Basically, the purpose of Dave Chappelle: The Dreamer was for the comedian to say that he has not grown since the backlash of his last stand-up special, where he made very unfortunate jokes about the trans community. It is just one of those instances where people get more defensive when their flaws are pointed out to them, and Dave proves that he is no exception to this. This is especially sad when you remember that the trolling he was subjected to had a lot of intelligent voices as part of their protest who weren’t just angry but were offering constructive dialogue and solutions to the problem at hand. To ignore those voices and insist on ignorance comes from a place of ego, and Dave is too far gone to understand that.
Dave Chappelle is not for everyone, and he realizes that. He even points it out with the bit about him being a ‘lazy comedian.’ While that is fine, it becomes wrong when he starts using it as the reason why he won’t change his jokes. The comedian has not realized why his opinions are harmful, and that comes from a place of lack of empathy for things he doesn’t understand. Additionally, Dave Chappelle may be only a few people’s favorite, but he is watched the world over, and that is the reason for his influence and stardom, which he has not stopped capitalizing on. Unfortunately, Dave Chappelle is one of those many people who never realize that their stardom doesn’t belong to them. That is why he is unable to recognize why the Jim Carrey-Andy Kauffman comparison to trans people was so distasteful. On the other hand, Dave opens his set with the disclaimer that he is going to be punching down. Handicapped people bear the brunt of that, and trans people are reminded from time to time that he doesn’t care for their outrage.
The fact remains that it is not up to us to tell trans people or any other marginalized community what they should or should not be offended by. Also, our entire perspective is cis-het, so there are going to be things we miss out on. But once again, no one can deny that one person does not represent the community. In Dave Chappelle’s stand-up special of 2021, he justified his transphobia by saying that one trans friend of his agreed with him and found him funny. We are sure that the same friend validated a few of his jokes in the current set, and he must also have run his jokes through some other friend suffering from a physical disability to get their approval, though he had the sense not to point that out this time. The point is that Dave Chappelle exhibits classic troll behavior, which is common to most comedians. The purpose of comedy is to push boundaries, and offense is a natural result of that. Therefore, it makes sense that the reverse of it, which is to offend first and then make their point, is a natural tactic to make things funnier. Unfortunately, Dave Chappelle makes no point in his jokes about trans people or the handicapped other than to try and be funny for the people who agree with him. But, like always, Dave fails to see that he is being harmful.
For a clearer reference, let us look at the recent case of comedian Matt Rife. That man, like many others, is offensive for the sake of it, yet no set of his has caused controversy like his recent Netflix special titled Natural Selection. If you have followed his work, you know that he has made fun of trans people, the handicapped, and many other communities. He has even used Dave Chappelle’s excuse of people from those communities liking his jokes. Yet, it was his bit on ‘domestic violence’ that caused controversy like never before. That is because it was a joke that was actively harmful. Unlike his other jokes that were aimed at normalizing the lives of those communities through offense, this one was just cruel and nothing else. It also showed his deep dislike for women, who were his primary audience, and the reason he enjoys his success, as he has admitted. Therefore, it was in very bad taste and deserved the cancellation.
Similarly, Dave Chappelle is allowed to be a troll. It’s part of his job. But like anybody else in the limelight who doesn’t understand the responsibility of his job, Dave puts himself up for cancellation. People may argue that ‘cancel culture’ is redundant. We would agree since Dave’s career has not really been affected now, has it? We tuned in to watch his special, didn’t we? Dave Chappelle knew that, which is why he didn’t bother with self-reflection and continued his path of offense. So, what is the solution other than a personal boycott?
On the other hand, Dave fails at being funny with anything that is not offensive. The ‘Huckleberry’ bit just didn’t land. Dave may love punching down, but after twenty-four years of experience in comedy, he should have managed to be funny with ‘punching up.’ He throws in a racial joke, which is funny, thankfully. The bit about California jails is once again typically gross. Lil Nas X also got dragged for no reason. But the most upsetting part was his set on ‘dreams.’ Dave Chappelle mentioned in one of his other sets that sometimes he tends to write the punchline first and then construct the set around it. He has clearly done that with this bit because, other than the last sentence (about Lil Nas X), the rest pretty much put us to sleep and not the kind that gives us good dreams.
The problem with Dave Chappelle is not that he is conservative (as too many people are) but that he is not funny enough. We, as the audience, tend to expect wokeness from comedians or any public figure. Maybe that is because we know the power they wield because of their fame and influence. But what can you say about a person who can’t do his job properly, which in Dave’s case is that he is not as funny as he should be to be that offensive? At least Matt Rife was funny.
Perhaps the only solution is to not feed into his troll behavior by giving him more attention. With Dave Chappelle: The Dreamer, the comedian has proved that he doesn’t care for change. Therefore, why waste our time expecting different things from him? Maybe it is up to us to either ignore any content from him in the future or manage our expectations while watching his work.