Dave Chappelle

Dave Chappelle and the Controversy that Wasn’t

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Trendy controversies are all over the place lately. And I really can’t get enough of them, despite there being so few limited hours in a day.

Dave Chappelle has recently been flooding social media with his controversial special The Closer. I watched a few of the clips on YouTube, and I certainly understood the outrage, despite not being a fan of cancel culture or any outrage over comedy in general. But one thing caught my attention.

Watch the Whole Thing

Dave Chappelle's Netflix special is offending critics, but viewers don't  care

Dave Chappelle discussed in a separate video his terms and conditions in order to have a meeting with the transgender community. And one condition stood out. He insisted that in order to speak with him, they needed to watch his special all the way through to the end.

Up to that point, I hadn’t done so. Just a few clips here and there. Who has time to watch over an hour of stand-up comedy these days?

But I wondered: Why this demand? Was it just a brilliant marketing technique to get more people to watch his entire show, or was there something deeper going on there?

So I watched everything, and I certainly got the answer I was looking for.

What No One’s Talking About

Yes, it was a brilliant marketing ploy. But it was so worth it. The end of the special was remarkable and unforgettable.

But no one is talking about it and I can only assume that’s because of one of two possible reasons. Either they haven’t seen it, or they don’t want to spoil it for you.

It’s the end of the show I wish to speak about. If you haven’t seen the special, please stop reading now and go watch from start to finish. If you’ve already seen it, or you have zero chance of watching it, read on.

Dave Chappelle: Everything is on the Table

Dave Chappelle

Dave Chappelle is a comedian. Comedy is a special form of art that has a basic rule of thumb: Everything is on the table. If it exists, it can and will be mocked. This is not a sign of hatred. This is a sign of acceptance that all things in the world are subject to friendly ridicule. If you accept that, join the fun and listen. If you don’t like it, no one is obligating you to participate. Just stay out of the way.

But for one group, the teasing and mockery were disproportionate. For sure, he took a stab at women, black people, and even us Jewish folk. But Chappelle really blasted the transgender world. It seemed like he had a grudge against their community.

And by the end of the special, you felt like you understood why.

You see, Dave Chappelle is not transphobic. In fact, he spent a whole lot of time at the end of the special speaking of his close friend and aspiring comedian, Daphne Dorman, a transgender woman with whom he became extremely close and took under his wing. Once when the community took to Twitter to lambast Chappelle for his words, his friend Daphne put on her boxing gloves, yanked out her laptop, and defended him to the best of her ability.

And then the community took to attacking her.

And she held her own. She was strong.

Until she wasn’t anymore.

Worst Case Scenario

Until Daphne got up on a ledge and leaped to her death. Until she decided to end the pain and hatred being poured upon her by her very own community.

The transgender community is no stranger to suicide. I’ve seen numbers that show as many as 50% of transgender youth have attempted suicide!

Of course, you have one side of the discussion stating that there is an inherent mental connection. That whatever chemical in their brain confusing their identity is somehow linked to suicidality. Others will say it comes with the pain of being so different, and not knowing where to fit in this crazy world.

But the general consensus in the community itself seems to be that it is a direct result of societal mistreatment. People treat transgender people horrifically, and after being broken enough, they seek a way out. A permanent solution for their pain and woes.

What if that is true? What if the shocking suicide rate is a result of mistreatment and ridicule? What a God-awful reality that would be! Anyone who ever pointed or stared or said a cruel word was a piece of the puzzle leading up to that tragic moment. And they have blood on their hands.

But What About Now?

Dave Chappelle

And yet, without a thought in this world, the community turned its venom on one of its own. They yanked out their keyboards, smacked down on caps lock, and ridiculed someone until she couldn’t take it any longer. Until she searched for an end to all of her suffering.

The community isn’t owning that fact. But it needs to.

You need to choose one way or the other. Either your massively tragic suicide rate isn’t related to how others talk about and treat you, or you have some blood on your hands for what happened to this poor woman. If the former is true, then you need to learn to live in a world in which people will point and mock and tease, especially when it is playful in nature, like when done by a comedian.

But if the latter is true, you need to accept what you’ve done. You need to contemplate the hypocrisy. And you need to understand the situation you’re in right now was engineered by your own doing. Dave Chappelle might very well have an axe to grind. Can you really blame him? You took one of his own! You took his friend and protege, and poked and prodded until she cracked under all of the hate and scrutiny.

You’re not innocent angels. Nope. You’re as crappy as the rest of us!

People Suck

And that’s really a big piece of the puzzle. No one’s above scrutiny. People suck on both sides of the political spectrum. There are terrible folk from all races and cultures. You can be a cruddy or fantastic person regardless of your gender, disability, or affiliation. And comedy has always recognized that nothing is off the table. Nothing, even if it upsets people. Even if it hurts feelings. That’s the way it should be. And hopefully that’s the way it will always be.

If you hated Dave Chappelle’s The Closer, you don’t need to watch it. You don’t need to recommend it to your friends. And you can go on Twitter and tell people you think it sucked.

Leave Comedy Alone

Dave Chappelle

But two things still need to happen:

a. Leave comedy the hell alone. If you don’t enjoy scrutiny of your or any group, find another form of entertainment. But keep your oversensitive hands off this beautiful art form. The rest of us want it to stay exactly the way it is.

b. Don’t forget to be introspective. If you actually watched Chappelle’s special until the end, and you’re part of the storm that led to Daphne’s death, you need to wake up and realize who you are and what you’ve done. And until you’ve truly internalized that, you have no right to criticize anyone or anything.

We all come to the table with a whole lot of differences. The quicker we all learn how to laugh about them together rather than yell about them separately, the easier it will be to live in a truly harmonious world.

The quicker we learn to laugh about our differences as one rather than yell about them separately, the easier it will be to live together Click To Tweet


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