He defined a generation with his humor and brought forth major social issues with politically incorrect satire that could never be in the mainstream today.
By Sean David Hartman
In the 2000s, a revolutionary sketch comedy show aired an episode about a blind, black KKK Grand Wizard. The sketch was simultaneously smart and nonsensical, combining hilarity with the right amount of offense. It became a classic, an entrant in the comedic hall of fame. It made The Chappelle Show and it made Dave Chappelle’s career.
Dave Chappelle was always known for his raunchy blue comedy. His nonchalant use of the N-word, his eagerness to rail on women and minorities, and his lack of concern for the feelings of others, has turned the black humorist into a comedy god.
But could such a god even be accepted in contemporary society? With Millennials and Generation Z becoming more and more offended by anything and everything, Chappelle’s willingness to offend could turn him from legend to pariah in one generation.
In an old special, Killin’ Them Softly, which is still available on some streaming sites, Chappelle makes a disparaging joke about women who dress promiscuously. He compares the third-wave feminist argument that “just because I am dressed this way, does not make me a whore,” to him being approached in a cop’s uniform to assist in preventing a crime.
That one joke alone could infuriate any feminist, finding that humor sexist and offensive. If Chappelle told a joke like that in his recent Netflix specials, there would be protests and social media threats, followed by apologies from Netflix and maybe even Chappelle himself.
But Killin’ Them Softly was revolutionary for it’s time. Chappelle addressed issues brought to the mainstream by the likes of Kaepernick and Black Lives Matter. He took satirical stabs at white privilege, police brutality, and racist phobias.
Ironically, bringing up Kaepernick, Chappelle has addressed that crisis and has attacked both sides. Chappelle attacked white people’s “brittle spirit” in their frustration of the NFL protests, while simultaneously criticizing black people for protesting in this manner, citing Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. as an example to follow for protests.
Chappelle even recognizes the generational “pussification”, citing it as a reason why he has taken, and continues to take long hiatuses.
To quote Chappelle verbatim from his Netflix special Equanimity, “It’s too hard to entertain a country whose ears are so brittle…the whole country has turned into bitch-ass niggas.”
Chappelle delved further, talking about how he offended the transgender community after insulting Caitlyn Jenner. Jenner, a trans woman who has been celebrated by the transgender community, is the target of comics and pundits alike for her numerous personal issues, as well as attacking for physical looks.
Chappelle cited a joke in which he describes Jenner appearing on the Sports Illustrated, posing nude, with one word: “Yuck”.
And Chappelle clarified his support for the transgender community. “I don’t understand them, but I know they mean what they said,” Chappelle told a DC crowd at his special Equanimity. He even joked about engaging in sexual activities with a trans woman.
“Never seen someone throw their dick away,” Chappelle continued. But Chappelle wasn’t attacking Jenner or Sports Illustrated, admitting that his main enemy was himself, joking that he was “not strong enough to not look at the pictures.”
What’s ironic now is that Chappelle, who is politically on the Left and openly supported both Secretary Clinton and President Obama, is telling politically incorrect humor that is appealing to the Right more so than the Left. This has less to do with Chappelle evolving politically, but likely more due to the opposition, at least vocally, of political correctness by many on the Right.
In Equanimity, Chappelle takes on Rachel Dolezal (“I want to look in her eyes, and call her a nigga to her face”), recognizing the concerns of Trump supporters (“I felt sorry for them. I know the rich white people call poor white people trash”), and Secretary Clinton (“She swept the leg of Bernie Sanders”). The latter joke led to a journalist referring to Chappelle as an “avid Donald Trump supporter”, despite Chappelle admitting to and publicly endorsing Secretary Clinton during the campaign.
In The Bird Revelation, Chappelle takes on the Hollywood sex scandals, made fun of his friend Louis C.K. as well as his victims, and addressed the NFL kneeling controversy.
Chappelle was a wonder for me growing up. He defined a generation with his humor and brought forth major social issues with politically incorrect satire that could never be in the mainstream today.
I feel the best allegory for this would be from Chappelle’s special Equanimity. There he describes telling a joke to a mixed-race couple that offended the wife but not the husband. The wife, a pregnant Asian “bitch”, according to Chappelle, sat with her husband, who was Mexican. When asking where she was from, the Asian condescendingly replied, “I’m from California. If you’re asking my ethnicity, I am Chinese.”
Chappelle then decided to comment on the Chinese-Mexican baby in her womb, stating she was “going to give birth to the hardest working baby the world has ever seen.”
A funny joke right? Chappelle used classic stereotypes on Asian and Mexican work ethic to provide a humorous commentary that most people would find funny. Not this wife though, who responded not just by walking out, but by writing a letter to Chappelle’s agent claiming he was racist and “insensitive to the nature of my interracial marriage.”
The irony is, Chappelle is in a mixed-race marriage with a Filipino woman. Or as Chappelle said it, “Surprise bitch, I’ll see you on Thanksgiving.”
The wife is the current generation, a stuck-up “bitch” who does not find offensive humor funny and who feels it her civic duty to censor it in any way imaginable. Whereas the husband, a proud Latino, just rolls with the punches.
Let’s stop being bitch-ass niggas. Sometimes the funniest things are mean.
To quote Chappelle: “Man the fuck up”.
Sean David Hartman is a freelance reporter for the Central Florida Post, with a wide portfolio ranging from entertainment to politics. He is a centrist political operative and blogger and a student at UCF. Hartman is autistic and bipolar, and supports the neurodiversity movement.