Review: Chappelle on Netflix
"I'm like Evel Knievel, I get paid for the attempt. I didn't promise this shit would be good"
After taking a long hiatus from comedy, the prodigal son has returned home, and it’s great to have him back.
It’s worth noting, before getting into it, that these specials are already a bit old so some of the references are already dated. Despite this, the specials are still largely enjoyable and should keep you excited for his 3rd special, currently filming, releasing later this year.
Starting with “The Age of Spin” we quickly get a firm reminder of what separates great stand up comics from stand up comics, and why Dave Chappelle belongs to the former. Dave opens up with a story about how he tanked a show in Detroit a couple years ago, and in a sense that raises the bar a little because we know that he knows that he needs redemption. The pacing of his bits was on point, and outside of recurring themes (of which there were many) and common threads, it didn’t feel like he just harped on and on about things. The way he tried dividing the show up into 4ths was great; he mentions at the beginning of the show that he had 4 stories of his encounters with O.J. Simpson, and that he planned on telling us all about them tonight. Not only did he follow through on his promise of telling all 4 stories, he timed them nearly perfectly by using them almost like chapter beginnings/endings and any time that he felt like he needed to change gears, he’d seamlessly transition into his next O.J. story and he’d get a blank slate to start his next bit after it was over.
Another great part of Dave Chappelle’s specials was the way that he set things up. Dave would make certain jokes throughout which were funny but left you wondering what possessed him to say something like that, such as his idea for a new superhero. But once he’s introduced his pitches for new superheroes, he leaves the audience thinking about the pros/cons of things, forces them to question whether things really are black and white, good and bad, truly binary, or maybe life is a little more complicated than that. After you’ve had time to digest that, and we’ve long since moved on to other topics and had many laughs, you gets to finally capitalize on that long set up and truly reap the fruits of his labor, because now he’s forced you to question the way that you think, and question your own inconsistencies in the way that you quickly and carelessly pass judgment on others.
Judgment, race, sexuality, gender roles, the educational system, equality, inequality, the social divide, the economic divide, no subject was too hot or too tough for Dave Chappelle to address. For the most part, Dave’s musings were more than welcome and greatly enjoyable. In other parts, Dave showed his age a little (which he acknowledges) and we are quickly reminded of the fact that he has largely isolated himself from society for the last decade or so. Dave may have offended people with his opinions on certain hot-button issues, but it is important to not hold that against him too harshly. All of the great comedians have said things that were offensive, especially if you took them out of the context of the era in which the comic belongs to, but if we are going to seek to regulate what comedians can or cannot joke about, we’re going to stop having comedians. The only way to police this sort of thing is by voting with your dollars, if you don’t like what Dave said/says, do not watch his specials and let his streaming stats tell the story. But before you get too mad at Dave, or try to disqualify him from being a great comedian on the basis of being offensive, just go back and re-watch some Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock, Paul Mooney, or just about any of the other great comedian’s specials.