Both of Dave Chappelle’s new comedy specials have titles which aren’t as self-explanatory as what most comedians offer. Now, Netflix provided a definition for Equanimity but what about The Bird Revelation? Well, here are some theories.
Let me begin by saying that, like the other article dealing with The Bird Revelation, this began with a comment which sparked an idea. One which led me to traverse Google and try to piece a few things together.
It’s in reference to the Book of Revelations
Let me begin by saying I’m not a religious person. Spiritual yes, and I appreciate the positive things religion can do for people. Of which, may include Chappelle’s inspiration for naming his special. Now, as for why the title may be inspired by Revelations, specifically Revelations 18 and on, take this passage from the New International version, per Bible Gateway:
“‘Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great!’[a]
She has become a dwelling for demons
and a haunt for every impure spirit,
a haunt for every unclean bird,
a haunt for every unclean and detestable animal.
3 For all the nations have drunk
the maddening wine of her adulteries.
The kings of the earth committed adultery with her,
and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries.”
In this theory, let’s say Babylon is Hollywood, if not the entertainment industry in general. The kings of the earth who committed adultery will be the Cosbys, Weinsteins, and the lessers the birds like Louis C.K and etc. Meanwhile, those who covered for them, they are the merchants. The ones who benefited from bringing, rather luring, these women, even men, to these kings and animals who haunt, own and scavenge within Babylon. These merchants who, of impure spirits, like the unclean birds, kings, and animals, drunk from the wine which was the silent tears and shocked faces of victims. All the while becoming rich and living off what the kings of the industry gave them for their assistance, notoriety, and/or silence.
Also, taking note of what Bible Tools says, birds can also be considered demons. So the title, “Bird Revelation” could mean Demon Revelation, and with revelation meaning, per Dictionary.com’s definition, “something revealed or disclosed, especially a striking disclosure, as of something not before realized,” it could be Chappelle is calling his contemporaries, alongside Weinstein, demons who were unknown till now but have thus been revealed unto us.
It Could Be a Reference to the book Hollywood Babylon
Taking things another direction with the Book of Revelations, and the whole birds being demons thing, maybe the book “Hollywood Babylon” also is a piece of the pie? Maybe one inspired the other and as Chappelle read about the scandals that were hidden within Hollywood between the 1900s and 1950s, and as he thought about the fall of Babylon, “Hollywood Babylon” led him to the book of Revelations and then the title of the special?
“I was alive. I could fly”
It could very well be that the title has nothing to do with religion, the idea of Hollywood as a burning Babylon, or anything like that. Especially if you take note of the quote which appears before the special and also Chappelle bringing up the book, “Pimp” by Iceberg Slim. One of the key ideas in the special is choice. Whether it is the choice of the perv and rapists to do what they did or the choice Dave himself had to face when offered $50 million dollars to continue a show which no longer fulfilled him. Now, let’s take some things into account. As Chappelle notes in Equanimity, he didn’t grow up rich. He wasn’t living in the projects but $50 million is $50 million and considering Chappelle did okay, but wasn’t RICH BITCH, so came a few questions. Would he sing to the tune of $50 million, like a bird, or fly away?
Now, for many, perhaps there isn’t a real choice in the matter. When else in life will there be $50 million on the table? Yet, looking around, Chappelle’s wings were not clipped. He made it that far without Comedy Central and arguably, as 2017 has shown, could survive and damn near make as much as they put on the table, without them. Perhaps explaining, in part, why the Charlie Parker quote starts the show. He recognized, despite what Comedy Central may have left him feeling, he was alive and could fly the coup. And taking further note of Parker (nicknamed Bird, by the way), and reading over his Wikipedia page about his addiction to heroin, something stuck out to me. It’s this recording noted to have happened on July 29th, 1946. One in which Parker is noted as being “Erratic,” another word for crazy. In that session, it is noted you could see the condition Parker was in. He was drinking, missing beats, and damn near had to be shouted at to complete the session. In my mind, minus the heroin and maybe the drinking, this might have been where Chappelle was at. He came to work because of obligations he felt he was under and while Chappelle Show may very well be a highlight of his career, as Parker’s session that night led to one of the highlights of his career, there was still bad blood. For Parker, it was someone releasing a version of his song “Lover Man,” flaws and all. For Chappelle, it was the release of the third season, flaws and all.
Leaving one last reason that Charlie Parker may have inspired the title. According to the article “I came alive. I could fly” which can be found on News 24.com, this quote from Parker came from him finally getting to play what he had been hearing in his head for some time. And considering the hesitance of Chappelle, because, as he notes:
It could very well be these thoughts have been just on his mind and despite him knowing what backlash could come, and did come, Netflix did give him a platform to say it. So like Charlie, with Chappelle now at the point of his career where he can say and do as he pleases and, at worse, people just write a bunch of click-bait articles about it, tweet about it, but it doesn’t seem to kill his bottom line, he said what he said. Thus making it so “The Bird Revelation” could very well be the revelation that, at this point, Chappelle was alive, could fly, and essentially was free – just like Charlie Parker (minus his heroin addiction). A man also noted for being an artist and intellectual vs. an entertainer, and how he was uncompromising. Words of what may just be some Wikipedia editor showing off their skills and talents, but like with the whole “Hollywood Babylon” and Revelations theory, all it takes is a handful of words to spark an idea. One odd moment to spark a joke, and whether right or wrong maybe this sparked some theories of your own. Share them in the comments.
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Chapelle is very aware of the African American culture obviosuly and jazz is not an exception, it is not like i heard him saying something about it in an interview of something, but not everybody make this particular gesture to a band playing ’round midnight (Thelonious Monk), furthermore, not everybody would even recognize it with that arrangment
Also, Chapelle’s mother have a PHD in african american studies or something like it.
I truly believe that the “Bird Revelation” is that initial phrase, as a reference to a new way to make things, a way to shake the world a little bit. Charlie Parker revolutioned the way Jazz music was played with the Bebop.
It might a combination of both, with the biblical stuff, as you pointed out, but Dave Chapelle is also a muslim (as Charlie Parker was) so i don’t know much about his relation with the bible
Very interesting and nice article.
Very enlightening. I instantly thought Babylon was parallel with the state of America. “Kings of the Earth committed adultery with her”, being big corps and foreign countries like “Rusher” or “Chiyna”. Seems like an alley oop to me. Not as deep but most important considering the overall picture of all four of the Netflix specials and this one being the last. The first 3 felt Comedy specials with political points but this one was so deep it felt like a political special with comedic parts.
Great article and powerful points. Thank you Amari and as for the idea of BIRD meaning Young Woman, I totally see that point as well.
Bird revelation. Bird is slang for women. Women are revealing the sex abuse in Hollywood, “me too.”
The only issue with that idea is Chappelle reveals a bit of himself too. While a lot of the attention is about the women, that’s only in the beginning. Increasingly, it becomes about how he relates to the women. Heck, he is catching a lot of heat for calling Louis C.K.’s accuser brittle yet he walked away from the mainstream for a long time. Hence his comments about if what Louis was enough to break you, this isn’t the business for you.
But I definitely didn’t think about how “Bird” used to be slang for women and how that definitely could be another factor in this name game.