Going to Dave Chappelle's Baltimore shows? You'll have to lock your cell phones away

Going to Dave Chappelle's Baltimore shows? You'll have to lock your cell phones away
Comedian Dave Chappelle is asking audiences to his shows in Baltimore to lock their cell phones away in a special case. (Mike Coppola / Getty Images)

Audience members at comedian Dave Chappelle’s show in Baltimore this weekend won’t just be asked to silence their cellphones — they’ll need to lock them away.

Per the comedian’s request, audience members at the Modell Lyric who bring cellphones to his Friday and Saturday night shows will be required to store them in lockable cases to prevent filming, said Nicoletta Macris, the theater’s spokeswoman.


In recent years, Chappelle has used cases made by a San Francisco-based technology company to keep cellphones — and the videos recorded on them that leak precious stage material onto the internet — out of his shows. The process is simple: audience members place their phones in a small neoprene case and lock it for the duration of the show. The cases can only be unlocked using special bases, located in the lobby.

This will be Lyric’s first time using Yondr’s cases at a show, Macris said.

“There’s rules that come with different performances,” she said. “But never as strict as Dave Chappelle.”

Chappelle also banned cellphones from his shows in Chicago, Los Angeles and New York.

“With comedy, once you tell a joke and you share a punchline in the press or on YouTube, it doesn’t have the same effect,” said Carla Sims, Chappelle’s publicist. “So it’s up to [Chappelle] to have to create new jokes every time just because somebody had posted his show on YouTube.”

Vlad Borisenko, 27, who plans to attend Friday night’s show, said he’s never had to lock up his cellphone for a show before, but “wasn’t surprised” when he found out about the policy.

“I think it’s smart for the artist, making sure people don’t steal his jokes,” he said. “It makes perfect sense because it’s Dave Chappelle — he doesn’t come around often.”

Aside from piracy concerns, Chappelle’s cellphone rule forces his audience to be present and enjoy the show, Sims said.

“It allows the audience to engage him differently and more attentively,” she said. “It allows him to be more creative and experimental with his work.”

The act of ditching one’s cellphone — even for just two hours — has becoming an increasingly more difficult task in recent years. Nearly 77 percent of Americans own smartphones, up from just 35 percent in 2011, according to data from Pew Research Center. Pew also reported that 46 percent of Americans claim “they couldn’t live without” their devices.

The Lyric currently does not have plans to use Yondr for future shows, Macris said, but the venue does take other measures to protect patrons and performers. Professional cameras and audio and video recording equipment are prohibited at the venue, and flash photography is discouraged. But it is ultimately up to the performer to decide whether they want their show photographed or filmed.

Yondr started making lockable cases in 2014 to “create phone-free spaces for artists, educators, organizations and individuals,” according to the company’s website. The company also has serviced shows for artists and entertainers such as Bruno Mars, Chris Rock, U2, Sam Smith and Tracy Morgan. Tennis champion Serena Williams even called upon Yondr to make her wedding to former Columbia resident Alexis Ohanian a phone-free zone, Billboard reported.

A representative from Yondr was not available for comment Friday.