The first time I heard a Dave Chappelle bit it was from my dad. It was before ‘Chapelle’s Show’ and it was the bit from the video below from ‘Killin’ Them Softly’
Now that bit was so funny, even with my dad missing all the nuances and cadence and general master storytelling ability of Dave Chappelle, it still made me think: “I need to watch that guy. Cause that is funny.” For the next couple of years anytime ‘Killin’ Them Softly’ came on HBO all arguments of what to watch on TV were over. A batcall would go out to the rest of the house for those that weren’t in the living room, “That Dave Chapalley (sic) guy is on again.” The person making the batcall of course not getting up from their seat.
Dave Chappelle is a genius and that is an understatement. Dave Chappelle should be put right next to Mark Twain on the American satire Rushmore.
During an amazing, terrific, insightful, and surreal (because of how much you can tell he likes James Lipton and, how much him and James Lipton are on the same page) ‘Inside the Actor’s Sutdio’ interview Dave Chapelle said, “It’s truth ingest. I pride myself on saying real shit. That people don’t even notice I’m saying. But, they feel it… and sometimes I just tell shit jokes and that’s the beauty of it.”
Let’s take Clayton Bigsby the Blind-Black White Supremest. It’s hilarious. But, it cuts to something about racism that is hard to pin down and articulate. Racism isn’t really about skin color or culture. It’s about placing the anger for the things not in your control at something. A blind person couldn’t possibly blame black people for him being blind. But, he can take out his anger and frustration at the universe for his blindness at black people by blaming them for social problems.
That’s why its hilarious to hear Clayton Bigsby talk about how he hates black people. It makes the shell of racism so clear. “Really Clayton? You hate black people because they have big noses? That’s why your really upset? That’s why your really angry?” It acutely shows the flaws of a racist mind and further reduces racists claims to hilarious non-sense.
Why does that make him so important you might be asking? No one put race and class issues in front of more people in America in my life time than Dave Chappelle. Everyone watched ‘Chappelle’s Show’. Everyone. It was the highest selling DVD when it was released. And that was before everything was online and you had to buy DVD’s. Comedy Central ran a 18-hour “Chappelle’s Show” marathon twice a day for years, I think.
There’s this part in a David Foster Wallace article about attending some pornography awards and one of the journalists says about pornography, the difference between a Calvin Kline ad and pornography is the difference between a joke and someone explaining why the joke is funny. Well, the difference between a Clayton Bigsby and a serious discussion about race and class is the difference between a joke and explaining why the joke is funny. And that’s what Dave Chapelle was talking about “truth ingest”.
He was uncompromising. He was infinitely thoughtful. And he is the funniest fucking American I except to see in my lifetime.