Not even Dave Chappelle- which is why he can never be cancelled.
No one is safe from Dave Chappelle: Not his fans; not his critics; not the people who pay his salary; not his fellow comedians. Love him or hate him, Dave Chappelle is equally likely to insult you.
“Sometimes the funniest thing you can say is the meanest thing,” Chappelle has been known to lament, with his signature perfect comic timing. “Always remember: I don’t say it to be mean; I say it because it’s funny.”
No one is safe from him and Dave Chappelle isn’t safe from his fans and critics, either, come to that. Chappelle has already been warned, and warned again. Total strangers told the comic genius after his last comedy special “Sticks and Stones” aired: “They after you, man.”
“One they or many theys?” Was Chappelle’s predictably tongue-in-cheek response.
Chappelle addressed his army of critics in his latest comedy special. Rather than back off, or apologize for offending as so many other famous people and comedians have done, Chappelle went even harder. No one escaped.
He made fun of Mike Pence, Jussie Smollett, close-talkers in the age of COVID-19; he told audiences that famous comedians like him have targets on their backs. Every would-be internet star with a cell phone is trying to provoke him in into making some sort of public scene, the video of said scene to be parlayed into a groundswell of new Twitter followers.
Thankfully, Twitter isn’t a real place, as Chappelle and others have rightly pointed out. Almost anyone can do what Selena Gomez recently admitted to doing: She credits quitting social media with saving her life.
It is a good thing Twitter isn’t a real place, too, or no one would ever want to go there, just as Dave Chappelle said about the internet so many years ago.
If the internet was a real place, according to Dave Chappelle, it would be so toxic, so disgusting, so full of jerks, perverts, serial liars and thieves, no one would ever want to go there.
Twitter is perhaps worse, with the caveat that instead of an old, creepy, partially-abandoned mini-mall, Twitter in real life would look more like a giant nightmarish high school.
Like any other high school, it’s best not to cross the popular kids on Twitter. They decide who we will all be hanging out with this week, who will be relegated to the social outcasts table. They can even get you kicked out of Twitter High completely, which honestly, you might find a relief. Some people are keeping track of your micro aggressions on an excel spreadsheet, nothing to worry about.
Step on the wrong Twitter toes, you might find yourself the target of a cancelation campaign to get you fired from your job, de-platformed, demonetized or otherwise branded with a big, scarlet O- for outcast.
Corporations like Netflix might feel the temptation to give in to the Twitter mob; this is almost always a mistake. Anyone can drum up a Twitter mob at any time. At the high school purgatory of Twitter, there are packs of would-be social media mob members/hall monitors constantly roving the hallways looking for miscreants in need of corrective punishment.
One hewn cry of “that’s racist/sexist/bigoted/______phobic!” is enough to bring them all running. Sometimes the mob even gets it right; the mob is also, definitely, getting it wrong.
This week, they are demanding the head of Dave Chappelle; next week, it will be someone else’s. On a long enough timeline, they- like Robespierre of the notorious French Committee of Public Safety before them- might eventually get around to everyone.
What, you thought French Revolutionaries called it the Guillotine Party or the Reign of Terror?
It is clear most of the commenters weighing-in against Dave Chappelle didn’t really watch Chappelle’s latest comedy special; it is fairly clear they aren’t familiar with any of his earlier works, either.
Critics who found his latest gay jokes unconscionable wouldn’t have thought much of some of Chappelle’s earlier bits, either. His portrayal of someone suffering from a crack-cocaine addition, for instance, would have put these same people off, as would some of the movies in which Dave Chappelle has appeared. Misogynistic themes, prison rape jokes, the glorification of drug use- where does it end? None of those things is funny.
It’s a good thing most of today’s conscientious Twitter objectors weren’t alive during the hey-day of In Living Color, or worse, during the early glory days of Eddie Murphy’s raunchy, politically incorrect tirades. Richard Pryor wouldn’t have passed any sensitivity tests. Nor would the Kings of Comedy, whose first special encompassed themes like child abuse, drug overdoses, and poverty.
Most critics of Chappelle’s latest comedy special are disingenuous, at best. Not only have most of them not seen it- by their own admission- they are cherry picking which arguments to engage with while ignoring everything else.
Chappelle’s point about the rapper DaBaby, for instance. DaBaby killed a Black man in Wal-Mart; his career didn’t suffer for it. But when DaBaby insulted gay people at one of his shows, he was canceled and there was a tremendous outcry against him.
Dave Chappelle has a problem with this, as likely do many others. It isn’t that insulting gay people should be ok; it’s that killing a Black man at Wal-Mart should be just as not-ok- probably even less ok.
Chappelle’s critics are happy to engage with his shots at the transgendered community- and his personal anecdote about a friendship with a transgender lady comedian. Critics of Chappelle choose to engage with his name-dropping of his trans friend by accusing him of trying to deflect the transphobic charge with the “but I have a trans friend,” defense.
Wrong: Dave Chappelle wasn’t saying “I have a trans friend,”; he was saying he had a trans friend- had.
People criticizing Dave Chappelle over this in particular must not have watched the show. Otherwise, they wouldn’t leave out the most important part of the story.
After defending her friend and mentor Dave Chappelle on Twitter with a deft, “He doesn’t punch up; he doesn’t punch down; he punches lines and he’s a master at his craft,” trans comedian Daphne Dorman got no shortage of online hatred and bile from the trans-activist community.
“When she did that, the trans community dragged that [expletive] all over Twitter,” said Chappelle. “For days, they were going going in on her.”
She was on the receiving end of all the insults usually lobbed at people who are accused by their own in-group of treachery, disloyalty, and worst of all, giving aid and comfort to the enemy.
Dave Chappelle’s friend Daphne Dorman committed suicide only six days after defending him against the Twitter mob, and becoming a target herself.
Dave Chappelle was too polite to say outright that Dorman was bullied to death by trans activists on social media, thought media outlets have since made that surmise for him.
In fact, Chappelle did pull his punches against the trans-activist community, though whether he would be punching up or down is a matter of debate. Whether trans people or Black people are more marginalized in America is well beyond the scope of most individuals to determine conclusively, to say nothing of a five-minute Medium article or an impromptu Twitter flash mob.
“It wasn’t the jokes, and I don’t know what was going on in her life, but dragging her all over Twitter couldn’t have helped,” Chappelle told his audience.
Had Chappelle’s many critics actually watched his comedy special until the end, they would have surely mentioned the bargain he offered 2SLGBTQIA activists and and the trans movement.
“Remember, taking a man’s livelihood is akin to killing him…I’m begging you, please do not abort DaBaby. Kevin Hart dreamt his entire life of hosting the Oscars and when he finally got the job, they just took it from him,” Chappelle complained.
“It’s over,” Chappelle told the audience; “It’s over. LGBTQIALMNOP; it’s over. I will not tell another joke about you until I am sure that we are laughing together,” he promised.
“All I ask from your community, in all humility, is that you stop punching down on my people,” is how Chappelle ended his monologue. It was the answer to a question Chappelle posed at the very beginning of his special: “Can a gay person be racist?”
This current Dave Chappelle controversy, and whether or not he survives it, is not the indictment of cancel culture conservatives would like it to be.
It is more like an outgrowth of what some have dubbed the “Successor Ideology”. What will prove the stronger, which force will prevail, which movement has more power and influence on society today and the decision-makers at Netflix: The racism of Dave Chappelle’s critics or the so-called transphobia of Dave Chappelle?
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)