When it comes to Hollywood people like Dave Chappelle, I learned about him just like many teens were introduced to him in the mid 90’s, by way of a jeering comedy all about the one taboo that mattered at that time: weed. Half-Baked, an instant cult-classic about cannabis culture lambasted joke after recklessly high joke. It’s all the guys seemed to care or talk about at school, so naturally it would become part of my library of reach when referring to Chappelle’s work. Fast forward nigh on twenty years, and the showman’s landscape has changed. Of course there is the “Cancel Culture,” which is relevant to many stars, but there is so much more. The #metoo culture, the racist culture, the PC police, and the phantoms of white supremacy, global warming, conspiring Russians, and Nazi Hitler. Regardless of all these sexy, racy (no pun intended) topics, there is no way an audience member does not feel even slightly awkward and uneasy as Chappelle traipses through the topic of pedophilia and Epstein. In fact the opening salvo just vomits Epstein all over the audience, forcing them to refamiliarize themselves with that faint memory of a name spoken once or twice on the cable news networks. And what now? This name is falling out of Dave’s mouth? What comedian starts a show talking about a serial child rapist that “committed suicide” while gleefully hopeful for a sentencing deal when finally faced with real justice. It makes no sense. Either way, Chappelle does not side with or incite anything by talking about Epstein. The punch line, a thought-full and particular narrative, rounds out to the stoic topic of convo in a quip so sardonic it had me loudly laughing!
Anyway, pedophilia, top of mind. He talks about Michael Jackson, Epstein, R. Kelly. Some of these jokes are quite controversial, and, yet, somehow it seems that there could be nothing more so controversial than talking about the “alphabet people.” The LGBTQ…. I’ve oft heard that there is some sort of Gay Mafia, you know that some one like Kevin Spacey may have been associated with. But, in the end, there seems to be a mafia for everyone. So whatever or whomever these individuals supposedly are, one has to wonder why the myth prevails. So much so Dave must retaliate. Some of the jokes he told about the dynamics and personalities of the “alphabet people” were nigh spot on from my personal experience, but the ones that didn’t land, I could understand where he’d get the idea. As a member of the “Alphabet People,” I didn’t find anything offensive or hurtful in his show. Perhaps the most controversial, though, was the way he laid into the “T”s, as we know: transexuals. Nevertheless, the most important thing that stands out about this comedy act, to me, is the way Chappelle takes his listless audience from topic-to-controversial-topic, in the most lewd, politically incorrect, rampage, ushering them from genuine laughter, to edge the of discomfort, through thought-provoking and fleeting enlightenment, to fits of applause.
I appreciate that Chappelle is able to take on such major topics in a way not many comedians can or do (a la George Carlin or Bill Hicks). Dave is, obviously, no stranger to controversary, and has stayed away from Hollywood for many years, most recently from what I understand, the second time he’d been away in as many years. Still, I can’t help but feel that Chappelle doesn’t just get in trouble with minority groups and descent people, he probably gets in trouble with producers, politicians and the likes. He ambles in and out of topics like racism, abortion, and even Trump all while jarring the subconscious. Speaking of haranguing the people in power, in one of the epilogues to the show, where Dave lets audience members ask questions, he goes into this story about how Chris Tucker visited with him and brought his ‘friends’ over, namely: Kamala Harris, the then governor of California, and some important news anchor. Barrack Obama was a focal character of this yarn, and again appeared later in the show to round out the punchlines. Albeit many of these individuals are now mixed up in some stuff in Washington, the Epstein case being among one of the primary leads. But even addressing a topic like gun control can go either way at the dinner table, and ultimately, leave a bad taste in ones mouth. And let’s face it, as funny as his solution to gun control is, it’s still controversial to the virtuously sensitive. Anyway, this is masterful art. I think one of the most brilliant comedic pieces ever written that addresses present societal conditions in a remarkable commentary the audience can’t believe it agrees.
Sticks and Stones by Dave Chappelle, an Netflix Comedy Event, is available for viewing now.
“Comedy As Much As Art: A Review of ‘Sticks and Stones’ by Dave Chappelle,” is written by Michael Aaron Casares. All rights reserved.