“These jokes are dangerous in the wrong hands.” –Dave Chappelle
No one would call me “cutting edge.” I’m not on the front lines of any artistic movement. Still, I’d like to think I can recognize a good thing when I see it.
I watched season 3 of the Chappelle Show about a week ago: some funny, some bleh. I asked my brother, a die-hard Chappelle Show fan, if he had seen those three episodes.
“Nooo, I haven’t seen them.” It was the way he said it, almost as if I were betraying something.
I started to think of why I initially hadn’t watched them, how I had lost the appetite to view them upon hearing a couple lines from Chappelle’s Oprah interview. He’d recalled knowing the difference between being laughed at and laughed with.
I began to think, “Was I wrong for watch the Chappelle Show: The Lost Episodes?”
Because I have a tendency to overthink things, a mini-storm of guilt dusted up: The introductory banjo-playing and singing men with jolly attitudes of “Eff it” when they realize Chappelle isn’t showing up. Charlie Murphy and Donnell Rawlings introducing the skits as Chappelle would have. Are we allowed to do all this without . . . Dave?
My sane self says, “Cyn, you’re taking this way to personally.”
But listen to the interviews, read the articles—Chappelle makes it so. Not coming completely undone, he is vulnerable without the comedic security blanket, which, upon returning from his South Africa trip, he seems to have lost the taste for, at least “business-wise.”
How can I not feel the personal affront Chappelle himself feels as he talks of being treated like a commodity, even to the point of his inner circle using manipulation to keep the merchandise flowing from him as if he were a factory? We perceive that all of this is “part of the business,” but it is clear that Chappelle cannot handle this part of the business.
With that same candor that holds the rawness of his comedy being exposed in a different way, telling a very personal tale, how could I not feel as if I’d betrayed Chappelle in some way–betrayed his legacy, of which part of me does not count these three episodes as being part? Am I doing the same? Am I treating him like a commodity?
I viewed those episodes, too, searching for that moment Chappelle spoke about, when he was being laughed at, aware of the dangerous jokes of which he spoke. Those jokes dangerous in the hands of those viewers who are looking for something else, who look at Rick James, Prince, even Dave himself as caricatures only, not making fun of these characters or stereotypes as a way of thinking critically about society or embracing / uniting a people but as “other,” lives they’ve never lived, gotten close to, or been affected by. The people who shout, “I’m rich beotch” at him because they think it’s cool.
Is that what scared Chappelle as well? It scares me too—but what’s the alternative? Not laughing at ourselves? Chappelle is in the business, and even he doesn’t know the answer.
Turns out, my brother just hadn’t watched the three episodes because he heard they were whack. Go figure.
What’s your take AOI-ers? Do you feel guilty for watching the Lost Episodes? Where do you draw the line in racially charged comedy?