Unless you’re still waiting for your 56k modem to open your homepage, you’ve probably heard the uproar over Dave Chappelle’s latest Netflix special Sticks and Stones. Every fat fingered jerk on the internet has weighed in on the subject. Armed with a water gun filled with my own tragic hubris, I’ve decided to throw my sweat stained hat into the ring. Another county heard from.
In the special Chappelle jokes about, among other things, pedophilia, cancel culture, the LGBTQ community, mass shootings and the always cheerful subject of abortion. Almost sounds like he picked these topics to lampoon for a very specific reason, doesn’t it? I will note that I don’t think any subject should be off limits in comedy. If we can’t laugh about difficult issues in society how can we expect to have reasoned conversations about them? 9/11 is just around the corner. Warm up the jet engines for all of those “airplanes getting rammed into skyscrapers” jokes you’ve been dying to break out for the past nine months. Don’t worry, I have a license to joke about 9/11. I was at 2 Wall Street on that shitty day. Google map that address so you can see where I’m transmitting from.
The fact that this special has garnered so much press coverage is a huge indictment on our punk ass, pathetically tame society. Fifteen or twenty years ago this would’ve just been another stand-up special that we laughed our asses off to when it came on HBO. It’s just Dave Chappelle telling some jokes about his pointed observations on society and his own life, in general. That’s what stand-up comics do. They make fun of shit that we normally might be loathe to laugh at. In our hyper-woke culture, however, the professionally offended can’t let people get away with pointing out things about subjects or groups they deem “off limits” for ridicule. We’re all worthy of getting dumped on for some much needed comic relief. People of the left, right and center all act like dopes sometimes.
I don’t agree with many of the methods woke culture employs to right society’s wrongs, as they see them. I believe the SJW crew is coming from a place of good intentions. There are many wrongs that need fixing. There is too much injustice in this world. I get it. I also get that there are billions of people on this crazy orb that don’t share my beliefs. I think I should be able to be open about my beliefs without the fear of being persecuted. This is a basic right that all human beings deserve. Cancel culture crosses that line in the sand when they attempt to shut down voices they deem “problematic”. Feel free to wave your banners and fight all those injustices that are out there, swimming around like hungry piranha and nibbling all the good down to a bloody nothingness. I just want to be able to do my own thing. To read what I want to read and write what I want to write. I am open to differing points of view. I welcome criticism. However, you can bet your bottom dollar that I will battle back against censorship.
I am not the biggest Dave Chappelle fan. I’m also in no way a detractor. I just never went out of my way to consume all his material. It’s not him, it’s me. I think Chappelle is a bright, funny dude who has interesting things to say. I wasn’t a regular watcher of his lionized Chappelle’s Show. The episodes I’ve watched, however, were funny and could be scathing critiques of the unfair, fucked up world we live in. I think there are funnier stand-ups out there. I would be quite interested in reading any books Chappelle may have written, or will write. This dude walked away from millions of dollars at the height of his popularity. You’ve got to have a deep set of beliefs and fortitude to pull off that shit. You might also just be out of your mind to leave piles of cash on the table. Either way, that’s a story I want to read.
Is Sticks and Stones funny? Yes, it is. I laughed out loud a few times and was consistently amused and smiling. However, I was struck more by how insightful and cheerfully defiant Chappelle is. I believe one of the most important weapons a writer has is empathy. All humans should, hopefully, be empathetic. Writers, in particular, need that tool in their garage of words if they’re to have any kind of success. In this special, Chappelle says he understands why the Transgender Community hates him. Does that stop him from hitting them with a few zingers? Nope. Empathy isn’t sympathy.
One of Chappelle’s first bits is to call out cancel culture. Straight up. He does it in an ingenious and funny way, linking it to the Constitution. He applies that generic milquetoast, bleached wonder bread, white guy impersonation when putting a voice to cancel culture. I think it was apropos and that shit always cracks me up when black comedians do it. Again, we’re all worthy of having a mockery made of us. Being able to laugh at ourselves and our beliefs is what makes us not fucking fascists.
Much of the flack Chappelle is taking seems to be coming from the left. Not trying to crawl into anyone’s head here, but I wonder if some journalists at left leaning outfits might be worried of not being at a sufficient level of wokeness unless they bash it? I don’t think Chappelle’s liberal use of the “N” word makes him a racist. When he uses a derogatory term for a gay person that begins with the letter “F”, I don’t think it’s because the comedian is homophobic. Comedy should push buttons. It’s quite alright for humor to be offensive and raw. You’re not a bad person for laughing. One of the better bits of the show revolves around these two aforementioned naughty words as it relates to the time he was doing his show at Comedy Central. It lays waste to the whole notion of what groups of people are allowed to use certain forbidden words.
A lot of the accolades Chappelle is getting for Sticks and Stones is, perhaps oddly, coming from the right. Again, not going to crawl into people’s ears, burrow to their brains, and dissect the thoughts emblazoned on their grey matter. I just wonder if some journalists at right leaning outfits might be overpraising this special a bit? Just because Chappelle riffs on the fact that he owns several guns and tells a funny story about making his first gun purchase, doesn’t mean he’s going to be hosting a fundraiser for Ted Cruz in the near future. Before I wrote this, I saw something similar posted on Twitter by Los Angeles based journo, Art Tavana
Is Sticks and Stones the best stand-up special I have ever seen? Nope. It is, however, a funny and insightful way to spend an hour. If you like your comedy keeping it real and not afraid to take on subjects and groups that have been given some sort of protected status by society, then you should take a look at this. I hope Chappelle keeps fighting, what I believe, is the good fight.
Gotta catch this! Well done, T. One of my favorite routines is an old Eddie Murphy show featured in the 80s on HBO. I think it was “Raw” but I can’t be sure. He did imitations of Ricky Ricardo laughing and propositioning Fred Mertz. I rolled all over the floor. Later I heard that Lucille Ball and Bill Cosby had come down hard on him. Well Lucy was great and an icon, but then again from her point of view she was behind the times and I’m sure she said a lot worse to her former husband; their fights were legend. And it’s fucking hilarious that while Bill Cosby was using Qaaludes as a sex aid and had the fucking temerity to call Murphy on the phone and chastise him for using the word “fuck” in his comedy. His complaint was that his son saw one of Murphy’s shows live and came back using filthy language. Murphy called Richard Pryor and out of fear of the mighty Cosby asked what to do. He did a wonderful imitation of both Cosby and Pryor in his next special, which seemed to carry as a whole an extra bit of malice which was delicious. And Pryor’s response? “You make money doing your show? You enjoy doing your show? Then go tell Bill I said have a Coke and a smile and shut the fuck up!”
Cosby’s son is long dead. Cos is blind and in the joint. No hospice for you, motherfucker.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I think almost anything can be joked about IF it’s funny enough. That’s the real determinant. If it’s not funny enough, it feels like someone’s just using it for shock value, to make up for not having a great joke, and that feels cheap.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I haven’t seen this special but your post reminds me that last Saturday, I watched a few skits from SNL. Chris Rock was hosting and it was so nice to see him again. He opened with a joke about Trump having Covid, following shortly thereafter with the trials of the pandemic, “I know 200,000 Americans are dead but I’m not going to get to see Rage Against the Machine this year”. I find the man funny and agree with you. If others can’t stomach jokes on certain topics, they don’t have to watch. I haven’t seen Rock in several years but I recall reading an interview with him where he said he can no longer deal with the cancel culture backlash. It’s a shame. I’m the first to admit that I live in a bubble of privilege but I’m critical of the notion that we need to be omni-vigilant about avoiding “triggers” that could provoke irreversible mental pain–especially when it comes to comedy. Humor is also how many of us cope with the bull shit. It’s unfortunate that we have to pull up arguments from the Enlightenment to defend the electronically exiled of our day.
LikeLiked by 1 person
LikeLiked by 1 person