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No one walks a rhetorical tightrope as deftly as Dave Chappelle.
That thought made me uneasy as I watched Chappelle’s highly anticipated appearance last night on saturday night livewhere his stints as guest host after major election events have become something of a tradition.
But Chappelle did not devote much of his monologue to the midterm elections, even though news had broken earlier in the day that Democrats had defied expectations to retain control of the Senate. He spent more time talking about Kanye West and anti-Semitism.
“Early in my career, I learned that there are two words you should never say together,” Chappelle noted during his opening monologue. “Those words are… ‘the’ and ‘Jews.’ I’ve never heard someone do good after saying that.”
Chappelle was already a controversial guest; critics including me panned his 2021 Netflix special the closer for his homophobic and transphobic jokes. She didn’t apologize. As I’ve said before in my reviewChappelle seems to think he is above criticism; to him, race seems to triumph over all.
That modus operandi was on full display Saturday night. As his monologue unfolded, Chappelle negotiated a fine line: He admitted that West, now known as Ye, said such terrible things that even Adidas, a company founded by brothers who were Nazi party members in 1930s, he took offense (“Guess the student outranked the teacher”). But at the same time, the comic seemed to suggest that Ye’s criticism of the Jewish people controlling the media and showbiz, echoing classic anti-Semitic tropes, weren’t entirely fake. (“I’ve been to Hollywood, there’s a lot of Jews,” she joked. “Like, a lot.”)
He also joked about Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving, who was suspended after posting a link to an antisemitic movie, called From Hebrew to Blacks: Wake Up Black America, which claims that the Holocaust never happened. Chappelle noted that Irving’s “Black a–was nowhere near the Holocaust.”
One line in particular seemed to stun the audience, before scattered applause: “I know the Jewish people have been through terrible things all over the world. But you can’t blame black Americans.”
What that has to do with a professional athlete posting a link to an anti-Semitic movie without explanation, and then taking days to deny the anti-Semitic content of the movie, I don’t know.
What I do know is that one of the boldest and most incisive voices in comedy had a chance to give insight into the long struggle Black America has had with anti-Semitism. But instead, his monologue seemed full of justification and downplaying, not mentioning, for example, the accusations that Ye has expressed admiration for Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.
Yes, comedy is not a report. But if we are to elevate particularly skilled artists like Chappelle, because there is a sense that their work also contains powerful truths about society and life, then we also need to be mindful when they offer material that does the opposite and obscures a subject that should be. be cut and dried.
The rest of Chappelle saturday night live The look played out as a better-than-average episode. A prerecorded parody of HBO house of the dragon featuring additional black characters, some inspired by figures from the legendary comic book Comedy Central show Chappelle’s Show (and Ice T as Light Skinned Larry Targaryen) was particularly on point.
Another snippet with white hosts joking with a black blues artist about his album title. potato hole – until he tells them it was a crevasse the slaves dug to hide their most valuable possessions from the plantation owners – he also noted.
But Chappelle’s monologue had already thrown me off balance; another time when an artist admired by fans for shining a light on issues in surprising ways chose a different path, disappointing us all in the process.