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How Dave Chappelle Is Keeping Bad Smart Phone Video Away From His Shows

By Kate Shepherd in Arts & Entertainment on Dec 2, 2015 9:11PM

photo via Live Nation

Comedian Dave Chappelle is in Chicago this week for an exciting residency at Thalia Hall.

When the residency and an accompanying set of 12 evening shows were announced last week, we wondered how Chappelle's camp would enforce another announcement: that no cell phones or other mobile devices would be allowed in Thalia Hall for the performances.

It's almost a given that big name comedians like Chappelle can expect to find grainy cell phone videos of their sets on the Internet within hours, if not seconds, of their performances. And so far comedians have mostly had to deal with the consequences of watching careful-honed new material turn predictably stale in record time.

Chappelle is turning to Yondr, a San Francisco-based start-up with smartphone-locking pouches, to keep phones out of the theater. Attendees will be handed gray smartphone sleeves (which are available in three sizes) to place their phones in.

The audience members are welcome to carry their phones into the theater but the pouches will be locked shut so no one will be able to access them. If someone needs to make a call or check you email, they can leave the zone and "as you move past several strategically placed stations, the pouches can now magically be unlocked".

Chicago native Hannibal Buress was the first comedian to try Yondr at a show last June, after a video of him calling Bill Cosby a rapist during a performance went viral. The company's also worked with electronic artist Zhu and some schools.

The Thalia Hall deal could be the catalyst that brings Yondr to bigger venues, the creators of the app hope. They say they're equipped to service a 20,000-seat arena, like Allstate Arena which has 18,500 seats.

It's an efficient way to disable smartphones: Making people check their phones, like you would check a coat, and retrieve them after the show is a logistical nightmare. But artists are still trying to make it work—Mumford and Sons used the method during their most recent tour.

Attendees don't have to worry about their phone being taken away from them with Yondr.

"People just don't want to give up possession of their phone," founder Graham Dugoni told the Hollywood Reporter. "It's like an extra arm."