Details: The show can be viewed on YouTube for free. The above clip is the show in its entirety.
This show isn’t really comedic, but a rant by Dave Chappelle of his opinion on the George Floyd protests. I agree with what Chappelle says, I just didn’t want to hear it from Dave Chappelle the comedian. I’ll explain why.
Not too long ago, Chappelle released a series of comedy shows on Netflix. In one of those shows, he spent about thirty minutes making fun of the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning) community. In the bit, Chappelle not only claims not to be a homophobe, he seemingly tries to prove it by claiming he knows gay people and by loudly proclaiming himself not a homophobe. That whole bit got some backlash from the LGBTQ community.
This isn’t unusual for Dave to make fun of various demographics. I’ve heard him make various jokes about Asian people. This was before he married an Asian woman and had some half black, half Asian kids. I heard a recent Asian joke of his in one of his shows and it was far more nuanced than his prior Asian jokes. He sort of made a joke about Jews in those Netflix shows, but it was mild compared to what he said about LGBTQ people. Which makes sense considering how many powerful Jews there are in show business (Harvey Weinstein was a prime example of this; there’s also that Ricky Gervais joke where if you want to win an Academy Award, make a Holocaust movie). No point joking yourself out of a million dollar paycheck because you offended the wrong person. But that’s just conjecture on why he went so hard on LGBTQ people and so light on others.
Here’s another bit of conjecture: Chappelle made so many jokes about the LGBTQ community because he is a straight, black man. The following is admittedly anecdotal, but I have had a few blunt discussion with black people without the pretense of political correctness. From what I’ve heard (and again, this is admittedly anecdotal) the black American community generally isn’t all that friendly to the LGBTQ community. There are all sorts of potential reasons for this. One explanation is that black Americans are largely Christians and Christians in the United States generally don’t look positively on things like homosexuality. Another reason could be how the concept of traditional ideas like masculinity and strength are pervasive in the black American community. The idea of a man having sex with another man contradicts that traditional notion and so is mostly rejected. Whatever the reason and from what I can tell (Google homosexuality and the black community and you’ll find lots of testimony and articles on the subject), the American black community generally isn’t too friendly towards LGBTQ people.
Which leads back to why Dave Chappelle felt the need to dedicate such a large portion of his stand up to making fun of gays and transgendered. I think it’s because he actually does have prejudice against them, despite his claims to the contrary. I think he just grew up in an environment where that was the prevailing opinion and it just became part of him, much like how prejudice often becomes a part of most people who grow up in a prejudiced environment.
I hear him claim how he is not a homophobe or prejudiced against the LGBTQ community and all I can think about is how all his defenses are the same defenses white people use when they try to defend against being racist towards blacks. Chappelle says he’s not a homophobe because he knows gay people, much like how a lot of racist whites claim they aren’t racist because they’re friends with a few blacks. Knowing a few of the people you’re being prejudiced to doesn’t change the fact your behavior is discriminatory. You’re behavior controls whether you’re racist or not and there’s about thirty minutes of evidence as to Chappelle’s behavior.
I think about arguments for freedom of speech. People argue that Dave Chappelle is a comedian and no one should censor him, especially if it’s just for some jokes. Except that the black American community has been trying to censor comedy they don’t find funny for decades. A prime example is black face. There are a surprisingly large amount of people in this world who still find black face entertaining. I know this because some dumb ass periodically puts on black face, posts it to their social media and then gets vilified on the internet for their insensitivity. Depending on the context, jokes can be inappropriate and telling the comedian to shut up or censor themselves is a socially acceptable response. I’m fairly certain Dave Chappelle is unlikely to support the use of black face by comedians in the future, regardless of freedom of speech concerns. I also doubt he’d consider criticizing black face to be too politically correct.
Which leads us back to Chappelle’s show where he made fun of the LGBTQ community for about thirty minutes and why I was mostly okay with that. I was okay with it because it was primarily entertainment. It was comedy first, political/editorial commentary a distant second. Whatever commentary he offers about our society, politics or race relations exists in service to the comedy and only that. Chappelle is a comedian first. A good example is how in one bit, he goes on this tirade about unfairness in society and Kennedy’s assassination and a whole bunch of other messed up stuff before bringing us back to the true point, which is that Bill Cosby raped a ton a people. Part of the genius of that bit is how Chappelle misleads the audience into thinking he’s going to talk about something meaningful when in facts this was just set up for about ten minutes of jokes about Bill Cosby.
That’s the line I can tolerate. You can be crude if you don’t really mean it and if it’s all just a joke.
But this new show, 8:46, is not comedy. Not really. It’s a political opinion on the current events related to the George Floyd protests. And that is just unappealing to me because it casts Chappelle less as an entertainer and more as a political commentator. This is a problem because that taints all of the potentially messed up stuff he’s said in all his old shows.
I’ve heard it said that the only real truth comes from comedians because they can use humor to deliver it. I heard and read plenty of comments on the genius of how Chappelle uses comedy to make accurate statements on real world problems. Except that often times, the use of humor can be used to make seemingly stupid arguments reasonable. Humor is a fantastic way to pitch stupid, baseless ideas convincingly. A funny idea isn’t a good idea and a stupid idea isn’t good because it’s funny. Too many idiots put comedians on pedestals and stupidly imagine them to be the great philosophers of our day. In truth, they’re just telling jokes. I wish people would stop looking for an excuse to worship someone or something like the gullible sheep so many people aspire to be.
When I watch this show, I mostly agree with his opinions, but it is still unappealing. I think about the ignorant Asian jokes I’ve heard him tell before, but no longer tells probably because he married an Asian woman and has half Asian kids. I think about how lightly he went on the Jew jokes since it would likely cost him financially if he went too far. I think about how a substantial part of the black community generally rejects the LGBTQ community, how Chappelle is a straight black man, and how he spent about a third of an entire show making fun of LGBTQ community.
It’s then when I realize that as a comedian, Dave Chappelle is fantastic. As a political commentator, Dave Chappelle is a racist, prejudiced homophobe who should shut the hell up. He cries and moans about the George Floyd protests because he is a black man talking about things related to being a black man. He has not done the same for others like the LGBTQ community.
To his credit, Chappelle somewhat admits to that in this show. He openly admits that he has been noticeably silent on the George Floyd protests because he is aware that no one wants to hear from their local celebrities about their stupid opinions. Chappelle admits to this. And yet… he has put out this show, which really isn’t comedy more than commentary.
And that’s why I don’t really like this. It’s because it forces me deal with the prejudiced, human imperfections of Chappelle when I could just laugh at him and wave off the prejudiced, ignorant things he said in the past as comedy. I didn’t have to think about why he said them or whether he meant them or where they came from. But now that I have to deal with Dave Chappelle, the righteous, serious political commentator. I have to think about those things and the related contradictions. Now, I have to deal with a Dave Chappelle who is a proponent of his self interests of which includes the rights of and respect towards black people, but also his ignorance to others outside his self interests. I have to reconcile the lousy and decent parts of Dave Chappelle and decide whether I am for or against that person, when all I really wanted to do was to hear some jokes.