Rebecca Grant on Monday took a photo of the Palace Theatre marquee donning Chris Rock’s name in lights before walking into the venue and giving up her smartphone for the night.
“I can’t wait to hear him say ‘The Palace’ — ‘The Palace Theatre,’” the 40-year-old Albany woman said. “I think he’s really smart. I think he hits on a lot of truth. It’s refreshing to hear.”
And while she was happy to secure her phone in a fabric pouch for the night — a requirement in Rock’s contract for the show — she and her husband, Scott Grant, did have some concerns about being off the grid. Patrons got to keep the pouch, but it was locked and needed to be unlocked by someone in the lobby.
“I’m more concerned for security reasons,” Scott said. "If I need my phone, I need my phone.”
“There’s a 13-year-old at home watching our children,” Rebecca added.
Without their phones, the nearly sold-out crowd kept close watch on Rock’s set, giving him a standing ovation when he walked on stage and off and constant laughter and applause. During the set— part of Rock’s “Total Blackout Tour,” his first world tour in nine years — Rock delved into his personal life, talking seriously about his divorce from his wife of 16 years last year and taking a lighter tone to talk about using dating sites like Tinder. He dug into topics like politics and bullying, at one point even combining the two.
“We need bullies,” he said. “That’s how Trump became president. We got rid of bullies, a real bully showed up and nobody knew what … to do.”
He even touched on New York state politics and Gov. Andrew Cuomo while taking a jab at Albany, “a show business dream come true.”
“It’s like Silicon Valley up here it’s so advanced,” he said. “The governor’s up here and that’s about it, ain’t it? We got the governor here and he leaves every chance he gets.”
Rock never did say “The Palace” as Rebecca Grant had assumed he would, but his surprise opener, Dave Attell, best known for when he hosted "Comedy Central’s Insomniac with Dave Attell," did remark on the historic theater’s look. He called the theater creepy, but not without knocking his own persona.
“I mean, I’m creepy, but yeah, this is it,” he said. “I look like the guy who probably fixed the boiler here.”
Of Albany, he said it had been too long since he last visited -- not.
“This is the place I usually turn around in before I hit Buffalo,” he said to laughter and applause from a crowd that knew how to take a joke.
Before the show even began, patrons got to laugh at the loud speaker announcement: “Please silence your cellphones.”
The pouches their phones were in are made by a San Francisco company called Yondr. They are being used by a growing number of comedians who hope to not only eliminate smartphones as a distraction but also safeguard intellectual property.
There was plenty on the line Monday night for Rock, who is touring to develop materials for two upcoming Netflix specials for which he was paid $20 million apiece. In addition to blocking fans from recording and sharing any parts of the show on their devices, Rock asked that reporters not to make any specific mention of jokes or punch lines in their coverage, according to Palace marketing director Sean Allen. Reporters also had to comply with the no-cellphone policy.
“They don’t want any of the jokes or content of his show given away in the review,” Allen explained.