Dave Chappelle: what’s in a name? aired July 7, 2022.
Netflix isn’t done with Dave Chappelle yet.
And that seems right. Given that Netflix’s hefty order of several back-to-back Chappelle specials has largely been at the center of the controversy those specials have generated, the streaming giant is standing by it even now, in a 40-minute acceptance speech. at the Duke Ellington School of Arts in Washington, D.C., whose theater building was to be named after Chappelle, even given his ongoing toxicity.
I talk about it because Chappelle does it too. He mentions, in particular, how the school was always willing to put its name to its building, although his last visit there in November was characterized by a literal queue of students who couldn’t wait to tell him how bigoted he was.
As 8:46Chappelle’s powerful mid-pandemic reaction to the unlawful killing of George Floyd, what’s in a name is not a special stand-up, but it becomes one nonetheless. Chappelle’s style of storytelling, the fact that he bangs the mic against his thigh while laughing at his own jokes, his expert ability to gauge the temperament of the room and find the right buttons to press and the order in which support them, means that it is aimed at a group of people becomes a special by default.
And as Chappelle finally says to himself here, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime talent. It may sound like self-aggrandizement, but now might be the right time for it. Many will perceive Chappelle’s constant focus on the backlash he received as insignificant — another word he uses to describe himself — but it sounds more like anger and frustration to me. He is bored practicing a craft he has honed over decades, which many believe he is a master of, and being told by children too young to know better that he was never good at first place.
“You can’t report on an artist’s work and take out an artistic nuance,” Chappelle says, rightly in my opinion, comparing it to the idea of reporting on a fat bunny shooting someone in the face without mentioning that it was a Bugs Bunny cartoon. What he means, in a roundabout way, is that he knows what he’s doing. “When you say I can’t say something, the more urgent it is for me to say it,” he continues. “It has nothing to do with what you say, I can’t say. It has everything to do with my freedom of artistic expression.
And this is the point on which Chappelle relies. Given what he himself received from the Duke Ellington School, from his appreciation of the value of art as a commodity to the personal values that drove him away from The Chappelle show (and a mountain of cash), he can’t stand the idea that his name simply attached to a building there would contribute to anyone’s perceived oppression. It would be “untenable” for him, to use his own words again.
Thus, Dave Chappelle does not accept that the building of the theater bears his name. Instead, it will be called the Theater for Artistic Freedom and Expression. This will be his legacy to the students there.
Seems valid to me.
You can stream Dave Chappelle: What’s in a Name? exclusively on Netflix.
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