Did Dave Chappelle Come Back Too Soon?
by Jared Prenda
“Ladies and Gentlemen, man the f*** up or you’re not going to make it to the end of the show.” This memorable ad lib came after comedic legend Dave Chappelle needed to ease the tension in the crowd after one of his jokes went too far.
Few figures in the world of comedy have been as polarizing as Chappelle, and the titan made his long-awaited return after his sabbatical leave to South Africa and to his farm in Ohio. Chappelle is infamous for his dark sense of humor which shows his opinions of the world, many of which were highlighted in his now revered sketch show, The Chappelle Show.
His first special, The Age of Spin: Live at the Hollywood Palladium, was the 42-year-old’s first show in Los Angeles in 10 years. Chappelle delivered a meticulously planned special featuring jokes about gay superheroes, the misadventures in his life since his last appearance, racial profiling, the rape allegations against comedic legend Bill Cosby, and why he attended the 2016 Oscars, which was boycotted by many famous black actors.
The special made it feel like the legend had never left. He wasn’t afraid to cross the line or join in on the roars of laughter of the crowd. The irreverent comic calmly paced the stage while delivering his jokes, perfectly transitioning between jokes with the tales of how he met the infamous O.J. Simpson. The special was the standard for Chappelle and he nailed it, but his second special showed us a new side to the comedian.
Deep in the Heart of Texas: Dave Chappelle live at Austin City Limits started similarly to its precursor, but soon transitions to the comedian to open up about his family life, something the D.C. native rarely does.
This transition began halfway through the special when Chappelle stopped mid-joke and asked the crowd for a cigarette as he sat down on a stool. This point differentiated the stand-up stand from others in the genre. Chappelle welcomed us into his mind, telling us how he can easily be inspired with a series of gags about the rapper Lil’ Wayne. The comedian also discussed his sons and his relationship with his wife, particularly following an unimaginably embarrassing case of blackmail.
Unfortunately, the unapologetic jokes involving racism (a case of police brutality in LA), sexual assault (the Bill Cosby Rapes), and LBGTQ+ community
sparked outrage in the various communities and brought what was supposed to be a joyous return into controversy.
One joke in Deep in the Heart of Texas was a story of a transgender woman who had too many drinks whom he expressed concern about. When asking if “he” was ok, the friends of the women turned on him for his missuse of pronouns, spawning the punchline of the joke. This angered many members of the transgender community, and they took to various forms of media.
One such article was published on the online news source Buzzfeed.com, titled “Dave Chappelle is Back and So is His Transphobia” by LBGTQ+ activist and transgender man Tiq Milan. He berated the comic for his jokes and boiled it down to how he reflects how all “straight cis men” think and act.
Milan went on to criticize the comedian for his disparaging remarks, saying “If Chappelle is clutch-my-pearls offended by incidents like this, it’s not because of our demand to be respected, but because of what that demand says about his own fragile gender identity. The one thing I’ve learned about masculinity as a transgender man is that its power and definition relies heavily on how well it performs away from femininity.”
The article continues to discuss the plights of the transgender community, including how transgender woman account for 72% of hate-based homicides. Milan told of how he does not like how his identity was belittled, despite praising the comic later for his takes on racism, politics, and steryotypes.
Despite the reasoning behind the outrage, it has left many confused as to why people are so passionate. Chappelle’s career has always been steeped in controversy, including the examples found in his hit show which debuted in 2003. The series premiere featured a skit about the character Clayton Bigsby, a blind African American who thinks he is white and becomes a prominent figure in the Klu Klux Klan. .
The list could continue forever, showing that Chappelle thrives off the politically incorrect. Unfortunately for him, the world today is full of social justice warriors and politically correct zealots. People are quick to be offended and lash out, which Chappelle has experienced heavily, despite him making his brand of comedy known. The world is too sensitive for the brutal honesty of the comedian and his stand ups, which should be celebrated, but are now being admonished.