Why you should watch Dave Chappelle’s new Netflix special

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Dave Chappelle minces no words in going for it all on his challenging new Netflix standup special, Sticks & Stones. Effectively tripling down on previously criticized jokes about his defense of comedian Louis C.K. and late superstar Michael Jackson, the comedian absorbs the critiques as new avenues for the material. He also digs deeper into the ills of social media and cancel culture in unexpected ways.

And yes, he also refuses to stop picking on the trans community in de-humanizing fashion, and it remains a blindspot for a comedian whose career is tied to jokes about social justice.He appears to evencourt backlash from the LGBTQ community, and people who support them, because Chappelle doesnt seem to think that the affluent white people among them support Blackpeople, or their struggle, many of whom are queer. In trying to call out hypocrisy, hes just normalizing mean jokes about trans people, some of the most marginalized people in the world.

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So it should come as no surprise that this week the comedians wildly divisive special was met with calls for his own cancellation.

However, Sticks & Stones starts with him singing lines from Princes smash hit 1999. As a preface to a bit on personal collapse, he juxtaposesAnthony Bourdains suicide and an emotionally crushed, yet still-living friend who has never considered killing himself. The point of the joke: No matter how goodor badyou have it, Chappelle aims to inform you that never know whats happening in someones life and that there are often deeper questions to be asked for dismissal of a person.

It appears, initially, that hes become unhinged comically, but Sticks & Stonessettles into extremely calculated material, where he often emphasizes or alters tones in words or phrasing for specific effect.His surface refusal to reconsider his positioning on comedian C.K., Michael Jackson, and his transphobia is both alarming and informative, in that he apparently does not feel as he went far enough in his previous specials.

Chappelle recalls a story about the use of a homophobic epithet in an old Chappelles Show sketch. Hes unsure why the word was off-limits, while the N-word could be used ad nauseam. The comedian then immediately creates the same dirty incongruency with his idea around not feeling Black, openly asking if it would make a difference if he felt like a Chinese person insidecomplete with a stereotypical accent. What Chappelle is joking about squarely lands him into blatant transphobia.

Moreover, much of this material is well-trodden, much like his defense of Jacksonat least initially.He quips that he doesnt believe Jacksons accusers on the wispy strength of Macaulay Culkins testimony that the late pop star didnt molest him. But the point of the joke is that even though there is a lot of evidence, people just arent as willing to believe grown men when they say theyve been sexually abused.

Later, more specific thoughts on Jackson arrive within the hidden epilogue. In a rare question and answer session, he recalls a story from the late, great Charlie Murphy, who used to regale their inner circle with his Hollywood stories. Chappelle remembers asking Murphy if the rumors about Jackson were true. Murphy supposedly (and tellingly) posits: Say it is illegal to fuck women. How long are you staying out of jail?

Mathieu Bitton/Netflix

Chappelle also advocates that Black people legally buy guns as a sort of protest troll. If for nothing else, but to have white legislators alter the Second Amendment out of fear. Related to gun control, he provides a brilliant bit about the opioid crisis, which looks almost exactly like the crack epidemic of the 80s. He nails home the foundational, racist attitude.

I even have insight into how the white community mustve felt watching the Black community go through the scourge of crack, he starts, because I dont care either. Hang in there, whites. Just say no! Whats so hard about that?