Benedict Cumberbatch once called it the least supportive thing an audience member could do. Broadway legend Patti Lupone descended from the stage and approached a theatergoer while in character to take away her phone. Using smartphones during concerts and plays has always been annoying for audience members who just want to watch a show in peace (New York City even banned the use of cell phones at performing art shows in 2003)—but it’s even worse for the performers. Take comedians—now that any joke or turn of phrase can go viral if an audience member records it and put on YouTube or Twitter, it’s harder to test out new material. Chris Rock called it a form of “self-censorship.“
Dave Chappelle is trying out one solution. The comedian has partnered with San Francisco-based startup, Yondr, to create no-phone zones for a series of shows in Chicago this week, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Here’s how it works: staffers will hand out Yondr’s grey phone pouches at Chappelle’s 13 sold-out shows at Thalia Hall. Attendees drop their smartphone in the pouch and seal it. The case is locked shut when they walk into the venue. Boom, smartphone jail. If they need to make a call or send a text, audience members can leave the designated area and walk through certain sensors, and the pouch will unlock.
Other comedians have tried Yondr’s approach before—after funnyman Hannibal Buress made headlines (and received death threats) for his stand-up bit about Bill Cosby, he introduced Yondr phone cases at one of his shows in California to make sure his material wouldn’t end up online. But it’s not just artists who can benefit from this anti-tech technology: educators have used them in elementary and middle schools, and the device could also prove useful at movie premieres, confidential meetings, or lunch with your friend who hates it when you have to check your email.