Chappelle Sticks and Stones

    There's been a lot of talk on Dave Chappelle's newest stand up show. No one seems to see it quite the way I do. There's this modern trend among comedians to engage in political or social commentary. It started with Lenny Bruce followed by Carlin and Richard Pryor. The audience seems to want it, almost demands it, as seen by the ratings plunge of Fallon, the least political comedian. Most of those who left went to Colbert and Seth Meyers. There's this thing that comedians do. They get very serious in the midst of their jokes like they're sending a message, making a real social commentary. I can't remember Buddy Hackett, Don Rickles, or the Marx Brothers doing this sort of thing. Just jokes perhaps about the foibles of life without a political or social commentary.

    I'd like to discuss just one moment in Chappelle's show that I think is emblematic of the show as a whole. I could do this for each bit in his show.

    During his bit on LGBTG there was one of those serious moments. He said during his tv show he was often dealing with the network censors. The one word he could never say on tv was faggot. So he asked why can I say nigger all the time but I'm forbidden from saying faggot? He was told because you're not gay but you are a negro. Chappelle got this knowing look on his face like he was revealing some deep insight and said, well I'm not a nigger either. And the audience applauded.

    For what? Why did the audience applaud? And what was the insight Chappelle was sharing? Was he saying he, and others, should be able to say faggot even if we're not gay because he can say nigger when he's not a nigger? That surely lacks nuance since I have no doubt he would not be happy if white people, who also are not niggers, started to shout it out anytime they pleased. It doesn't seem like an insight to me. It seems like he was avoiding the real conversation. It seems like a lie.

    Use of the word nigger is extraordinary. No other minority group that I know of has adopted the insult directed to them as a friendly greeting. Italians don't great each other with a, Hey wop my brother. Jews don't slap each other on the back with a hearty, Yo Kike what's happening. A real discussion might address that issue.

    But Chappelle doesn't. His bit is cheap, unsophisticated, unreal, without nuance. Essentially a lie because if confronted with the premise behind the bit he would deny it. He would not say that whites who are not niggers can use the word therefore negating his premise that he should be able to use the word faggot even though he is not gay because he can say nigger even though he is not a nigger.

    Most of his bits are like this. He pretends he's saying something important but he's actually avoiding the real parts of the conversation. And the audience seems to like it. They seem to have been waiting for someone to say it. And frankly I'm not sure what it is he's saying or why the audience applauds.

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