Saturday, August 31, 2013

Chappelle, Race & Comedy

A few months ago I got to scratch seeing Dave Chappelle perform live stand-up off my bucket list when some friends very graciously got my wife and I into one of those under-the-radar gigs Chappelle's been doing all across the country (including quite regularly here in the SF Bay Area) since he walked away from his trailblazing sketch show on Comedy Central ten years ago. Back then, there was a lot of commentary in the media over whether the comedian had gone nuts or "melted down" or what-have-you. After all, how could anyone in their right mind leave hundreds of millions of dollars on the table and not be crazy, right?

Well, having seen the guy perform, it was clear as day that he's got a lot he wants to say about a lot of things, and while comedy offers a vehicle, it also has him kind of boxed in. Earlier this week in CT, he walked off stage after several minutes of hectoring from the crowd (to which I ask, who the hell heckles Dave Chappelle?). Naturally, this prompted another media round-robin of "meltdown" and "here he goes again" stuff, but as is made clear by Lesli-Ann Lewis, who was actually in attendance and thus has a bit more of an informed perspective than most, what happened with Dave Chappelle has very little to do with a celebrity throwing a hissy-fit, and everything to do with our ongoing problems with race and racism in the public sphere.

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