In “Sticks & Stones” Chappelle reaches peak “I Do Not Give A F***” as he delves into Michael Jackson, the LGBTQ community, and more.
|Screenplay By||Dave Chappelle|
|Genre(s)||Stand Up Special|
|Good If You Like||
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Dave Chappelle: Sticks & Stones Summary
Dave is a comedian. It’s how he has made his living for decades and, like many comedians, he finds scrutiny over his jokes obscene. If he makes a joke about kids being molested by Michael Jackson, and notes he is a victim blamer, does that mean he was a pedophile? Even if he asks why wouldn’t Michael Jackson go for Macaulay Culkin?
What about the LGBTQ+ community? Is it right for him to question and prod a sensitive community? One which struggles with oppression, just like he does in a way as a Black man? Is the complexity of being a rich Black man not adjacent to being a white gay man who knows he should have a certain amount of privilege yet is denied it?
In Sticks & Stones, the point seems to be what the point is for most talented comedians: I want you to look into this mirror and tell me what you see. Does it make sense to you? How the opioid epidemic is a big deal yet for the crack epidemic the most they did was a campaign which said, “Just Say No?” What about mass shootings and suicide? What can be said when a rich celebrity commits suicide but a 45 year old who managers a footlocker and lives with his mom doesn’t?
These are some of the idea explored and, if you can get past the jokes, which can be seen as offensive, you may understand why the joke is presented. It’s all about being the sugar to the nasty truth which is American society.
Peak Don’t Give A F***
You know how, for many, there is that certain age that’s hit when people stop filtering themselves since they think their age, and what they’ve been through, have given them the privilege to say what they want? Dave might be in that zone, if not in that tax bracket. For his whole victim blaming segment, that’s peak, “I could get cancelled today and still do well for the rest of my life.” Which, honestly, I’m not mad at.
For imagine Dave being afraid to talk about Kevin Hart, Louis C.K., or even Jussie Smollett? What about Dave not talking about the LGBTQ community due to a handful of articles? Articles that, in the long run, act as free press? That wouldn’t be Dave Chappelle. Hell, not only would it not be Dave Chappelle but Dave would be wasting the privilege he has as a veteran who actually is successful. One who, rather than use his privilege to start a dramatic acting career, decides to delve deeper into comedy. Say the kind of stuff people who just came out, or been in the game but don’t have much to show for it, can’t. That’s Dave’s lane and he is cruising down it with his iconic laugh louder than his horn telling you he is rich b****.
The best thing about Dave is that he is a storyteller who happens to tell jokes. Also, not all of his stories end with a punch line. For example, while doing Chappelle Show, he had to go to standards and practices over using the word f****t in a sketch. He understood why he couldn’t use it, and dropped it. However, he had to ask the person in charge why he could use the N-word then? The explanation? Because he is Black and not gay, so he could use one word but not the other. Dave’s retort? But I’m Black but not a n***a.
Which may sound simple, but it is a story which helps you understand how strange networks and the industry is. It also reminds you that as silly and weird Dave’s stories can be, like the LGBTQ community traveling towards acceptance, or equality, in a car, he isn’t being offensive and silly just to get a rise out of people. As noted in the summary, the whole idea here is for you to understand how strange life is outside of your bubble. Be it in communities you don’t deal with or the ones you are in. Because bias is a hell of a thing and damn near all of us are guilty of it.
It’s Generally Funny
As noted in his past Netflix specials, Dave is beyond gut-twisting funny. He does want to make you laugh, but he isn’t trying to be a jester anymore. Be it what happened at the end of Chappelle Show or other events in his life, he doesn’t want you to laugh at him but with him. Which brings about a whole new dynamic for you aren’t laughing at his pain or awkwardness now. Instead, you got to be in his shoes and deal with situations like how awkward it can be to buy a gun from KMART to handle opioid addicts in the area.
And I know, that may not sound funny to read about, but that’s what makes a good comedian. How do you make what could be twisted into something strange, even horrific, into something funny? Talent. Making it so, even if it seems gender, sexuality, or even race specific, opening it up to be general so anyone and everyone can relate and understand what’s going on and laugh.
While Political, It Doesn’t Bring Up Trump
From gun control, to the opioid epidemic, Dave touches upon issues which clearly need government intervention beyond “Just Say No.” And thankfully, Trump isn’t mentioned once. Which is good to me since, honestly, there is nothing worse than, after year one, people talking about an unpopular president and honing in on their looks and the way they talk. It is lazy and dances around the issue. So for Dave to make it personal, in terms of how easily he got a gun, how people look in his community, you get a balance.
For oftentimes comedy, especially with Black comedians, is a “Us vs. Them” kind of thing. What Black people do, versus white people. However, Dave makes it clear by the end of the show, only a few decisions, be it personal or in our DNA, separate everyone. Not in a “We Are The World” way, but in a straight-up, “I make fun of people I can identify with.” Hence his connection between Anthony Bourdain and this dude he knew who was 45 and somehow still trying to survive. That’s why he brings up Kevin Hart, Louis C.K., and Michael Jackson. Also, why he makes an effort to talk about the people in his community in Ohio. All it would take is a big enough scandal for him to end up infamous like any of them.
Thus leading to him being 46, as of a few days ago, and weathering highly public scandals which don’t seek to understand the context but see solely what is surface level. Twist words to produce clickbait and the kind of headlines that could lead to his gigs being cancelled like his peers. Which isn’t to downplay how many believe Chappelle’s words are callous and that he is using vulnerable communities for a joke. However, I’d submit the point is with his comments is that everyone is vulnerable and that connects us. The problem is we all have these shields up and stab about at the most subtle signs of attack. Making us ultimately incredibly sensitive solely to what we go through, in our own communities, and have forgotten laughter is the cheapest medicine for most things.
Dave Chappelle: Sticks & Stones Overall: Positive (Watch This) – Recommended
Chappelle continues to show why his career didn’t begin and end with one show, or even Half Baked. He has diversity in his set, his jokes, and storytelling which reminds you what it means to have a comedy special vs. just a comedy taping. Hence the positive label and recommendation.