General/Hot Takes

A Critique of the Critics’ Critiques

In the wake of Dave Chappelle’s comedy special, Sticks and Stones, we have all heard the phrase “lazy writing” being thrown around the internet. At first, I didn’t agree with it, but now I completely agree. But not for the reason you may think. I do not believe the lazy writing came from Chappelle or his team, but instead from writers publishing reaction pieces from a few well-known outlets.

I recently read an article published on Complex regarding the comedy special. In the criticism, the author oversimplified Dave Chappelle’s stand up. Basically, the fact that some people from the right liked parts of Chappelle’s stand up, this was proof that Dave Chappelle’s performance was wrong.

The Ringer also unleashed criticism in an article published this week. The writer expressed that the comedy special does not challenge opinions, but instead affirms them. Imagine, a comedy show where you are thinking, pondering, and then inspired to write the next great think piece instead of understanding, agreeing or disagreeing, yet being inspired to laugh. The nerve of comedy.

The funniest yet weirdest thing I’ve read so far comes from The Root. The writer came up with an exaggerated reaction to show his disagreement with the comedy special. He was so bored with the special, he went on to do other things while it played. I guess this is an illustration of how bad the comedy was to him, but oddly enough, he watched long enough, and paid close enough attention to get material to write a piece on it.

Now, is it possible to like a thing a racist also likes without exposing a deep deficit within you? Of course! I’m sure many racists like pizza because pizza is fucking awesome. Shit, Donald Trump loves shiny shit, and the space shoes I’m rocking today proves that affinity is shared by me. But if you’ve just entered a room, and you find yourself surrounded by Nazis, you should probably ask yourself how you got there and what you need to do to leave.

The Root article is written in the same style as the Complex article. They both suggest if a certain group likes this comedy, it confirms it crossed the line somewhere. What about the Clayton Bigsby bit? I’m sure many racists agreed with the character’s characterization of black people when the character didn’t know he was black. No criticism then. Do we not believe Chappelle has made fun of other minority groups before? This speaks directly to the punching up vs. punching down argument that is floating around on the internet, which also reveals that critics are looking to protect some while laughing at others.

Throughout this comedy, as he has done throughout his entire career, Dave Chappelle makes fun of EVERYONE. Its like Family Guy. No one is safe, and that’s why people like it. In the special, Dave Chappelle talks about the potential of his own son being shot. Why would we believe anyone else would be safe from a joke? This is not Dave Chappelle joining the good ol’ boys club, as some have suggested in their critiques (THAT IS LAZY criticism). This is Dave Chappelle being who he has always been.

Dave Chappelle’s message is simple. Everything is available when it comes to comedy. Think back to the “Standards and Practices Department” portion of the special. His plans are to continue pushing past the selective censoring the critics are suggesting. The criticism on the internet reinforces his beliefs and criticisms of today’s audience which he outlined early in the special. “Make all the jokes you want, but don’t touch my issue. We can laugh at THEM but don’t laugh at ME.” We’ve known Dave Chappelle to criticize EVERYONE in the name of comedy, including those in his own community. So when these criticisms are coming in, it is clear that it is not for the purpose being progressive, but instead selective.

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