Analysis Reviews

Oh, Dave! On the Fallout over Chappelle’s ‘Sticks and Stones’

CONTENT WARNING: LANGUAGE

Hey guys, its Bryan. I’m writing after watching Dave Chappelle’s latest Netflix comedy special Sticks and Stones. I’ve taken a few days after watching this special to really get my head around everything, just so I know exactly what I want to say and how I want to say it.

With that out of the way, a little bit of history:

I first discovered Dave Chappelle after watching Robin Hood: Men in Tights. He was the “token” black guy in the cast with his backwards baseball cap-style Robin Hood hat, his black Reebok Pump sneakers, among other things.  When I finally discovered his stand up, I completely fell in love with it. He was/is raw, intellectual, and is amazing at making humorous observations.

His show, Chappelle’s Show, was groundbreaking in so many ways. Dave tackled race, sexuality, religion, and everything in between on that show, and it is applauded as being among the greatest sketch comedy shows in history.

Now, in his new Netflix special he is coming under fire for his jokes against the LBGTQ Community.

I am trying very hard to understand the outrage. I really am. Dave has been making jokes about EVERYONE his entire career. He has never just singled out the LGBTQ community. He’s never just singled out white people. He’s never just singled out black people. He makes observations about all people and makes jokes about them. Again, this isn’t new. He even said during his stand-up set that, and I’m paraphrasing, “You can get mad, but you clicked MY face”—a reference to the viewer choosing to watch his Netflix special.

One of the greatest points that Chappelle makes in his new special comes in the shape of a story from when he was doing Chappelle’s Show on Comedy Central. He was dealing with a woman in the standards and practices office, and he was told that he couldn’t use the F-Word (the one that originally meant a bundle of sticks, or a reference to a cigarette in Europe). So, then he asked, and again I’m paraphrasing, “Why didn’t you all have an issue with me using the word ‘nigger’?” The woman from standards and practices responded: “Well Dave, you’re not an faggot.” And Dave replies “I’m not a nigger” either.

Now THAT is powerful. Chew on that for a moment.

The First Amendment allows us to say what we want, within reason, without being prosecuted. It does not protect us against the backlash that comes with it. However, and I’m quoting the great Roland Martin when I say this: I do not watch comedy shows thinking they’re lectures. It’s satire. Comedy is designed to press your buttons. It’s designed to make light of life. Have you ever stood in a circle with kids from school and got to “rippin’”? Older folks used to call it “cappin’.” Basically, insult circles. ‘Yo Mama’ jokes and whatnot.

Comedians are supposed to push your buttons. Comedians are supposed to make fun of people. If someone wants to tease or make fun of me? Hey if we are friends, go ahead and make fun. I’ll give it to you right back. Now, if I don’t like you, leave me the hell alone. But I can’t stop you from making fun of me when I’ve walked away. You know what, though? I really don’t give a damn. I’m fat. Yup. Make your jokes. I’m bald? Make your jokes. I’m black? Go ahead.

Comedians make fun. Comedians tease. Comedians do this to keep us laughing because guess what? This world sucks. Comedians perform social commentary and make it funny. So…laugh. If you don’t like it? Then don’t listen to him, plain and simple. He isn’t advocating hate.  

Yes. I shook my head in disbelief at some of his jokes because of the climate that we are in right now. I don’t want to say that we should thicken our skin, but I will say that we need to understand our context

A comedy show isn’t a lecture. Comedy isn’t meant to be taken seriously. Comedy isn’t mean to be treated as serious. Comedy is comedy. It has only as much power as we give it.

So while Sticks and Stones might break our bones…words should never hurt us.

~~~

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