Dave Chappelle’s “The Closer” is stubbornly defiant

Dave Chappelle’s six-show series for Netflix reflected a tumultuous period in American history. For the past four years, Chappelle’s specials have covered the Trump presidency, social unrest after the murder of George Floyd, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Stuck between the stages in 2020, Chappelle delivered a solemn commentary on Floyd’s death titled “8:46”.

Throughout her run on Netflix, Chappelle has shamelessly tackled third rail topics such as culture cancellation, sexual abuse in Hollywood, race relations, the opioid epidemic among “poor whites” and LGBTQ issues.

And he often did so with brilliant humor and grace. This time? Not really.

This series of specials has come at an uncertain time for comedy, as social media and political correctness have had a chilling effect on what a comedian can say. Or at least what some actors say they are allowed to say. One of the main goals of comedy is to figure out where the line of relevance is at any given time and prove it by jumping over it.

Comedians deserve a lot of leeway for what they say because their job, when done right, is essentially to jump off a cliff to give the rest of us a better understanding of where things are right now. humanity.

Chappelle’s specials on Netflix were refreshing as they pushed the cultural envelope at a time when backlash from social media can ruin a career.

In 2017’s “Equanimity”, the comedian begins by saying that he doesn’t feel, “as a politician,” bad about anything he says on stage. He later explains his point, saying:

Everyone gets mad because I tell these jokes. But you have to understand that this is the best time to say them. Now more than ever, I know there are comedians in the back – motherfuckers, you have a responsibility to speak recklessly or my kids might not know what reckless speech looks like. The joys of being wrong. I didn’t come here to be right, I just came here to mess around.

This week, Netflix released Chappelle’s latest show in the series, “The Closer,” which promised to tie a knot around the entire project. The promise was enticing.

“I need you to know something, and I’m going to tell you the truth, and don’t panic: this will be my last special for a minute,” he said, explaining later that “The Closer” will complete. his “body of work” for Netflix.

A brilliant riff on rapper DaBaby at the start of the show highlighted America’s lopsided view of race relations and LGBTQ rights. But it also kicked off a running theme that will haunt the rest of the performance: the idea that black and LGBTQ communities clash in the fight for social justice.

Ten minutes into the show’s start, he began an hour-long rant on the genre where he hit back at critics who called him transphobic.

“Anyone of you who’s ever watched me knows that I’ve never had a problem with transgender people. If you listen to what I’m saying, clearly my problem has always been with white people,” he says. he does.

It would make sense if all trans people were white. But this is far from true. In all fairness, earlier in the special, Chappelle joked about the differences he sees between white and black gays when it comes to their experiences with the police. However, a bit about the genre was not on solid ground:

“Gender is a fact,” he reasoned. “Every human in this room, every human on earth, had to go through a woman’s legs to be on earth. It’s a fact. Now I’m not saying that to say that trans women are not. not women, I’m just saying those pussies that they have… you know what I mean? I’m not saying it’s not pussy, but it’s Beyond Pussy or Impossible Pussy. it tastes like pussy, but it’s not quite that, is it? not blood. It’s beetroot juice.

Dave Chappelle on Transgender (The Closer)


Chappelle is wrong here too. Gender and sex are two different things. Gender, according to the World Health Organization, refers to “the different biological and physiological characteristics of women, men and intersex people”; whereas gender is “the socially constructed characteristics of women and men – this includes norms, behaviors and roles”.

Over the next half hour, he talks about punching a lesbian woman in the breasts, confronting a trans woman who was embarrassed by her job and the “messy dykes” of the #MeToo movement.

Ultimately, he tries to claim high morality and fly above the crash he made by remembering a night he let inexperienced trans woman, Daphne Dorman, open for him at a show. in San Francisco.

After the show, they discussed her take on transgender people.

“She said, ‘I don’t need you to understand me.’ She said, “I just need you to believe I’m having a human experience,” Chappelle said.

“I said, ‘I believe you, bitch.’ Because she didn’t say nothing about the pronouns. She didn’t say anything about that I was in trouble. She said, ‘Just believe that I’m a person and I’m going through it’ “, a he continued.

Dorman later died by suicide. Chappelle does not examine why she would have committed suicide. Or consider the fact that trans people are ten times more likely to attempt suicide than those who are not.

Instead, he tries to smooth things over by saying that we all need to empathize with each other and that means LGBTQ people should be indulgent to comedians like him and Kevin Hart who have been reprimanded for anti-LGBTQ jokes.

“Empathy is not gay. It is not black. Empathy is bisexual. It has to go both ways,” he said. “Will you please stop hitting me, people?” ”

Yes, multimillionaire Kevin Hart may not have been able to host the Oscars for some homophobic jokes he made a decade ago. But that doesn’t match the kind of discrimination that drives many people like Dorman to kill themselves.

Chappelle is one of the few comics talented and honest enough to help us understand one of the most controversial eras in American history. Sadly, “The Closer” moves away from work. Instead, we’re treated with a man who pretends he doesn’t care about his criticisms, going the extra mile to provide us with a confused, sorry, not sorry explanation for his jokes that fail to convince.

A comedy club is not a court and comedians should be able to win on an emotional appeal instead of an intellectual argument. But Chapel’s most recent special looks more like an act of dogged defiance than an honest assessment of the genre in the United States.

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