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Dave has left the building - and the city. (We think.)

It's official: I am the only person in Durham who did not see Dave Chappelle when he was in town this month.

From what I've been able to determine, even the people who weren't able to nab tickets to the funnyman's performances at the Carolina Theater - despite an extra show being added - encountered the comedian about town.

Where and how did people see Chappelle?

Let me count the ways:

● My cousin called to tell me about hanging out with him in the Criterion bar from 11:30 p.m. to 3 a.m. after one of his performances.

● A buddy reported bumping into him at the 21c Museum Hotel.

● Curtis, a college pal who lives in Durham, texted to say "I saw Dave strolling down the street today" after seeing him perform the previous night.

● Seymour Pettigrew said he saw the humorist at Whole Foods munching a Portobello mushroom burger. "We started rapping about this, that and the other and he told me he was a vegetarian," Pettigrew recalled. "When I got up to get some napkins, Dave asked if I'd bring him some of those little mustard thingies. He was very polite, so I said 'Sure.' Well, when I got back, I noticed a big bite from my cheeseburger was missing.

"So was Dave," he said.

● A woman who was trying on dresses at TJ Maxx on Chapel Hill Road for an office Christmas party related how Chappelle "appeared out of nowhere" and suggested that she select the black-and-white dress instead of the all-black one.

"He told me the one with the horizontal stripes would be more slimming because it made me look taller and distracted the eye from my midsection. When I came out of the dressing room to thank him, he was gone.

"But you know what? He was right," she said, still awestruck. "The dress was a smash at the party, and Jim in Accounting finally asked me out. Thanks, Dave."

● Several people told us Chappelle was denied entry into the Pinhook club by an intrepid gatekeeper who didn't appreciate his perceived attacks on gays. That would be understandable, since on Yelp, Pinhook's owners wrote that the club welcomes "queer folks/POC folks or other marginalized communities."

● My cousin texted a picture of Dave and his child, Durham activist and creative artist A.J. Williams, posing for a selfie in downtown Durham.

Seems the only place Chappelle wasn't spotted was sipping a pina coloda at Trader Vic's.

Even though his return to the stage hasn't been met universally with hosannas - some accuse him of too often "kicking down" at his targets instead of "up" - America's comedy scene during his hiatus became considerably less funny.

The irony of so many Dave sightings is that the comedian, conflicted in 2006, walked away from a $50 million Comedy Central contract and essentially disappeared for a while, apparently content to - in the immortal words of Mike Tyson - "fade into Bolivia."

Before you rush out to start a GoFundMe page for Chappelle, though, just remember that he recently signed a $60 million deal with Netflix for three specials on the streaming service.

Seeing how absence makes the heart grow fonder, would a Chappelle who'd never walked away from TV - one who was being seen on the tube daily or weekly - have been able to command $60 million?

Good question. Next time you see him at Whole Foods or TJ Maxx, ask him.




Meet Barry Saunders

For over 20 years, Barry was a columnist for The News & Observer in Raleigh, NC. He also wrote for other publications, such as the Atlanta Constitution and the Richmond County Daily Journal. Often described as powerfully honest and illustratively funny, Barry's writing is both loved and hated by readers- sometimes simultaneously.  


Want more? Get your own copy of one of Barry's published books featuring reader favorites (and not so favorites) from his years writing columns for The News & Observer. Titled "Do Unto Others...And then Run" and "...And The Horse You Rode In On Saunders!", they're full of guaranteed entertainment. 


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