It's the stuff of Hollywood legend: a private, impromptu show attended and hosted by stars doing unexpected things.
Dave Chappelle's "The Process," a surprise comedy show held Wednesday night at West Hollywood's Peppermint Club, featured an A-list lineup of comedians and friends: John Mayer, Jon Stewart, Katt Williams, Michelle Wolf, Will Smith, Michael Che and recent L.A. transplant LeBron James.
Chappelle joked about the #MeToo movement, sexual harassment, race and religion, among other things. “Comedy ‘Fight Club,' " he called it, which is why guests were made to lock up their cell phones before entering.
The show stretched for more than three and a half hours, with Chappelle growing increasingly loose as the night progressed. (He never once appeared onstage without a drink or a cigarette in hand).
The standing-room-only crowd was caught off guard when Will Smith took the stage, primed for his stand-up comedy debut. And, of course, he killed, with his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, and daughter, Willow, beaming up at him from the audience.
No, it’s not a new career path; it was a one-night-only performance. Inspired by his upcoming 50th birthday, Smith said he had decided to cross doing stand-up off the top of his bucket list. Luckily for fans not in attendance, the performance was being filmed for his upcoming show called — what else? — “The Bucket List.” (He plans to bungee jump from a helicopter over the Grand Canyon on his actual birthday next week.)
Smith joked about “losing control of his house,” with his wife filming her “Red Table Talk” Facebook Watch series and his son Jaden recording albums at home, leaving him to find out about it on Spotify. When Smith asked Jaden for permission to jump on the remix to his hit “Icon,” there was pushback. “He looked at me like I was the second-best rapper in the house!” Smith said.
Besides providing the musical accompaniment, Mayer made a few jokes himself, mostly of a crude nature. He seemed more at home playing chords of every song mentioned by anyone onstage, among them the theme from “Footloose,” Nirvana's “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” Deniece Williams' “Let's Hear It for the Boy” and songs by Pearl Jam, Prince and Jeff Buckley
The other comics, including Donnell Rawlings, Ashley Barnhill and Mohammed Amer, were just as provocative during their sets as Chappelle joking about topical issues as well as race and gender.
Though Stewart, who retired from his nightly talk show three years ago, mostly stayed away from politics, he mused about how it's harder to adopt a cat in this country than to buy an AR-15, which he says he was able to purchase in seven minutes. He also joked about how “Jews age like avocados” and about his struggles to woo his children toward Judaism, while his Catholic wife has a religion that “appeals to kids.”
LeBron James, who sat with the audience for most of the night, was called to the stage toward the end of the evening. There he joined fellow Ohio natives Williams and Chappelle who declared that the the world’s greatest basketball star would lead his new team, the Los Angeles Lakers, to a championship, a sentiment heartily endorsed by all.