Chappelle’s Controversial Special


The poster for Dave Chappelle’s “Sticks and Stones”. The special came out August 26 and received extreme backlash for his provocative statements.

Trey Williams, Op/Ed Editor

In entertainment news a couple weeks ago, one name rang through people’s ears over, and over, and over again: Dave Chappelle. There are all sorts of headlines about him right now that make you think the articles aren’t even about the same thing.  From “You Can Definitely Skip Dave Chappelle’s New Netflix Special ‘Sticks and Stones’” to “In ‘Sticks and Stones,’ Dave Chappelle takes an all too expected swing at a world rapidly leaving him behind,’” Chappelle’s special has been polarizing, to say the least. Who is Dave Chappelle, where has all this controversy come from, and what does it say about the current state of comedy?

Dave Chappelle has been one of the world’s most famous comedians since the early 2000’s with his hit “Chappelle’s Show” on Comedy Central. This was a sketch comedy show that went on for three seasons, acclaimed for making provocative sketches on topics like race relations, stereotypes, sexuality, and much more. Chappelle departed the show after three seasons to go back to doing stand-up, and has since earned acclaim as being one of the best stand-up comics of all time. The Rolling Stone put him at number nine on that list, to be exact.

Dave Chappelle has returned to television via Netflix, who signed a five special deal with Chappelle in 2017. He released in late 2017 a special called “The Bird Revelation”, which got heat for making jokes about the massive waves of sexual assault accusations coming out of Hollywood that year. Still, he remained out of the news.

Chappelle returned last month with his special titled “Sticks and Stones”, and it has perhaps garnered the most controversy Dave Chappelle has seen yet. This special has no boundaries; nearly everything and everyone is made fun of: cancel culture, the LGBTQ+ community, Asians, and even the alleged victims depicted in “Leaving Neverland”.

Regardless of your opinion on what Chappelle joked about, one thing is inarguably true: comedy has changed. As time goes on, social issues have become more important to the general population. It is no longer socially acceptable to offensively dress up as another race, or call someone a slur, or make blanket statements about massive groups of people.

As a result of these social changes, comedy is left in a strange place. Comedy, especially stand-up comedy, has traditionally been a medium about pushing the boundaries. Comedians in the past have been given an unspoken pass to say totally whacky, offensive, ridiculous things. As the population has trended towards more progressive social morals, comedians have to decide how they will react to a changing social climate.

While some comedians have toned it down, others, like Dave Chappelle, have refused to move with the public regarding thoughts on what is or is not okay to joke about.

What do you think about the special? Do you think Chappelle was brave for making jokes that push the boundaries, or do you think Chappelle’s jokes were cheap, mean spirited, and should come with a social punishment?