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?
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.