Chappelle merges music and laughs for Smyrna comedy night

 

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Todd Chappelle performs during last year’s Delmarva Folk Festival, near Hartly. He will be part of an Evening of Musical Comedy Feb. 6 at the Smyrna Opera House, joining Hot Breakfast! and The Mean Wendy Band on there bill. (Delaware State News file photo/Dave Chambers)

Whether it’s his love of bacon or Doritos, his uvula or Neil Diamond covering Sir Mix-a-Lot, not much is off limits for comedy singer-songwriter Todd Chappelle.

He’ll try to prove that Feb. 6 when he performs as part of An Evening of Musical Comedy at the Smyrna Opera House. Mr. Chappelle is joined on the bill by Wilmington acoustic “dork rock” power duo Hot Breakfast! and the Philadelphia-based comedy group The Mean Wendy Band.

For the last 10 years, Mr. Chappelle’s original songs and parodies have been heard on “Good Day Philadelphia,” CNN Radio, the BBC and “The Dr. Demento Show.”

He has performed at the New York Funny Songs Festival, the Philadelphia Funny Songs Festival, the Chicago Comedy Rock Festival and numerous local venues.

Best Bets logo CLEAR copyHe was also the winner of the Delmarva Folk Hero contest at last year’s Delmarva Folk Festival, near Hartly, put on by the Delaware Friends of Folk.

But he didn’t start out this way. He gradually grew into his role as a silly singer influenced by musical comedy artists such as “Weird Al” Yankovic, social satirist Tom Lehrer and political satirist Mark Russell.

“I started in the mid-’90s just doing cover gigs. I did that for about 10 years, going into bars playing James Taylor and Jimmy Buffett songs. And that was OK but I found it way more interesting to do my own stuff,” he said.

“I started writing humorous songs and throwing them in there once in a while and generally they got the best reaction. I didn’t know anyone in the area who was doing humorous music so I tried to write more and more. Once I got more and more songs together, I started doing gigs with just the comedy music and it took off from there.”

A 1993 graduate of the University of Delaware now living in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, Mr. Chappelle is perhaps best known for his song “I’m From Delaware,” set to the tune of Johnny Cash’s “I’ve Been Everywhere.”

The original song, written in 2007, rapidly name checks quite a few cities and towns in The First State and took off quickly.

“I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of that song that I didn’t expect,” he said.

“I wrote and recorded it back before Facebook and was not expecting the response it got. I was honored that so many people liked it and passed it around.”

But as the popularity of the song grew, so did some discontent among listeners.

“I started getting emails from places all over the state saying, ‘Hey, you missed my town.’ That’s a great example of a song that has evolved over time. It started out as this little two-and-a-half minute song and it’s now grown to include so many towns and additional verses.

“I say to people now, ‘If your area isn’t included, then you must live in a housing development.’ ”

The song, which was the title track from Mr. Chappelle’s second CD, has received airplay on 14 stations in Delaware and Maryland and was voted Song Of The Year by the listeners of Wilmington radio station WSTW’s “Hometown Heroes” program.

It was also used in the 2015 PBS specials “Dela-Where?” and “Dela-Where? 2.”

“That song will never die. As long as it’s on YouTube, it will outlive me.”

Mr. Chappelle said he is always on the lookout for material.

“Like any singer-songwriter, I always have half-finished songs. I’ll record little memos on my iPhone of parody ideas and stuff,” he said.

On his latest album, released in 2013 called “Morning People,” he has two food-related songs, the snack ode “I Love Doritos,” and “More Than Bacon,” a tune directed to a woman and which extols her virtues but cautions he will never love her more than bacon.

“I guess you could say that food is one of my favorite topics to write about,” said Mr. Chappelle, who also has a song called “Gravy,” set to the Patsy Cline tune “Crazy.”

One of the highlights of his musical career was getting airplay on the legendary “Dr. Demento Show.”

His tune “My Conjoined Twin,” about a man who used to be the physical half of another person caught the offbeat disc jockey’s ear a few years back.

“That was a dream come true. I’ve been a fan of his forever,” Mr. Chappelle said.

He tries not to get too political for fear of alienating half of his audience but there is one target right now that’s hard to resist.

“Donald Trump is pretty easy. I know a lot of Republicans who even can’t stand him. But I don’t do any political songs in my live performances,” he said.

Mr. Chappelle just recently wrote “Trump and Palin,” about the political partnership between the two, set to the Frank Sinatra tune “Love and Marriage.”

The Feb. 6 Smyrna performance will be one of many where he will share the bill with Hot Breakfast!

“They are just great. They are my musical comedy brother and sister. They’re just so high energy and a lot of fun. People should come to see them and not me,” he said modestly.

Hot Breakfast!, comprised of Jill Knapp and Matt Casarino, opened for Wilmington’s Joe Trainor Trio at the Smyrna Opera House in November and recently released the CD “The Big Reveal.”

The Mean Wendy Band has roots in music performance and sketch comedy. Lead vocalist and Philadelphia improviser, Wendy Lenhart started writing original songs in 2014 and soon collected a “Man Band” of fellow comedians and musicians.

They showcase a variety of musical genres from the crooner years of the 1950s, some smooth 1970s-inspired singer-songwriter tunes to a somewhat misdirected children’s song. They have appeared at musical and comedy venues throughout the Greater Philadelphia area.

Tickets for the 7 p.m. show are $16 for general admission and $14 for opera house members, senior citizens and military.

They can be purchased at www.smyrnaoperahouse.org, calling 653-4236 or visiting the theater at 7 W. South St.

More funny business

You can warm up your funny bone with a choice of two standup shows tonight.

Staying at the Smyrna Opera House, Tommy Pope headlines the return of Blue Hen Comedy.

Mr. Pope blends observational humor with an subtext. He won the title of “Philly’s Phunniest” at Helium Comedy Club in 2011 and has since been touring nationally. In 2012, he was named a New Face in the prestigious Montreal’s Just For Laughs Comedy Festival and currently stars in the Comedy Central web series, “Delco Proper.” Also in the bill is Jake Mattera and Matt Hagerty.

The show is a makeup of last weekend’s performance, which was snowed out. It starts at 7 p.m. Doors open at 6:15.

Tickets are $16 for general admission and $14 for seniors, military and SOH members.

They can be purchased by calling 653-4236, visiting www.smyrnaoperahouse.org or stopping by the box office at 7 W. South St.

In Dover, The Schwartz Center for the Arts will host a Night of New York Standup Comedy at 7:30 p.m.

Headliners include Joe DeVito, who has been an in-demand panelist for many network TV shows after leaving a career as a journalist and advertising writer. Joining him is Buddy Fitzpatrick, a Philadelphia native and currently a New York City club favorite.

Emcee Katherine Williams will host the evening of laughter.

Tickets are $24-$30. To purchase them, visit www.schwartzcenter.com, call 678-5152 or stop by the box office at 226 S. State St., Dover.

Harrington happenings

It was announced this week that The British Invasion Tribute will perform at Harrington Raceway and Casino’s Exhibit Hall on Saturday, March 19 at 8 p.m. as part of the On Stage — Harrington series lineup.

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The British Invasion Tribute will play Harrington Raceway and Casino’s Exhibit Hall in March. (Submitted photo)

Hits from the Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Dave Clark Five, Herman’s Hermits and more capture the decade of music. In response, American groups such as The Monkees, The Doors, The Byrds, The Mamas and the Papas, The Beach Boys and countless others were born rounding out the 1960s. The show pays homage to the music on both sides of the Atlantic.

Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at www.harringtonraceway.com, by calling (888) 887-5687, ext. 5246, or stopping by the Casino Gift Shop. All ages are welcome.

Also as part of the On Stage — Harrington lineup, The 5th Dimension with Florence LaRue, scheduled to perform Jan. 23 at Exhibit Hall, had its show canceled due to the snowstorm.

The show, which was originally rescheduled for April, is now set for 8 p.m. Oct. 1.

For buyers who have purchased tickets, they will be honored on the rescheduled date.

For any refunds, online purchasers will receive instructions through an email notification from Ticket Fly. For refunds for tickets purchased at the casino, stop by the gift shop or call (888) 887-5687, ext. 5246, for information. Refund deadline is Sunday.

Tickets for the show are $34 and can be purchased at the gift shop or the above number and at www.harringtonraceway.com.

Now showing

New this weekend in theaters is comedy takeoff “Fifty Shades of Black,” the action-adventure films “The Finest Hours 3D” and “Jane Got a Gun” and the animated sequel “Kung Fu Panda 3 3D.”

On DVD and download is the Tom Hanks film “Bridge of Spies” with Delaware’s own Jillian Lebling, “The Last Witch Hunter” with Vin Diesel and Sandra Bullock in “Our Brand is Crisis.”

Reach features editor Craig Horleman at chorl@newszap.com

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