Once again, during the era of the overly offended, another stand-up comedian is being put on internet trial for supposedly marginalizing a group of people. After releasing his two-part Netflix classic, comedian Dave Chappelle is being branded as homophobic and transphobic for some of the things he said during his special. The people making these claims are completely undermining the creative liberties a performer is supposed to have on stage.
My opinion that Chappelle’s performance was genius is exactly that, my opinion, and I won’t announce it to the world as a fact. As an aspiring journalist and amateur stand-up comedian, I appreciate and understand first amendment rights. I also appreciate the amount of hard work it takes to assemble a full hour of standup comedy material and perform it in front of millions of people, thanks to the platform Netflix provides. To say the comedy special wasn’t funny to you is one thing, but to say the performance was marginalizing or prejudiced in anyway is not only outrageous, it’s impossible.
If a journalist, for example, were to make similar comments to what Chapelle said, the case for that journalist being homophobic or transphobic could be made because a journalist isn’t in the entertainment business. But a performer, such as a comedian, cannot be held accountable for performing material as if they truly believe every word they say, and an audience member has no right to claim how their material is supposed to be interpreted by the rest of the audience. To say Chappelle is a homophobe or a transphobe is like saying Larry the Cable Guy is an actual cable guy.
Anyone who claims Chappelle’s words were discriminatory are selectively taking words from a comedic bit literally. I never thought I would see the day where a comedian like Chapelle is being reprimanded for being hateful and marginalizing, when in the same comedy special, Chappelle talked about idolizing the Care Bears. Think about how crazy that is. The outraged blogger community tells people to believe that Chappelle finds transgendered progress at the expense of the black community in America, but never mentioned when he said, “Dave Chappelle the American” pointed out how great it was that the media and the nation heavily supported Caitlyn Jenner and transgender progress. Most critics have only focused on Dave Chappelle’s comments on behalf of “Dave Chappelle the black american” during his routine.
But any mentioning of change being weird in society is a cause for outrage these days, right? All Chappelle did was point out that it was kind of crazy that one of the greatest American male athletes of all time decided to change his sex. Sue him for pointing that out. Actually, please don’t. That would be too predictable.
I hate being the one to make the classic sticks and stones argument, but I am just left no choice. Chappelle became a comedy icon by making hilarious commentary of societal and political events. As a performing public figure, it is his right to make fun of or comment on any group of people.
I found Chappelle’s performance to be as fair and balanced as they come and to me, it was a comedic masterpiece that had me laughing from beginning to end. But that is my opinion because Chappelle is one of my stand-up idols. If you don’t find him funny, it is your right to believe that and voice that belief, especially if you paid money for the performance. But to interject claims of marginalizing groups of people is just unnecessary.
I am not a big fan of Drake and I voice that opinion constantly, but I don’t add claims of misogynistic language to my argument. I just think he sucks. But music, like stand-up comedy, is an art form in which the quality of work is completely subjective. So, everyone can complain as much as they want; just be careful of how much you expect it to matter because Dave Chappelle has 60 million reasons why he doesn’t need to change his material.
Nick Tocco can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org