Dave Chappelle has partnered with Yondr, a company that produces smartphone-locking pouches, for his upcoming live shows in Chicago. The device pouches will be handed out to audience members upon arrival, enabling them to keep hold of their phones but preventing them from using them during the show.
Yondr, the San Francisco-based start-up, already lease out the equipment to schools and theatres. It currently has enough inventory to cover a 20,000 seat concert hall.
For comedians, the proliferation of smartphones in their live audience is more than just an annoyance – it’s a threat to their carefully controlled self-promotion. The glow of the screens may disrupt the show itself but it is the live videos, which inevitably find their way onto YouTube, that can do real harm.
Unpolished and controversial material can lead to Twitter storms and even death threats – as experienced by Yondr early adopter Hannibal Buress, when a video of him calling Bill Cosby a racist went viral in 2014.
Comedians have struggled with the smartphone dilemma for a while: requests to refrain from smartphone use often fall on deaf ears and withdrawing devices can lead to long queues and increased theft.
Geoffrey Hutchinson of Yondr said: “Chappelle has always been a big advocate of creating a phone-free show so that he, and others, can perform without a fear of content leaking.
“The deal came into place on short notice as his team and the venue looked for options to facilitate the phone-free experience. They were considering other cellphone free options, but nothing allowed people to actually keep their phones with them.”