I love dark humour. I live in a generation raised by memes and shaped by absurd, Dadaist comedy. I also live in a more open-minded, progressive, and inclusive generation than anyone before mine. How do I reconcile the two?
It’s not that complicated. If you make a joke that’s funny, I’ll laugh. Just don’t be a complete asshole while you do it. I’m looking at you, Dave Chappelle.
While having been in the business for over 35 years, Chappelle still finished as the third highest-paid comic last year, according to recent Forbes statistics. His new stand-up special, Sticks and Stones, was marketed as this sort of celebration of all that is politically incorrect and supposedly funny. In reality, it’s closer to a fading comedian who operates in the same capacity as a Reddit troll.
He opens the show complaining about cancel culture and shows a remarkable lack of understanding of the very industry he thrives in. By mocking the suicide of Anthony Bourdain, (because apparently rich people can’t struggle from anything), Chappelle not only completely misinterpreted some of the harsh realities surrounding suicide, but belittled everything Bourdain went through.
He then moved on to practically brag about being a victim blamer and did his best impression of the shrug emoji when entertaining the fact that the allegations made against Michael Jackson might hold some truth.
“Even if he did do it *shrugs*,” said Chappelle. And then went on to explain why it should be an honour and an incredible sexual achievement to be assaulted by someone that famous. He seemed to not notice the blatant irony as he had the audacity to criticize the #MeToo movement and defend Louis C.K.’s actions.
Next up came the same old, overused, and painfully unfunny joke about trans athletes. He continued to go on about how Lebron James could just announce that he identified as a woman and score as much as he wanted. Chappelle—who is widely regarded as one of the greatest comics of all time—is now stuck rehashing the same level of comedy as idiots who yell out “bUt WhAt If i IdEnTiFy aS An ApAcHe HeLiCoPtEr.” That was just the tip of the transphobic iceberg.
Oh, by the way, this was all within the first twenty minutes. Now, I could end up writing a doctoral thesis on everything wrong with the following 40-minute shitshow, like his complaining about not being able to use homophobic slurs in his skits or referring to the LGBTQ+ community as “the letter people,” but my blood pressure can only take so much.
What Chappelle is doing right now is clinging to the last bit of clout he has in a changing world of comedy. More and more TV shows, skits, and comics are realizing that you can be open-minded and progressive and still be absolutely hilarious, all while pushing the envelope and tackling dark humour.
Dave Chappelle is one of the people that stands to suffer from that shift in comedy. He appears so dead-set on shaming you for enjoying an inclusive comedy experience that people like Hasan Minhaj or John Oliver can provide.
Chappelle tried so hard to sound edgy but he just ended up coming off as an ugly, asinine mix between your annoying, boomer uncle’s Facebook feed and an 11-year-old that just discovered what the word “dank” means.
Dave Chappelle will always go down as one of the greatest pioneers of comedy and one of the first from that field to become an international mega-star. That’s why it pains me so much to see him so unapologetically insufferable.
Did I crack a smile once or twice while watching? Sure. But it’s disheartening to see such a funny human stoop so low that they would appeal to the lowest common denominator of an audience. Instead of changing with the times and showing some range, he’s doubled down on being as unabashedly insulting to as many people and communities as possible.
Graphic by Victoria Blair