Dave Chappelle delivers his masterful comedy concerts like a ranting man in an empty house, and the neighbors have called the police, gruffly indifferent to what’s next, as in,
“What are they going to do to me?”
Dave Chappelle knows his audience is with him. This was easy to discern when, early in one show, he uncharacteristically offered an impression, asking his audience,
Then, in a goofy voice, he seriously proclaimed,
“Ur… if you do anything wrong in your life, now or twenty years ago, and I ever find out about it, I am taking everything away from you.”
The audience tentatively guessed “Trump!”
To which Chappelle correctingly replied,
The audience loved him for it.
Chappelle proceeded to chronicle celebrities the public had ruthlessly condemned. Opening with Michael Jackson, he explained that although Jackson been dead for ten years, this year, there were two new cases.
Louis C.K., he later announced, had been killed in a terrible “masturbation accident.”
Nothing was safe from his carefully crafted comic outrageousness.
Back to “Michael”, Chappelle staked his position that the stuff didn’t happen, then adding, as if taking that position was merely a setup for a joke,
“But if it did…”
the gist of his “follow-up” being,
If you are going to be sexually molested – that guy was “The King of Pop!”
And the audience went nuts.
There is a lot of “over-and-back” in Chappelle’s structural approach, Chappelle capturing the moral “high ground” of an issue, and then immediately handing it back.
“I hate guns. Can’t stand them. (AFTER A BEAT) I do have several of them.”
The woman definitely has the “right to choose.” But the involved man, if she opts to give birth, equally definitely has the “right to abandon.”
“My money. My choice.”
And the audience went wild.
Does he really mean any of this? Probably not. It feels like a new comedy styling:
“Provocation for cash.”
In one concert, Chappelle spends considerable time on the LGBT communities – “who took twenty percent of the alphabet” – focusing on “Transgenders”, claiming that he had no problem with them, but then adding,
“I do tell a lot of jokes about them.”
It was in this context that I heard a line I thought spoke to Chappelle’s innate grievance against this group, rather than just another case of trampling “political correctness” for comedic effect. The overheard line screamed out like neon, when he said,
“Kaitlin Jenner had less trouble changing her sex than Cassius Clay had changing his name.”
At that moment, I wished all Chappelle’s jokes were like that.
Unfortunately, in my view, they’re not.
Leaving us a great mind and writing practitioner – watch him set something up early in the show, let it go, and pay it off later to gut-busting effect – a crowned champ with no one suitable to fight, pummeling “cultural niceties”, and waiting for the cops.