Even after they became movie stars, the Marx Brothers would tour the vaudeville circuit, testing out new material and refining it before a live audience before immortalizing it on film. Of course, that could never happen today, because on the first stop of the tour some jerk with a smartphone would film the part of the act that didn’t work and post it on YouTube with a sensationalist title like “GROUCHO GOES NUTSO IN TOLEDO” or something.
Dave Chappelle knows this all too well, after footage of him talking trash to some idiots in the audience who thought it was hilarious to yell “I’m Rick James, bitch!” like he had never heard that before in 2013 went viral, sparking think pieces first about how Chappelle had an onstage “meltdown,” and second about how Chappelle’s “meltdown” wasn’t a “meltdown” after all. Anyway, that wasn’t the first and it wouldn’t be the last time Chappelle has had problems with audience members and their phones at his shows, so now he’s implementing extreme measures to prevent videotaping at his current run of 13 sold-out stand-up shows in Chicago.
The Hollywood Reporter goes into detail about how, exactly, the staff at Chicago’s Thalia Hall plan to implement the “no cell phones policy,” a plan that involves a startup company called Yondr. Upon entering the venue, audience members will be instructed to place their smartphones in Yondr pouches, which come in three different sizes; once they enter the “no phone zone” inside the theater, the pouches will lock shut, subjecting patrons to several terrifying minutes of looking each other in the eye before the show starts. Should that become too intense, however, audience members are free to leave the “no phone zone” and retreat to a safe location outside of the immediate performance space—say, the lobby bar, or a restroom—where the pouch will unlock and they can dive into the sweet oblivion of social media once more.
If the experiment is successful, expect to see Yondr at more entertainment events—preview screenings of buzzed-about movies, for example, or secret shows by high-profile musicians. Presumably, J.J. Abrams is ordering custom Yondr sleeping bags to lock up the cast of The Force Awakens until the world premiere as we speak.