Review: Dave Chappelle, “Sticks & Stones,” on Netflix

Some 15 years ago, Dave Chappelle cared so much about what people thought of him and his comedy that he up and quit his successful Comedy Central series and left $50 million on the table.

Now, not so much. In fact, after more than making that up with his Netflix deal, not to mention all the touring revenue he has earned in recent years, Chappelle doesn’t care what you, I, or anyone else thinks of him and his comedy.

Take this “impression” bit, for example, from his newest hour for Netflix, Sticks & Stones:

This special is a big ‘ol f-you to his critics.

Some of it works quite masterfully. Chappelle remains a genius, particularly in the moment when comedic geniuses are most tested. Not all of his defenses of other mega-celebrities are that smart, however, even in service to the jokes he makes on their behalf. Which makes it more frustrating. On the one hand, hooray for Chappelle standing up for comedians to joke about anything and everything. On the other, why must he defend some indefensible conduct by celebrities, which just makes it seem as though Trump’s “Access Hollywood” confession is still OK by society. But that’s part of his point. Right? We as society are trying to have it both ways, it seems. We want to “cancel” bad actors. We also seem fine with allowing the rich and famous to get away with anything and everything. We contain those multitudes. And if Chappelle can’t joke about it, then who can?

You can read my full review of Chappelle’s Sticks & Stones over on Decider.

What I didn’t mention there: You can watch another 22 minutes of Chappelle conducting Q&As with his Broadway audiences in “Epilogue: The Punchline,” which automatically plays if you don’t stop before the credits end. You see, Chappelle recorded this Netflix special in Atlanta a couple of weeks before his Broadway run. And while he jokingly mocked his fans for paying several hundred dollars to see him on Broadway, he did also feel compelled to give them more for their money by coming back onstage to take questions from them. The epilogue also includes repeated shout-outs to the San Francisco comedy club, The Punchline, which Chappelle advocated for earlier this year to help save it from San Francisco’s high-tech gentrification.

But to the Q&A…here are two of his answers that any comedian should pay attention to.

First, when a fan asked for advice on starting in stand-up:

“I don’t know how comedians start nowadays. What I’d suggest is just start. And, and, and once you start, you can’t really stop, no matter what happens. No matter how bad it gets. No matter what people say. You know what I mean? Because comedy is weird like that. You know why I hate watching other comedians do comedy? Not cause I hate other comedians. But because I love comedy so much. It’s like watching somebody else fuck your girl. And I say, ‘I fuck her better than that.’”

Then later, answering a question about who influenced or inspired him:

“I was raised by comedians. I started doing stand-up when I was 14. The other day I went to a comedian’s funeral, and I realized as we was putting this motherfucker in the ground, that these people are at least as influential to me as my family. I rock with these niggas til the wheel falls off. We fight and we fuss, and we get jealous of each other, and we get mad at each other, but my life wouldn’t have been what it was without each and every one of them. And I consider them my family.”

It should come as no surprise, then, to see the comedy family rallying to have Chappelle’s back when critics come calling him out.

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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6 thoughts on “Review: Dave Chappelle, “Sticks & Stones,” on Netflix

  1. Let me start out my reply by admitting out front that I’m a almost 60 year old white guy from North Central Texas. I did however spend the first 58 years of my life in Oregon. The two places are a little different.

    I just finished watching Dave Chappelle’s Sticks and Stones. After watching it I decided to surf the web and thanks to the magic of Google your review popped up. It’s amazing what they know. That’s a different topic.

    I thought I would add my 2 cent’s about Dave Chappelle.

    His show made me laugh and feel very uncomfortable all at the same time. I was agreeing with him one second and completely offended the next. When I read your comment on people trying to “Cancel” bad actors I think I understood a bit better what he was doing.

    15 years ago he was making fun of racists, bigots and a*****es. He understands there are n****rs, a*****es and racists in the world. He also understands that being part of the afor mentioned group’s is not defined by ones race, religion (or the lack of) or sexual orientation. It’s defined by your animosity towards other people just for their existing. Not just because they belong to a particular ethnic, religious or sexual orientation but also what you might be thinking. For some if you have ever had a “improper” thought as defined by them you need to be cancelled. Those people are just as dangerous as blatant racists. Just ask those who died in the Soviet gulags and Chinese reeducation camps. They didn’t die any less than the Jews in Aushwitz. Yes they should be made fun and shown to be the miscreants they are.

    Those who think they know better and have the right to “Cancel” people are dangerous. History is filled with those people who knew better. You know the ones, the earth is flat, the sun revolves around the earth. Those were the people who put Galileo in prison. They were pompous, self important a*****es. We have people just as bad these days, and unfortunately, just as dangerous. They should be mocked.

    Dave Chappelle has a shooting ground with them. The arrogant are the easiest ones to make jokes about, wether they are racists or the thought police. Their arrogance comes from some self granted superiority. It is truly fun to watch them howl in self-righteous anger.

    I’m not a comic, but I believe speech should be protected. We will always have a*****es, n*****es, racists, pompous self important thought police people who should be mocked. As long as we do Dave Chappelle and people like will make a great living and we should have their backs.

  2. He is very funny, that’s a fact. He can deliver a punch line like magic. But this man is an intellectual and if you’re laughing too hard you’ll miss the real point. But for me I think he doesn’t get enough credit fyor those big beautiful brown eyes! His eyes talk as much stuff as he does. I love watching him!

  3. I’ve been a fan of Dave Chappelle for a long time, and still rank him in my top 5. But, this latest special is just “okay’. Not close to his best work. There were plenty of times I smiled during the show, but only a couple of occasions where I laughed out loud. As for anything being “offensive”…what? In my opinion, there’s FAR too little offense being offered by comedians these days. The role of comedians is to push boundaries, to challenge social mores, to reflect the ridiculous aspects of our society back at us (the audience) to reveal hypocrisy, and sometimes even search for truth. If someone in the audience isn’t offended during a show, the comedian isn’t doing their job. But, maybe I’m outside the norm. My favorite comedians are 3rd George Carlin, 2nd Bill Burr, and 1st Patrice O’Neal. Chappelle comes in 4th, and the special didn’t do anything to help him move up the list.

  4. Thank you, David Chappelle, for standing up to the cancel culture cretin outrage addicts. It is not YOU who lost anything. It is so-called professional reviewers who gave your excellent NF special a “0” on Rotten Tomatoes, but an absolute piece of garbage horror flick, Us, a 90%. It is these critics who can;t tell good from bad, up from down, a circle from a square it seems so mired in political correctness are they. They have ZERO credibility. None. All gone. Ready? Disagree with your thoughts on Michael Jackson — but your raw humor made me laugh out loud. The morons who are driving comedians away from doing stand-up or taking unpopular topics and non-PC POVs have to go. Hopefully, your successful and hilarious routine will both expose them and make it safe for comedians to do their thing again. And the cancel culture cretins can watch something else instead of canceling acts for we normal people. After all, we can all use a good laugh in these times, now, can’t we?

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