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October 24, 2021


Boosting the voice and different viewpoint of my trans friend, Blair Watson:
I finally got a chance to watch this controversial Dave Chappelle show. I have thoughts if you’re interested.

You know, I’ve been watching and admiring Chappelle since high school for his thought-provoking brand of humor. I love edgy, challenging, no holds barred stand up comedy. I love Sarah Silverman and Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy and George Carlin. I could probably recite large sections of Carlin’s shows to you. And i whole-heartedly endorse what Chappelle ostensibly stands for, which is that free speech should be free and power should be challenged through comedy. I’m glad to live in a country where a black man can say the things he says on a public stage and be safe.

I also am glad to live in a place where Netflix can present these pieces. Netflix is a catalogue and it’s not their job to present only options that offend no one. For one thing that is impossible and for another, it’s unAmerican. I do not endorse boycotting Netflix on account of their part in producing and selling the art of a controversial social commentator.

I’ll tell you what i do support though: i support ignoring the fuck out of this boring, not very funny, offensive without much payoff Chappelle special. I hate to say it but Chappelle has reached the point that even my hero, Carlin, reached in the later years. The point where they’ve lost touch with the zeitgeist and instead of being on the edge, pushing the conversation forward, they’ve been left far behind. Instead of sounding like a fresh voice taking on power, they sound like grumpy old men yelling at the whippersnappers on the cable news.

How am i supposed to take Chappelle serious when he compares his coronavirus experience to assaults on Asian people in the streets, refers to all women only as “bitches” constantly, calls trans folx “the transgenders”, makes jokes about enjoying sexual assault by a priest, tries to prove he isn’t transphobic by telling the story of his one transgender friend who he liked because she laughed at his jokes…it goes on and on. By the way, his trans friend died by suicide and Chappelle is looking forward to telling her daughter some day that “your father was a great woman.”

Chappelle is trying to make two points throughout this thing which are 1) queer people are too sensitive and 2) queer people are taking something away from black people by having a successful social movement.

One problem he has in making this point however is that he commits the Trump fallacy. Chappelle equates himself with “the blacks” (his words, not mine) to the point that he is taking queer criticism of his offensive jokes as an attack on black social progress. The closing line of this whole mess is him telling trans people to quit punching down on black people, in fact. He doesn’t see that queer people, in this context anyway, aren’t angry at black people - they’re angry at him because his jokes aren’t good. They’re just mean.

It’s sad really because Chappelle Show was such a huge part of my growing up and my becoming aware as a white person how whiteness affected people with less privilege, but the man is losing the edge. He’s being offensive for no reason other than to demonstrate that people should be allowed to be offensive in America. And that’s a valid important point. But it isn’t very sophisticated. It’s quite limited for a man of his age and experience.

Compare to say Steve Martin who’s stand up albums from the the 1970s remain funnier than anything currently being made. Martin made jokes about gender variance - and they’re still funny. He tells a story about traveling the country and sneaking out of his hotel room at night to purchase…wait for it…men’s underwear. It’s a hilarious bit. It’s the kind of joke Chappelle imagines that he’s telling, the kind of joke that breaks down barriers and eases tensions. This Chappelle special has none of that: no charm, no self deprecation, no acceptance.

I think Chappelle wants us to believe that he is a victim of cancel culture and is fighting it. That he refuses to back down to the queers and is a voice of reason for America. But maybe the problem isn’t that he’s being canceled - the problem is that he just isn’t that funny any more. What’s supposed to be so funny about a guy who refuses to grow and learn? What’s so funny about stories of “slapping bitches” or trans people using bathrooms (literally how one positions oneself before a urinal)? What’s so funny about the n word? What’s so funny about incorrect pronouns and the several letters in LGBTQIA?

What’s so funny about a person who blames political correctness for leaving them behind when all along it was their own refusal to grow, learn, and give a crap?
Well, thankfully, in 2021 there isn’t much funny about self-imposed ignorance at all.

Chappelle says he’s taking a long break after this special and that’s a good thing. I hope he’ll spend some time remembering how to do what he does best. I hope he comes out swinging at the privileged people of our society and quits taking shots at people who want to walk with him into the fight. It’s going to take serious allyship to fix problems this big and standing around calling each other too sensitive is only doing the job of the power structure for them. Come on, Chappelle, remember where the real problem is. I’m pulling for you.

He's also my favorite host. It's natural and always makes the audience laugh.

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