Legendary comedian Dave Chappelle is sick of smartphones distracting himself and his audience during performances, and has partnered with a San Francisco startup called Yondr to do something about it.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, attendees of Chapelle’s 13 sold-out performances at Thalia Hall in Chicago this week will be greeted at the door by workers handing out three sizes of Yondr’s grey smartphone sleeves, which will lock automatically when they enter the hall. Fans will then be unable to use their smartphones until they leave the performance space inside the venue, at which time the pouches will automatically unlock. The sleeves come in three sizes, and are designed to fit all commercially available smartphones.
While this may sound a bit drastic, Chappelle and other comedians have been critical of smartphones, and the massive amount of audio and video recordings that come with allowing them during performances, because they say it weakens their brand, and makes tickets to live shows less valuable.
Further, removing smartphones from gigs saves comedians from being heckled on social media by people who didn’t even attend their events. In fact, comedian Hannibal Burress was the first to implement this technology, using Yondr’s sleeves at a show this June after receiving death threats following a viral cell phone video of a 2014 performance, in which he called Bill Cosby a rapist.
Yondr’s business model is lease-based, and the company has the capacity to accommodate up to 20,000 person events, which is above the size of many professional basketball stadiums.
A method of rendering live performances phone-free without the hassle of long check-in lines, Yondr may have found an important niche in the entertainment industry, which is increasingly filling with artists who are tired of looking out at a sea of cell phones.
The technology could also be used to protect important intellectual property from leaking early, and apply to things like pre-screenings of popular films, album listening parties, and other events which performers currently worry may be leaked on the internet.