Dave Chappelle continues to pursue being that mischievous kid who feels validated to double down on a joke as long as he can get a laugh. But, when the jokes subside, you realize the controversy is an act, and there is depth beyond the superficial.
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Like many comedians, Dave Chappelle speaks about what he knows and has experienced, and because his life has become him being the comedian who punches down, he plays on it. So, there are still trans jokes, but he throws some aimed at people with disabilities, like former congressman Madison Cawthorn.
However, while he leans into what people think he is, he reminds them that the outrage is a small part of his story or impact. Similar to his tour mate, Chris Rock, he is also someone who was attacked on stage. Not by someone famous like Will Smith, but nonetheless, the barrier between performer and audience became permeable, and he was forced to reckon with many things in his life.
As you can imagine, he plays some of it for jokes, like how people came to his aid while no one did for Chris Rock. But, as seen in most of Dave’s specials, while he can sometimes be that kid in class who will do anything for a laugh and keep going as long as at least one person is validating him, he can get serious.
Lest we forget, Dave is a married man, a father, and he could have been killed that night. The dream that started when he was a teenager could have ended in tragedy. Yet, as is the point of “The Dreamer,” we’re reminded that there are a series of dreams going on at any time, and the one with the most powerful dream, especially when they put action into it, can have their dream come true. But, sometimes, you gotta know when to be humble and recognize you are part of someone else’s dream.
Like, that night on May 2022, Dave Chappelle wasn’t in his attacker’s dream. Apparently, it was Jamie Foxx’s since he was ready with a cowboy hat to be Django all over again and protect someone he loved.
- Dialog: Discriminatory Language, Cursing (Throughout)
- Violence: N/A
- Sexual Content: N/A
- Miscellaneous: Smoking
December 31, 2023
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Dave Owns All He Can Be
Perhaps one of the biggest problems with Chappelle’s standup isn’t so much his jokes, which definitely aren’t made for the court of public opinion – more, the issue is that there is so much put into those jokes, it can make the best parts of his set forgotten. In this special, he begins by noting he is going to joke about trans people, with a special focus on transmen and disabled people. He also makes it clear he only needs a few in a thousand to laugh to be satisfied.
Sadly, this is how things start, and you can tell this is to give the headline writers and major publications what they want. Chappelle throws them a bone to keep their ad dollars going in a similar fashion to how Trump keeps a lot of news organizations in the black by doing his own version of stand-up.
However, the difference is, there does come a point when Chappelle reminds you that he is more than a comic who isn’t afraid of cheap and easy jokes. He can also say some deep and insightful things.
On the topic of dreams, he speaks of work he did with HBO before his first special, “Killing Them Softly,” and how they nearly screwed him over, maybe could have gotten him killed, by a Russian Mobster. He also talks about Lil Nas X and how bold, gay, and outrageous he is, and despite Dave being a bigger star and out in the industry longer, he could recognize that kid was dreaming bigger than him, and he was just playing a role when they met.
But it is probably in him talking about and joking about Chris Rock and Will Smith that you’re reminded that he can balance being a notable storyteller and comedian. For while there are jokes about how “Everybody Hates Chris” as he compares being attacked at the Hollywood Bowl and everyone jumping in, while Will smacked Chris and got to stay to receive his award, there is also a recognition that Dave can relate to both men.
As a comedian, he knows crossing the line is part of the job. Yet still, as a man, especially a public figure, he also knows sometimes you can’t just have boundaries but have to enforce them. So, if someone says something about you or your loved ones on the wrong day, they will get checked, no matter if it is in the heart of DC, Baltimore, or one of the most prestigious events in Hollywood.
And in many ways, as you see Dave step away from relishing in how the controversy of a handful of jokes has not only kept him relevant but perhaps one of the hottest comedians out, you can almost see someone who recognizes that those jokes can lead true fans to a message, while the rest can remain in their bubbles, kicking up dust and making it seem and sound like a storm is coming.
Good If You Like
- Politically incorrect, if not outright offensive (though to some equal opportunity) comedy
- Deeper messages that can resonate
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Dave Chappelle: The Dreamer (2023) – Review
In many ways, you can see Chappelle has leaned heavily into controversy selling as he continues to explore what is taboo for a comic to say. Yet, in many ways, it does seem that while being controversial is about the marketing, he knows his staying power is all about telling thought-provoking stories that, for those who understand what he is doing, even if they don’t agree with it, they can still learn from.
Dave Owns All He Can Be - 87%
- Dave Owns All He Can Be