The roar of the crowd buzzed with Vitamin Love the instant Dave Chappelle walked on stage. Nearly 3,000 people packed into Seattle's Paramount Theatre gave him a standing ovation that seemed to last minutes.
The look of glee on his face was unmistakable.
"It's good to be out and not have to explain myself!" he shouted.
Chappelle has been one of the most talked-about acts in show business since he skipped out on a $50 million contract to continue his hit Comedy Central show and went AWOL to Africa.
In recent television interviews, he dismissed rumors he'd abused drugs or gone off the deep end. He said he took off because he'd had it with Hollywood and all the behind-the-scenes politics.
Too much stress, not enough Vitamin Love, he told Oprah. And the crowd went "Awwww..."
There was no need to explain himself at the Paramount on Sunday night. He knew the sold-out crowd couldn't care less whether he was high or off his rocker, as long as he kept them laughing.
He beamed a devilish grin as he leaned over and said he was going to share a secret. "I AM crazy!" he shouted. The crowd went wild again.
"Getting called crazy is the best thing that ever happened to me!" he said. "It's liberating, because when people think you're crazy, you can do whatever you want."
A few jokes later, he recalled meeting Jessica Simpson in a Los Angeles restaurant, then chewing out the paparazzi waiting outside when they showed no interest taking his picture. A Mexican photographer appeared to take pity on him, clicked off one shot, then leveled with him.
A Simpson photo could go for tens of thousands of dollars. A picture of a black comedian? "I don't know, man," the guy told Chappelle.
While joking about Dick Cheney's accidental shooting of a hunting partner, someone in the audience yelled out that the vice president didn't even have a permit. Chappelle just shook his head and couldn't help commenting on the unintended humor. "White people get mad about technicalities," he said.
Some fans, like 25-year-old Kristina Robinson, say they're drawn to that kind of racial satire.
"He says stuff that most people wouldn't say," Robinson said after the show. "He's able to walk that thin line when it comes to racial issues."
Ty Burham, who's 28, called Chappelle a good storyteller who isn't afraid to offend people, "which is good," he said. "It makes you think."
Comedy was only half of Sunday's lineup. The crowd seemed equally enthralled when Rapper Mos Def and hip-hop maven Erykah Badu took turns on the stage. They're two of the musicians who performed in a Brooklyn street concert filmed on location for "Dave Chappelle's Block Party," a movie due in theaters March 3.
At one point Chappelle poked fun at the crowd, wondering out loud how many white folks weren't feeling it with Mos Def. "Hmm, that guy isn't that funny," Chappelle deadpanned, using his trademark news anchorman voice.
Chappelle does have a serious side. In two TV interviews earlier this month, the 32-year-old spoke candidly about his gripes with Hollywood and the mess that can result when art and corporate interests collide.
Who knows whether he'll return to Comedy Central and pick up where he left off, part way through the third season of his show? He's been doing standup since he was in his early teens, and says he's happiest in front of a crowd.
On James Lipton's "Inside the Actor's Studio," he recalled the first standup gig he did after going AWOL. He told the crowd in Cincinnati he was close enough to his farm in Yellow Springs, Ohio, he could get home fast if he had to run.
"The club sold out real fast," he said. "And man, when I walked out on that stage, and them people was screaming, I get teary-eyed just thinking about it."
He doesn't seem terribly torn about the road ahead. A bit scared, perhaps, but ready for whatever comes next.
"I don't know how this how this whole Dave Chappelle thing is gonna end," he told Lipton and his students, "but I feel like I'm gonna be some kind of parable about either what you're supposed to do or what you're not supposed ...
"I'm gonna be something. I'm gonna be a legend or just that tragic (insert Bravo-bleeped expletive here) story, but I'm going full throttle. I'm going all the way."