Published May 12, 2017During his first shows in Los Angeles in ten years, Dave Chappelle felt compelled to catch up with his audience by demonstrating how he's been dealing with a world in flux. In a sense, he makes his own departure from the limelight — when he was one of TV's biggest stars and a frontrunner for G.O.A.T in standup — as a kind of year zero for this new act. He recounts huge socio-cultural transitions we've all experienced already, and offers his perspective on them, which would be normal enough if most of us weren't already well past them.
When he discusses reportage of his disastrous show in Detroit where "some rappers" got him stoned (apparently Danny Brown was holding a potent strain that night), a racially charged traffic stop in Los Angeles, or the four occasions in his life where he encountered O.J. Simpson, Chappelle is so funny, he glows. His gift is that he radiates comedy; a simple facial flourish or the cadence and phrasing of a couple of words from Chappelle can prompt deafening laughter.
But where such stories and anecdotes possess a certain timelessness, Chappelle reveals some stodginess when offering up his takes on inroads made by LGBTQ communities and, more generally, America's (supposed) evolution, as an empathetic nation that embraces differences among its citizenry. His impulse is to find the jokes in all of this progress and often he does. But you can also see him holding back, often disclaiming that he's no homophobe or racist but…
When Chappelle digs into such fare, a little less sure of himself, he seems out of touch. There's something about his posture and energy too that seems weathered — both by the passage of time and the changing times. We missed his perspective while the world was spinning forward and now that he's back, it's like we're watching him get back up to speed with us. He is undeniably funny and this special is satisfying on many levels. But it's also marked by datedness and less thoughtfulness from one of comedy's greatest thinkers.
I made this gif tonight while watching Escape From New York. pic.twitter.com/nQXbWYFEAY— Scott Johnson (@scottjohnson) April 30, 2017
Exclaim! is reviewing every standup comedy special currently available on Netflix Canada, including this one. You can find a complete list of reviews so far here.