Skip to main content

U.S. comic Dave Chappelle is pictured with Toronto Mayor Rob Ford on August 22, 2012 in a Twitter screengrab.Isaac Ransom

Comedian Dave Chappelle paid a surprise visit to Toronto Mayor Rob Ford Wednesday to ask about the city's smoking bylaws.

The eccentric stand-up artist and film star, who is scheduled to perform the last of three sold-out shows at the Winter Garden Theatre Wednesday night, walked into city hall without an entourage, apparently to ask if he could smoke on stage.

"He was inquiring about our smoking bylaws," Isaac Ransom, the mayor's special assistant for communications, said. "Our office assisted him and while he was here, he met Mayor Ford."

Mr. Ransom tweeted a picture of the mayor and Mr. Chappelle after both left the mayor's office, though not together.

The photo shows Mr. Chappelle in a long white tank top, jeans and a backpack standing next to a smiling Mr. Ford.

Mr. Ransom would not confirm that Mr. Chappelle wanted to light up a cigarette during his indoor show – "That's a question you'll have to ask Mr. Chappelle," he said – but a City Hall receptionist who overheard a conversation between Mr. Chappelle and another member of the mayor's staff said that was the purpose of the comedian's visit.

"He was just checking up on the bylaws ... he just [asked] if he would be allowed to smoke tonight at his show, on stage," Kristina Molodovets said, adding she "almost passed out" when she realized the star of Chappelle's Show was at Toronto City Hall.

Mr. Chappelle's trip to city hall seems to have been prompted by a warning his promoter received from the theatre's management after the U.S. comic smoked during his first Toronto performance Monday night.

Ellen Flowers, a spokeswoman for the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre, said Mr. Chappelle puffed on one cigarette during that show; a review in Now Magazine said he smoked five.

"Chappelle walked out puffing on a cigarette," according to the article. "He'd smoke four more in the course of the 75-minute set loosely organized around what he's been thinking and doing for the past seven years."

Ms. Flowers said Mr. Chappelle refrained from smoking during Tuesday's performance.

Toronto Public Health, which enforces the province's Smoke-Free Ontario Act in the city, knew nothing of Mr. Chappelle's plans to smoke during his first gig.

The agency didn't warn him in advance against lighting up indoors as it did last year when Charlie Sheen appeared at Massey Hall.

But it did provide a gentle reminder to the theatre Wednesday.

"This afternoon we got in touch with the Elgin [and] Winter Garden just to remind them of the Smoke-Free Ontario Act. All performers have to be in compliance with that legislation, there's no exemptions to that," Kris Scheuer, a spokeswoman for Toronto Public Health, said.

Mr. Chappelle, who has appeared in such movies as Half Baked, You've Got Mail and Con Air, is best known for his subversive sketch television hit, Chappelle's Show, which ran from 2003 to 2005.

He walked away from the show and the spotlight that year, but has since popped up in abruptly announced stand-up gigs like his three-night run in Toronto.

Toronto's mayor is a fan of Mr. Chappelle's comedy, Mr. Ransom said.

"They just met briefly, said 'hi' to each other. The mayor was on his way out to a meeting," he said. "I think the mayor was excited. Mr. Chappelle is here in Toronto performing a number of shows, so it should be good."