Dave Chappelle: Class, Race, Identity, Politics, and Most Importantly Comedy

By Cornelius Whitewater | USA

Dave Chappelle is one of the funniest men in America. He proved this once again when he released the final of his Netflix specials Equanimity and The Bird Revelation. In both, he tackles race relations, identity politics, class, and his own problems with the entertainment industry. Part of what makes Chappelle great is that he doesn’t shy away from controversy. He is not afraid to make fun of everybody from all walks of life. And he does so in a way that often builds up the groups he is making fun of as opposed to tearing them down.

What strikes me as important about Chappelle’s comedy is that it seems to come from a different era. After all, Chappelle disappeared for twelve years after serious disagreements with the entertainment industry. Upon his return, he seemed ignorant to the political correctness that has dominated American culture in recent times. Case in point: Chappelle isn’t afraid to joke about transgender people or the recent sexual assault allegations made against Hollywood moguls. During Chappelle’s hay day this was all standard practice, but today it is out of the ordinary even for comedy, a medium known for pushing the envelope.

Moreover, there is a lot of nuance to the political incorrectness of Chappelle’s comedy, something I think we can learn from. When he jokes about transgenders on Equanimity he does so with zingers that burn, but also by recounting personal encounters with transgender people and how these encounters informed him to remain nonprejudicial to their existence. On The Bird Revelation Chappelle openly laughs at Louis C.K. and what he is accused of doing, while also agreeing with women that sexual assault is not ok. Political correctness is undoubtedly a perverse form of Orwellian censorship. And to defeat it we need politically incorrect people. Not simply for the sake of being edgy or contrarian. But rather because in the face of PC culture being politically incorrect can allow for a sort of synthesis of thought that enables nuanced and intelligent opinions.

Another thing that struck a chord with me was Chappelle’s opinions regarding Trump and Trump voters. Now let me be clear, Chappelle is no Trump supporter and throughout his comedy special, particularly Equanimity, he dogs the President. However, Chappelle displays a great understanding of why Trump supporters support the man. In his home state of Ohio Chappelle saw the working class whites come out in droves to vote much like the black population did for Obama in 08′. He saw on their faces their desire for change, to be remembered in a geography known as the Rust Belt. He didn’t see deplorable faces but rather angry and determined ones. They were there doing their duty as American’s, as was he.

Most importantly, Chappelle’s specials were just outright hilarious. While tackling controversial issues Chappelle goes in guns blazing, refusing to pull any punches, and as a result, he says what most of us think but are too afraid to say. Yes, Chappelle is critical of the President, as he is of just about everybody else. But if we can’t poke fun at ourselves and what we believe in then we are no better than the snowflakes we on the right so vehemently claim to disdain. Chappelle also does a good job ridiculing the media and their coverage of political division in America. He critiques how they have portrayed the fringes of our society, both right and left, as the norm. When in reality most Americans get along together every day: regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, or creed.

Ultimately, and in a time of much uncertainty, it’s always good to laugh. At oneself, at others, at the existential threats facing us in the day to day. Laughter has been described as the best medicine. And I think that it is high time we as American’s quit being so sensitive, and understand that being offended all of the time is both tiring and harmful to a free and open society. When we can all joke around with each other about one another, then I will believe that we as Americans have begun to heal and overcome what is and has been dividing us.