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Chappelle vies for freedom from comedic imprisonment in ‘Sticks and Stones’

| Wednesday, September 4, 2019

JOSEPH HAN | The Observer

Dave Chappelle’s new Netflix special “Sticks and Stones,” released Aug. 26, follows a trend of successful Chappelle specials. After bursting back onto the stage after a long hiatus, Chappelle has channeled his former “Chappelle’s Show” self to muster up what seems like years of hilarious, original content. With Kendrick Lamar booming in the background and a tough exterior look to the production, Chappelle comes out firing in modern fashion as if he had never left.

Chappelle struts out onto the stage wearing a variant of his usual attire, which features his name’s “C” on the upper sleeve and “CHAPPELLE” boldly printed on the breast. However, in contrast to his typical denim jacket and black jeans look, the funny man appears in an olive green jumpsuit fit for Rikers Island, New York City’s main jail complex. His message is clear and expressed without him having to say anything at all: Comedy is in prison.

That being clear, words were still said. And lots of them. And they were hilarious. In a sentence riddled with expletives but replicated here in a school appropriate manner, Chappelle helps explain his long absence from the stage: “That’s why I’m not coming out and doing comedy all the time because y’all are the worst I’ve ever tried to entertain in my life.”

To help describe his self-diagnosed professional plight, all while acknowledging his good fortune and fame, Chappelle makes synonymous his life and an above ground pool. “It’s a pool … ,” claims Chappelle as he shrugs.

Chappelle footnotes every joke, quip, bit and story with the disclaimer that the comedy world both he, and audiences of all kinds, once knew is in fact being jostled through a violent tunnel of censorship. 

Chappelle’s choice to frequently side with avoided opinions characterizes his standing as a comedian and a human being: brilliant but troubled. Often landing himself in hot water with the media, Chappelle’s entertainment certainly does not appeal to a universal audience. Along this line, Chappelle describes himself as a victim blamer, going on to make light of very dark situations such as the abuse detailed in the Michael Jackson documentary “Leaving Neverland.” 

Finding humor in dark situations brings the best out of the entertainer Chappelle is, not necessarily the citizen he presents himself to be. 

As important as Chappelle’s argument seems to be to the integrity of the show, at the end of the day, he is still a comedian. Comedians are actors and emotion is their fuel. One ridiculous story after the other, Chappelle showcases his most coveted skill: baiting the crowd’s expectations solely to jettison off to an even more outlandish outcome. The gravel in his voice and the goofy grin on his face present a vulnerable and innocent entertainer, all while twisting the bounds of comedy in an uncomfortably beautiful way.

Show: “Sticks and Stones”

Streaming Platform: Netflix

If You Like: “Chris Rock: Tamborine,” “Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain”

Shamrocks: 4/5

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