Comedy Works shows now all phone-free, following Dave Chappelle’s lead

Denver’s Comedy Works goes phone-free after Dave Chappelle’s visit.

CHLOE
Comedian Dave Chappelle teamed up with Yondr to block cell-phone use at shows.  (Courtesy of Yondr)

Comedian Dave Chappelle teamed up with Yondr to block cell-phone use at shows. (Courtesy of Yondr)

When Dave Chappelle came to perform at Comedy Works in April, he wanted an attentive crowd.

To make sure everyone heard every word — and nobody recorded his act — he brought with him special pouches to lock up cell phones. Denver’s Comedy Works latched on to the trend and now all of their shows are phone-free, CBS4 reports.

Until teaming up with Yondr in 2015, Chappelle tried unsuccessfully to ban phones where he was doing routines. The San Francisco-based tech startup makes lockable phone socks for show patrons.

The socks lock upon entering a venue to ensure that artists command the full attention of their audiences. Patrons keep their phones on them at all times but can only access them after visiting designated unlocking stations.

Phones can be especially damaging for comedians, whose careers depend on originality. And audiences with smartphones are often disengaged during live performances, Comedy Works owner Wende Curtis told CBS4.

Many major artists, including Jack White, the Lumineers, Louis CK and most recently Alicia Keys have attempted to enforce no-phone zones at their shows.

That seems to be working with Yondr which appeared on the scene around 2014 with a simple message, “Be here now.”

“People were engaged again,” Curtis told CBS4. “I say again because there are some younger comics that have always had a lot of cellphone activity in their small careers. If you’ve been in the business for 20 years, you remember before everyone had a phone and before it was an accessory.”

Predictably, the technology has encountered some opposition. Fans expecting important calls or hoping to document their evenings have expressed frustration.

“In this day and age, my phone is how I keep my memory,” Gerard Little told the Washington Post after attending an Alicia Keys show in Manhattan. “Chris Brown. Jason Derulo. I have their footage on my phone. If you don’t want your music heard, then don’t perform it.”

Multimedia business & healthcare reporter Chloe Aiello can be reached via email at caiello@denverite.com or twitter.com/chlobo_ilo.

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