The American comedian has once again ruffled feathers with his latest special show ‘Sticks and Stones’. Many have been offended by the comedian despite it being his job to tell jokes.
His jokes have been accused of fuelling hate speech and Dave Chappelle has been labelled a figurehead against LGBTQ+ persons. Comedians talk the truth as they see it, often angry people channelling their anger in a funny way. But just how offended should we be and should we #canceldavechappelle?
The Chappelle Story
Dave Chappelle is an American stand-up comedian. The recipient of numerous accolades, most known for iconic and acclaimed satirical comedy sketches. His jokes confront social taboo, confronting the ‘speech police’.
He is from a different time when comedians could be as offensive or gross as they pleased without fear of reproach. In the age of the professionally offended, careers like his wouldn’t have taken off.
The Speech Police
For some time now, the speech police have been found mostly in the secular, “progressive” left.
Chappelle has shown there is an open market for mocking the speech police with comedy, with his sell-out shows and status having grown off the back of it.
The progressive thought police is every bit as controlling and puritanical as the religious right some years ago. Comedy lovers want to see moral authoritarians mocked until they disappear for good, and from this stems the demand for this brand of comedy. Chappelle has left no stone unturned, trying to break every single progressive taboo.
The special boycotted
A quick Google search will bring up no less than a dozen articles boycotting the special because it was ‘not evolved with the times’, the new way of saying something is ‘problematic’.
‘THE ALPHABET PEOPLE‘
The LGBTQ+ community found poor taste with Chappelle’s smear “alphabet people” who have “claimed 20 per cent of the alphabet for themselves”.
“Whatever pronoun you’re comfortable with…” was to show how being trans is ironic. He explained this through supposing he was a “Chinese person in a n**ger body” and feeling confused when people attacked him despite it being “this is how I fweel (sic) on the inside.”
What do the LGBTQ community think?
If a joke offends someone, it is not a joke! Why should comedians get special rights?
LGBTQ+ supportive viewers thought he was punching down, targeting people who historically haven’t been given a voice in comedy or society at large.
Those groups in society who feel personally attacked by his special believe a growing allegiance of far-right Chappelle fanbase are putting him on a pedestal as a frontman for their toxic ideologies. And Chappelle will return to reclusion until hitting the road to do it all again, without having to justify himself.
He made the same joke in 2017 about a black woman born in a white woman’s body – Rachel Dolezal. LGBT people think rehashing the same joke with the same premise leading to same punchline but using the caricature of Chinese people is lazy material for a hack comedian.
Chappelle’s entire reputation as a legendary comedian is built on race. Race has been his strongest material, and outside of this he has been confused and not with the times.
In Defence of Dave
At the end of the special he clarified that anyone he made fun of was done so because he relates to them. He is married to an Asian woman and openly supports LGBTQ+ people. So the real story has been twisted and misinterpreted.
All considered, Chappelle, as always, was breaking taboos to speak his truth, his opinion from his perspective. These are his thoughts on different issues. Sometimes, that may offend some people.
It makes it hard for any movement to be taken seriously when people like and support characters like Jussie Smollet as victims without waiting for the legal system to decide, despite Chappelle’s remark all blacks were silent because they knew he was guilty. Those overreacting need to check themselves. Yes comedians are often angry people channelling their anger through humour, but they are also good bastions of free speech to diffuse social taboos and off-limit subjects.
“You’re gonna be finished. Everyone’s doomed. Michael Jackson’s been dead for 10 years, and this n**ga’s got two new cases.”Dave Chappelle, Sticks and Stones, 2019
Chappelle does not victim blame, for instance, instead calling himself a victim blamer. That’s him making the joke before anyone else can chip in.
A comedian’s job is to observe, so in a way, he’s providing visibility to a group of people whom are ignored constantly, especially in the LGBTQ community (which was the underlying truth in his ‘car’ sketch.
To frame the conversation about him in the aftermath ignores why his comedy is so popular. There is the bigger issue of a lack of representation of marginalised voices in comedy. Given a bigger platform, their art could express itself and be an active counterpoint to comedy people feel is problematic.
Whether one agrees with Dave or not, today’s audiences are reactionary over the smallest infringement on acceptable narrative. Act now ask questions later.
How is anyone to know who has been through what ordeal. Regular conversation does not single anyone out, but people will act as thought it is about them however tenuous the association.
As Chappelle said to the woman in his epilogue, “It wasn’t your fault you got raped, but it’s not mine either.” A blunt remark making light of the nuance in how hypocritical we are as a society.
Comedy As A Safe Space?
There are comics out there who are trying to be offensive all the time. They usually don’t have fresh material so they use offense as their crutch. If you listen closely, you’ll hear the nuggets of truth in Dave’s’ thoughts. To appreciate the creative genius of the Chappelle among us requires seeing that he acknowledges his flaws just as we all are flawed as humans.
Ultimately, comedy is not a safe space, it’s a mirror used to reflect ourselves. These think pieces attacking Dave Chappelle and other provocative comedians miss taking the time to appreciate and understand the art. Freedom of expression and self-reflection should always come first. Repercussions, if deserved, can come after. That’s part of the responsibility we lend to individuals with such a projected voice.
One may be able to pin-up arguments expressing how Dave’s words supply vitriolic ammunition against sub-sections of society. This would take some real digging into his last 3 specials and selective interpretation.
All Sticks and Stones was, was a continuation of what he has continued to say. He is fairly unambiguous and consistent in his analytical extractions of modern society, especially facets he finds extraordinary or ridiculous.
Dave is a man out of time, distanced from the now. From the first special to the latest. His lens is one of a man speaking purely from an observational standpoint. The ignorance that has been so eloquently tabbed is the genius behind the jokes.
He is exploiting himself for what he doesn’t grasp. He is the mouthpiece for a generation of people that are essentially being scrubbed from existence.
He doesn’t take up the side that is right or wrong or even forcing his opinion on others. He does not associate or condone behaviour pedestalling him as a far-right icon or a hate activist.
He speaks from a point of caution. He highlights the main issue facing western society’s prosperity today noted by great thinkers of the past century: that we have rallied around the idea that
“If they don’t think like us then they are against us…”
That goes for liberals, leftists or ring-wing alike. In all actuality, it is the difference in opinion that formed and made the western nations. In retrospect, Dave Chappelle is doing exactly what he is supposed to be doing. And we should continue to thank him for it.