Does Dave Chappelle Care About Black People?
I’ve seen a lot of people online mention that they had to turn off the first of Dave Chappelle’s two comedy specials off 30 minutes in to watching. I got five minutes in before I audibly uttered “oh fuck you Dave”. I should preface by saying that I’ve watched a lot of comedy, including things that I don’t find funny or that I find offensive. If you asked me up until last year who my favorite comedian was, I would have told you Dave Chappelle without hesitation. I got five minutes into “The Age of Spin” and was pissed. I knew somewhere in the two hours there were probably going to be the transphobic, homophobic and misogynist jokes that had garnered attention while he was touring and that I would be offended. I watched the two full specials anyway, even re-watched the first one to make sure I wasn’t being overly sensitive.
I remember TMZ posting about Dave being booed offstage in Detroit, and in the set up I thought we’d see a smart, thoughtful introduction to two specials where maybe Dave would talk about where he’s been in the last 10 years, with Pryor-style self reflection and wit. But nah, he set up that joke to shit on Detroit. That’s some Lena Dunham shit. That’s the intro, that he got so high he bombed in Detroit and he wasn’t refunding people’s money. It’s a city populated predominantly by black folks who work their asses off to get by and he’s fucking with his fans’ money. That’s what got me. Beyonce had the damn flu and stunted on Detroit back in June. She makes “no, fuck you Dave Chappelle” money because she puts in the damn work. Also, how you gonna make Half Baked and say two puffs of weed got you too fucked up to do your damn job? It’s one thing to bomb, or get sick while touring, but it’s a whole other thing to just be a rich guy acting like a reckless teenager who can’t handle their shit. There was no introspection to it, just “fuck you pay me, now let’s move on so I can punch downward.”
I’m not going to say much about the transphobic jokes, the homophobic jokes, the anti-Asian jokes, the rape jokes, the misogyny except to say this: there’s a joke in the first special about how Manny Pacquiao is probably not the guy you should ask about gay people. Dave Chappelle isn’t the guy you should go to to ask about any of this shit, clearly. The difference is, his job is to stand onstage and talk about things, and he chose to talk about these particular things, because comedy. And Netflix paid him $10 million more for carefully crafted hate speech than he walked away from in 2005. Yeah, it’s hate speech, fight me dawg. He uses no less than 3 slurs in two hours. And his whole bit about how he couldn’t be bothered to switch up his pronoun game? Imagine a white comic in 1965 doing a bit that goes “oh so we’re not supposed to call them niggers or colored anymore? Puh-lease!” It’s the same mechanism with the same point of catering to the status quo’s desire to laugh at the oppressed’s claim to self-determination. Yeah, he’s doing it to be edgy and not necessarily malicious, but ya mans got paid more money than I’ll see in my lifetime to make dumb jokes about shit he doesn’t care to have the empathy to learn about.
That’s really the issue to me: dude is too consumed with himself to even care. By the time he was joking about how he skipped the concert in Flint to go to the Oscars, we already know the punchline: he went to the Oscars because he doesn’t really give a shit about anybody but Dave Chappelle. . . and maybe Bill Cosby, I can’t really tell. And the story about not going to Flint barrels into a hack joke about a gay superhero who keeps changing outfits which slides into another joke about a superhero who has to rape people in order to save people, which he calls back to at the end of the first special in order to talk about Bill Cosby. I’m here for edgy comedy, but this shit just wasn’t funny, and this again, is coming from someone who thought Chappelle’s bit about “how old is 15 really?” from For What It’s Worth was one of the best standup bits of all time. I knew what the deal was when I spent too much time watching these specials, just like I listened to The Life of Pablo over and over hoping it was somehow going to turn into Chance’s 3. I’m at a Kanye level impasse with Chappelle, which is to say my fat-black-queer-survivor-they/them-pronouns-using-ass is done. I read the Spin interview with Rick Rubin about Yeezus and Kanye wrote lyrics to five of those tracks in about an hour. I think part of the problem here is that if you call someone a genius for long enough, they’re maybe gonna get lazy, and if somebody gets rich enough, they’re maybe not going to care who they hurt, because they can afford to do both.
I also recently watched Jerrod Carmichael’s 8 and in it, he has a joke about how talent matters more than morals. Carmichael’s stance is that we pretend to care about things because we’re supposed to, but at the end of the day if the Ignition remix comes on in the club, we’re dancing and not boycotting. It comes out of Carmichael’s own cynical style, it has a point, and the indictment is that none of us truly care about much beyond our immediate selves, which is yet another place Chappelle could have gone with these jokes. Never mind, he does go there but only to say that millenials don’t care about anything, as if we aren’t the ones who care enough to call him out on his shit. He also says that millenials have all this information at their fingertips. So does he. He could have easily let go and let Google. And there he would have found out that trans people are murdered way way too often, specifically trans women of color, and no, LA isn’t rioting over it. Why? Because cis people are so basic that jokes about genitals and pronouns get more attention than murder after murder.
On top of all this, Chappelle contradicts himself by saying that his generation was raised to care about everything. He presented us with a layer cake of IDGAF, having a blasé attitude about Detroit, Flint, the first women to allege Bill Cosby raped them, trans people, Key and Peele, you name it. He’s reached what I call old black man status, where you just can’t tell this negro shit about shit and expect him to hear you, and he’s not even that old. The era that launched his career is over and he hasn’t caught up. And yeah, I’m fairly certain every single black person knows dudes like Dave Chappelle who think rape and the lives of queer and trans folks are funny, but those dudes aren’t making $60 million dollars off of that shit, nor do they have the ability to reach millions of people and validate their ignorance. But oh how they and their “more woke” brethren will go out of their way to excuse Dave Chappelle, to try to justify some ignorant shit I can only presume they co-sign. Coincidentally, Governor Rick Snyder estimated it would take $60 million to fix Flint’s water pipes. So technically, he could fix Flint’s water, I’m just saying.
In the past week, Chuck Berry and Derek Walcott both died, and in the past week I learned that both of them had allegedly sexually assaulted women. I lived for Chuck Berry when I was a kid, and borrowed my friend’s copy of Omeros for way way too long because I wanted to live in its world, but those things don’t stop me from believing women or questioning if there’s a cishet black man alive I can actually vouch for without caveat. I love a lot of black men, and I care about black masculinity because it shaped my own gender, but every single day cishet black men actively work against me, make jokes at my expense, do and say things behind closed doors and on stages that offend me at best, and I don’t have the luxury of believing that talent matters more than morals. That’s privilege. That’s how the fuck we got this trash heap presidency. It’s boring and dangerous at the same time. And look, if you’re a rich black person shitting on queer, trans, fat people, sexual assault survivors, women and fans who want their money back because they can’t show up to their jobs so high they can’t function and demand to still get paid, you’re shitting on black people.
So who’s finna drop comedy’s Chance 3?