Dave Chappelle show in Buffalo will benefit families of mass-shooting victims

Marcia Greenwood
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

Comedian Dave Chappelle, who last week booked a last-minute show in Buffalo, said Sunday night from the stage that he had done so to honor the victims of a racist massacre at a Tops supermarket in a predominantly Black Buffalo neighborhood.

“He said, and I’m paraphrasing, I came here to Buffalo to recognize the victims and for these families,” said Kevin Sweeney, director of marketing and communications for Shea’s Performing Arts Center, the 3,019-seat venue that hosted the event.

At the end of the performance, Chappelle said family members of the victims were in the audience at his invitation and that he was donating proceeds from ticket sales to them.

Facebook commenters in attendance described it as "a very emotional, yet funny night,” “on point” and “seriously inspiring.”

Although Shea’s hosted the show, put on through Live Nation, it has no involvement in Chappelle’s plan nor could it provide more specifics, Sweeney said.

Dave Chappelle played Shea's Performing Arts Center in Buffalo Sunday. He said he booked the performance to honor the victims of the May 14 Tops shooting massacre and that proceeds from ticket sales will go to survivors.

Chappelle’s appearance was announced Wednesday, June 1. Actually, “We were notified on Wednesday,” Sweeney said. “But it’s my understanding that he’ll do things last-minute.”

Tickets went on sale on the Live Nation website at 10 a.m. Thursday and sold out within an hour.

Chappelle last played Shea’s in 2016, and that show also sold out. In 2017, Rolling Stone ranked him No. 9 in their 50 Best Stand Up Comics of All Time list. And in 2019, he was awarded the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor in a ceremony at Washington, D.C.’s Kennedy Center.

On May 3, while headlining the Netflix Is A Joke Fest at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, the comedian was attacked by an audience member. Isaiah Lee was charged with assault with a deadly weapon after pointing a replica handgun containing a knife at Chappelle. In an interview with the New York Post, Lee said Chappelle’s set, which included jokes about the LGBTQ community and homelessness, was “triggering” for him.

“I wanted him to know that next time, he should consider first running his material by people it could affect,” Lee told the news outlet.

Chappelle's 2021 Netflix special "The Closer" sparked outage and debate surrounding his remarks about the LGBTQ community, in particular the transgender community, and led to a walkout of angered Netflix employees.

Weeks after the Hollywood Bowl incident, Lee was charged with attempted murder for allegedly stabbing his roommate last December.

Chappelle wasn’t the only A-list comedian to play Shea’s over the weekend. Chris Rock, who was slapped by Will Smith during the March 27 Oscars telecast, performed at the venue Saturday night.

That show, also a sell-out, was booked prior to the May 14 Tops tragedy, in which 10 people were fatally shot and three were injured, although Rock acknowledged it during his set, Sweeney said.

Payton Gendron, an 18-year-old from Conklin, a suburb of Binghamton, has been charged in a 25-count indictment in the case with hate-motivated domestic terrorism, first-degree murder, attempted murder and murder as a hate crime. He is scheduled to appear in court in July in Buffalo for an arraignment on the indictment.

Reporter Marcia Greenwood covers general assignments. Send story tips to mgreenwo@rocheste.gannett.com. Follow her on Twitter @MarciaGreenwood.