This past weekend I got the opportunity to see an iconic, much beloved comedian stand on a stage for sixty minutes and tell us some jokes. I’d been jittery and achingly ecstatic for the night since the idea came to fruition. We were going to see Dave mothafuckin Chappelle.
I got someone to cover my shift well in advance, re-watched some classic sketches from the innovator himself, looked back fondly on my impressionable time watching said show as I just began discovering my love for comedy. My smile would have to be surgically unhinged for the 24 hours leading up to the show. Like so many millenials, my view tends to get obstructed by the foggy guise of nostalgia.
There’s danger in glorifying the past. Times and people change. Audiences change. If we’re aren’t open to that change, we’re doing a disservice, not just to ourselves, but to the hundreds of artists and dreamers with a spark, ready to ignite. Aside from the obvious “we must learn from our mistakes” bit, putting the past on a pedestal is a straight up lie. You do everything to replicate that warm feeling associated with a moment or song or show but memory is a fickle bitch. It’s not real. The fuzzy feels you associate with watching a show or a movie have a lot more to do with your environment. Did you actually like that movie or did you just like the experience of watching it with an infinite amount of twizzlers and that cute boy from school? Imagine getting food poisoning at a popular restaurant you used to frequent. You have great “memories” there but they’re now overshadowed by the days you spent in the hospital trying to re-hydrate after one ill-prepared meal.
Every ounce of me was ready to replicate that feeling of watching Chappelle Show on Comedy Central with my buddies back in my hometown. Instead, I got a bout of food poisoning and I think it’ll be a little while before I go back.
While his set was underwhelming, it’s not the duration or delivery that missed. It wasn’t even his attitude or tone. I’ve got to say, Dave Chappelle genuinely seems like a wonderful, kind human. Granted, I don’t know him, but he appears to be a stand up guy with no ill-will towards anyone. Much like the restaurant, I’m sure they had no intention of sending me to the hospital. Chappelle even prefaces *red flag* that he has no intention of offending anyone. And I believe him.
However, he misses the mark with me when he stands there and starts
joking about discussing trans lives. Then proceeds to do so for a quarter of his set. He doesn’t hate the trans community, or the LGBT community. He doesn’t want harm to come their way or for human rights to be denied. He isn’t a bad guy. He just doesn’t get it. And that is just enough for me to walk away.
Not only does he completely miss the memo about people, you know, being born transgender- he made it sound like picking between lunch specials (Hmmm, I guess I’ll take the Cunty Club Sandwich because that line is shorter, kthnxbye!)– but his comparison of black lives and trans lives furthers the “us versus them” narrative. By doing so, he is completely erasing the existence of an entire group of people who are fighting for their lives. It’s regressive, dangerous and ignorant. Intersectionality is imperative and for someone with a platform to have such a politically charged setlist, you gotta know your shit. Your experience as a black man in America will not be negated by acknowledging the plight of trans people of color as well. He says he has “no problem with trans people but rather the conversation around trans people.”
I do too, man. I do too.
Look, I know comedians aren’t here to please everyone and that some older ones believe we live in a *too* politically correct society. I get it, believe me. I usually fight for the freedom to say fucked up things. But not at the expense of another person’s life. Not in the current political climate. Not in a city that prides itself on being a blue dot in a red state but defies intersectionality and welcomes gentrification. Not for a laugh. Not anymore. Not now.