The best stand up comedy shows always seem to pick their content from current events. The performing comedian makes sensitive jokes that blur the lines between what’s offensive and what’s not, while also providing comic relief to intense and touchy topics that occupy current conversations all over the world. It honestly depends on your perspective and where you draw boundaries on what’s inappropriate.
If you’ve never heard of famous comedian Dave Chappelle, then you might actually be from a completely different lifetime, but I won’t judge. He’s known for the Chappelle’s Show on Comedy Central, his multiple tv show appearances on Saturday Night Live, and many other self-titled comedy specials that have won him multiple Emmy and Grammy Awards over the course of his career. He released Sticks & Stones last year and won an Emmy for Equanimity the year before. He’s performed all over the United States, from New York City to Los Angeles, always drawing in what’s relevant at the time.
Chappelle’s new Netflix special, 8:46, took a more serious turn with what’s currently going on in the world. The title itself draws its name from the number of minutes that ex-police officer, Derek Chauvin, had his knee on George Floyd’s neck in Minneapolis, Minnesota, starting the global uproar that addresses police brutality and racism. And although comedy is his specialty, Dave Chappelle seized the opportunity to use his platform to speak up in these trying times.
Earlier this June, Dave Chapelle performed the new Netflix special live in Yellow Springs, Ohio. The comedy special complied with social distancing procedures, including required masks, temperature checks, and seats all six feet apart, addressing the other global issue surrounding the coronavirus or COVID-19. However, this stand up was less about making light of current events, and more about Dave Chappelle healthily expressing his emotions of grief, rage, despair, and hopelessness through his talents.
He starts off with a comedic ice-breaker, shushing the crowd the way Eddie Murphy did in his 1982 appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, with an abrupt “SHUT UP!” But the atmosphere soon changes, as he hits the heavy stuff. One significant part of the special included him calling avid Trump supporter Candace Owens, “the most articulate idiot [he’s] ever seen in [his] fuckin’ life.”
What’s refreshing about this particular special is that Dave Chappelle addresses the realities behind the movements that have been happening today. Not only does he express specifically why “8:46” haunts him, but he also highlights the deaths of police officers around the United States. He explains that 8:46 is coincidentally the time when he was born and that when he saw George Floyd cry out for his own late mother, he remembered how his own father cried out for his mother as he was dying.
The show was a response to CNN host Don Lemon’s call for more celebrities to speak up, to which Dave Chappelle addresses in humility, saying, “This is the streets talking for themselves, they don’t need me right now.”