email?” you wonder. “What if my wife’s water breaks and she can’t reach me?!” All valid points (more or less). But calm your horses: if you need to make a call or send a text, you can leave the designated phone-free area, and the pouch will unlock.
Maybe it’s a bit inconvenient, but try seeing it from the comedian’s perspective. Imagine trying your hand at stand-up while people kept whipping out these distracting glowing devices. All this while knowing your well-honed material would plummet in street value due to asswipes posting clips of it on YouTube. You’d likely have a panic attack, or at the very least a pretty stilted delivery, and then wake up to viral Vines of yourself bombing the next morning.
Empathy aside, here’s the main reason you should love Yondr: it forces you to live in the moment. When’s the last time you went to a concert and weren’t surrounded by people taking in the performance through their camera apps? Instead of, you know, their actual eyes and ears? We’re so hell-bent on capturing every notable minute of our lives that we miss them altogether. But if you just look at something IRL, like Louis C.K. once said, the resolution is unbelievable. It’s totally HD!
Life can be pretty great when you’re not busy broadcasting it.
I, for one, am glad I experienced Chappelle in better-than-4K quality. With no social media apps to keep compulsively checking, I could only hang onto his every word, and pay attention to his every nuance (I truly got to appreciate the nerdy timbre of his white guy voice). It made the jokes hit that much harder. (“Al-Qaeda’s fallen off. They haven’t had a hit since 9/11! They’re on the same career trajectory as Ja Rule!”) He did a Rob Ford impression that literally made me squeal like a piglet. And I have no shame in admitting this, because I did what few others do today: I paid my undivided attention to something, and relished it thoroughly.
You should too. Hopefully Yondr becomes the norm at more live performances. Because life can be pretty great when you’re not busy broadcasting it. Besides, when you use your phone in the dark, it lights up your big dumb face.