Political Correctness

Dave Chappelle's Comeback Tour Takes Aim at "New Intolerance"

The man who walked away from $50 million a decade ago is back. But have we gotten too PC for his brand of comedy?


A decade ago that Dave Chappelle was the hottest comedian on the planet. His Comedy Central show created riffs and routines ("I'm Rick James, bitch") that still haunt the ether like old radio transmissions bouncing back from outer space. His standup was raucous and rude and unbelievably funny. After quitting his show and his career at the very peak of his fame and occasional standup appearances (some of which got pretty nasty between him and his audience), Chappelle is back with a full tour in the U.S. and England (and still occasionally getting on the wrong side of the crowd).

It's not just Chappelle who has changed over the past 10 years, of course. So has the culture, which has gotten noticeably touchier about all sorts of real and imagined slights. Spiked's Tom Slater has a review-essay about seeing Chappelle, who converted to Islam in the late 1990s, perform in London that's well worth a read if you care about freedom of expression and what is accurately called "the new intolerance."

A snippet:

His new set is peppered with jokes about him coming face-to-face with the new intolerance. There's the lesbian couple whose kid is at the same 'liberal-rich' private school as his son – one of them laughing along at his jokes about whether or not they qualify for the father-son picnic, the other 'too committed to her lesbianism' to entertain them. And then there's that trans joke, in which Dave, finding himself at a poncey gallery party, is stared down when he dares to ask 'Is he okay?' after a cross-dresser collapses in the corner. 'I support anyone's right to be who they want to be. My question is: to what extent do I have to participate in your self-image?'

Alongside colourful routines about family life, the Illuminati Christmas party and his burgeoning foot fetish, the through-line of the set is a thick-skinned comedian coming to terms with an increasingly uptight culture. Even if he does, hilariously, deflate the Charlie Hebdo sanctimony, dubbing the massacre 'a 12-person 9/11', the way in which, today, off-the-cuff comments and, yes, the odd bigoted aside, can mean you are driven out of society weighs on his mind. He talks about Paula Deen, a US TV chef who lost her show when court documents emerged suggesting she had used the word 'nigger' 30 years ago. 'You can understand why I'm concerned, doing what I do for a living', he says.

Read the whole thing.

Here's his 2005 Showtime special:

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  1. Is Wayne Brady gonna have to choke a bitch?

    1. Still one of the funniest routines ever.

      1. “I didn’t know you liked to get wet.”

        1. Sherman Hemsley.

          1. “White people like Wayne Brady because… he makes Bryant Gumbel look like Malcolm X.”

            1. “My mom LOVES you!”

              *Wayne Brady breaks cop’s neck*

            2. I think that might have been my favorite line!

      2. So many of his skits had me dying, like The Niggar Family and The R Kelly parody.

        1. Pissing on the prosecutor….crying I was laughing so hard

          1. One, two, three, four, FEEEEFTH.

            1. *singing*

              “There are many amendments to the Constitution, but my favorite, my favorite, my favorite is the FIZZIFF….”

        2. The Race Draft is one of my favorites.

          Mos Def as black representative: “The black delegation requests Eminem.”
          Dave Chapelle as white guy: “Now hold on a goddamn minute! …Tell you what, we keep Eminem, you get OJ Simpson.”

          And, of course, the blind black White Supremacist.

          1. Definitely a top 5 skit. I was always partial to the first Rick James skit.

            Rick J:

            FUCK your couch, Ni****, Fuck Your Couch!

            They beat him down. RJ crawls on the floor, crying.
            Eddie M:

            I feel bad. We should give him some help.

            Charlie M:

            We just gave him some help!

            I think of this anytime an avid proponent of a dumb, dangerous, reckless philosophy or action receives the consequences (good and hard) and then cries for mercy.

          2. In the editor’s edition to that skit, Chappelle says that black friends of his called him up and told hime he had “set the cause back fifty years” or some such. It was fucking hysterical. Likely the most brilliant comic ever, certainly a top 5 of all time. Amazing.

  2. It’s not funny unless everyone can laugh along. Chappelle is going to struggle in his profession just like many comedians in the years to come.

    1. It’s not funny unless nobody is laughing.

    2. Ok, but let’s recap: Chapelle quit his Comedy Central show because during a skit he saw a camera operator laughing heartily in the wrong way (I.e. That’s a funny stereotype rather than in the approved man white people stereotypes are so stupid way).

      1. I’ve heard several reasons, that is not one of them.

        1. I just googled ‘Dave Chappelle quit’ and literally 0 of the articles make the claim that Sam is making.

          Let’s recap: Sam appears to have made something up.

          1. From slate:

            The example he brought up often after quitting came when shooting a sketch in which, in an attempt to skewer racism, Chappelle was performing in blackface. Chappelle says a white crew member laughed at the “wrong” part of the jok

            1. Oh, well, then the science is settled.

            2. I believed you until you wrote, “From slate:” Oh, that’s the first thing you wrote.

              1. Chappelle said it himself in an interview on Oprah. Opie & Anthony had a bit about it where they blamed Bill Burr for killing Chappelle’s Show.

        2. I have heard that some of his reason for quitting was that some (white) people didn’t “get” his race-based humor in the proper way. He is a fantastically funny and talented guy, but he does seem to have a pretty good chip on his shoulder.

          1. I just assume it had to do with the pressure. The intense spotlight is not for everyone. He was always fairly low-key. I think at the time he lived somewhere in Ohio, staying out of the limelight.

            1. Yeah, I’m sure that was the biggest part. It did seem like he kind of lost his shit for a while there.

          2. This may have been a convenient excuse, but a comedian like Chapelle understands that there isn’t just ONE WAY a joke can be funny.

          3. He’s right and wrong. Once you put something you created out there in the world, you don’t get to demand how people interpret it, so it’s silly to lose sleep, much less quit, because some morons are laughing at the stereotype because they believe in it. But people really did interpret his points the wrong way in some cases.

            That said, I think the real reason he quit was because he knew he couldn’t top season 3. The stuff they did show was mostly mediocre or down right awful. Maybe if they treated him like an artiste instead of “Hurry! We need some new DVDs for Best Buy!” he could have come back in late 2007/early 2008 with something good. But that’s not the way Comedy Central works. They want product over quality. And Dave was too hands on in creation of the show to meet their deadlines.

            1. *top season 2.

        3. Be more curious I guess.

          1. You should troll less, I guess.

            1. And by trolling you mean pointing out that the entire premise of this article is incorrect. Chapelle is in fact terribly PC to the point that he quit his job when he realized white people (worse yucky white people that work with their hands) where laughing at the wrong parts of the joke.

              Everything is trolling to an echo chamber.

              1. A-fucking-men. Chapelle was never funny, he was always another pundit of the leftoid matrix and they will welcome him back with open arms (as long as he goes right back to the same tired old shit, i.e. white people are racist dorks and should feel guilty, etc.)

        4. I hate to agree with Sam but here it is.

          One of the reasons Chappelle abandoned his sketch comedy series at its peak of popularity was that he grew uncomfortable with the response to his racially charged humor from white audiences. During the taping of an ill-fated sketch in which he donned blackface as a “black-pixie” who prodded black people to perform as stereotypes, Chappelle noticed that one white male audience member seemed to find it a little too funny. “When he laughed, it made me uncomfortable,” he said. “As a matter of fact, that was the last thing I shot before I told myself I gotta take fucking time out after this. Because my head almost exploded.” Lewis’ reading of Thursday night’s performance seems plausible given this history.

          1. Fair enough, but that anecdote makes it sound like he’s over-sensitive (which I already knew) and it was one of many reasons. Sam made it sound like the only reason.

            1. yeah I have no idea I just remember hearing it somewhere, of course now I have been outed as a slate reader.

              1. I have been outed as a slate reader.

                Burn him!

          2. Leaving fifty million on the table for that would lead me to conclude that he was emotionally not well. Which is fine, of course.

            1. Yeah – tell that to Adam Lanza.

              Too soon?

              *looks around*

              1. You see no difference between Dave Chapelle and Adam Lanza? Stop reading Sheldon Richman.

              2. Is it wrong I get Adam Lanza and Adam Lambert confused?

            2. He’s a little loony, but he does sincerely care about his legacy more than money. I think he did wake up one morning and go “Ew, did we really just make a sketch about a Tupac Shakur joke that was old 10 years ago?” And Comedy Central refusing his demand of “give me time to give you A material and please don’t show this godawful shit we rushed out” wasn’t accepted. I’m not blaming Comedy Central, they were within their rights to stick to the deadline since they just paid the guy 50 million bucks. But while he’s crazy about some things, I think this was just a guy who gives a damn about what’s shown with his name attached. I mean, he despises Half Baked even though it’s a cult classic to many people.

          3. The truth is Chappelle quit because Oprah Winfrey threatened him. He was in serious fear, that’s why he left the country.


  4. God, was his show funny when it first came on the air. Some of his stand-up bits are good as well. Very funny man, but is apparently four wheels short of a car.

  5. I hope he comes back strong because his show was legendary.

    1. He’s very strong as long as he didn’t snap at the audience for shouting old catchphrases like “WHAT?! YEAH! OKAY!” or “I’m Rick James, bitch!” at the shows. So just remind the idiots who want it to be 2005 still to shut up and you’ll get a good show. And I don’t think he’s crazy for being pissed about that. Robin Williams didn’t want to do Mork lines. Andy Kaufman started reading Great Gatsby in full at the first “DO LATKA!” demand. Eddie Murphy didn’t want to do Velvet Jones. Chris Rock told audiences to stop demanding Cheap Pete routines in 1997 after he gave them one more on Roll With The New.

  6. I wish I could understand why he is so troubled. I have been working in show biz for over 30 years, off stage and on stage. I enjoyed 7 years (in a row) of very solid success, making lots of money talking into a microphone for a living. But I have spent FAR more of my life freelancing as a stage hand. Success comes and goes. Mostly goes. As a guy who has been on both sides, I cannot comprehend Dave Chappelle. People love you! They’re throwing money at you! Can it really be that hard to find happiness?

    1. Some people just can’t be happy however objectively successful or comfortable they are.

    2. Nearly everyone has a set level of happiness. Extremely good or bad events can change that level temporarily but within two years most people resume their previous levels. Working towards a goal can give people a purpose that helps them to deal with their naturally low levels of happiness. These stars are having trouble because they’ve already accomplished their life goal and the high from achieving it has worn off, so now they aren’t very happy and their main coping mechanism is gone.

      1. so now they aren’t very happy and their main coping mechanism is gone.

        That is why you have to find a new coping mechanism.

    3. I don’t know the guy and didn’t follow this closely, but the sense I always got was that he took an entire lifetime of comedic experience and created a season or two of great shows, and then was expected to come up with new stuff in a year. This was very difficult for him, and so the pressure got to him.

      Problems he had with how his newer material was being interpreted seems entirely consistent with a person who isn’t used to putting out a polished product in a few week’s turnaround.

      1. This is the sense I got too and as somebody who works on her own timetable, having to come up with good work in less time than it usually takes me, that pressure would put me under too.

        The problem isn’t in coming up with *good* stuff on a short turnaround. It’s coming up with stuff that is *as good* or *better* than the stuff people love you for.

      2. yeah same as the “sophmore slump” thing that happens to almost every band

      3. yeah same as the “sophmore slump” thing that happens to almost every band

      4. And he was honest with Comedy Central about that, and they didn’t care. If they did care, they’d realize doing a joke based on a 1993 Wu Tang Clan skit and trying to do a joke about Tupac being alive in 2007 was a total cry for help.

    4. He believed his own press, and it hurt him. Chris Rock had a brilliant summary in the GQ article on D’Angelo a year or two ago about what happens to black entertainers in all forms when they start believing they must be genius in every joke or every movie or every song or every TV show. Chappelle couldn’t step outside to see it like Rock saw it. Granted, Dave can at least say he didn’t make some terrible movies like Rock did by caring more. But Rock has also had a 20 year career of some very good stuff scattered in with crappy movies. Chris is Prince and Dave is D’Angelo.

  7. I was re-watching the show recently and it struck me how race obsessed and often down right racist an awful lot of it was. Still damn funny, though.

    1. It was race obsessed, but it extremely funny. It was appreciated by all races, at least people in their teens and twenties at the time. I thought it was a good sign that we were sort of post-racism. I was wrong.

      1. Yeah, it is sad to look at where the culture has gone since then when it comes to race. Seemed like we were really turning a corner then, but now it looks like it was the wrong direction. The past decade should have been a transition to no one giving a shit about race anymore. I think the current obsession with rooting out every bit of perceived racism is very counterproductive.

      2. SHAZAM!

    2. Agreed. if it hadn’t been so funny it would be annoying as hell.

      1. I also think he could be very insightful. “And all this time I thought I liked chicken because it was delicious” I love that line

  8. : to what extent do I have to participate in your self-image?’

    That is going to be THE question of the decade.

  9. Before there was any internet I talked to a couple of people who insisted, when pressed, that words were more harmful than physical violence. They both supported restrictions on speech. I though it was weird for theater people to feel this way, but I just figured they were a bit strange in the head. Now I know better.

    1. That’s when you punch them in the face and call them a bitch. Then ask them which they preferred.

      1. Oh, SNAP….s off a left to Theater Boy’s face

        nice 🙂

    2. Theater people are fags. This is just them demonstrating that.

      1. About half are fags, I’d say.

    3. I can see this. I spent a lot of time on the periphery of dramies and they live in a culture that puts the spoken word and acting on such a high pedestal that such views of speech are absolutely consistent with their world view.

      If you are convinced that the perfect rendering of Hamlet can change people’s lives, then it isn’t a huge jump to think that a person speaking the “wrong stuff” is damaging to society.

      1. I see what you’re saying. But it’s had the opposite effect on me. I’m a free speech fanatic.

    4. No, this isn’t that odd. This is pure arogance, nothing else. They WANT speech to be seen as powerful, as threatening, as dangerous, because it is their preferred method of dealing with a problem.

      Theatre folks insisting that words are more powerful than physical violence, more harmful, becuase it is all they have. Nobody is going to say “I have dedicated my life to an art to teach a message, but let’s be honest, it isn’t that effective…”

  10. My second-favorite comedy show ever, after “In Living Color”.

    I hope he comes ALL the way back, cause this motherfucker is FUNNY.

    “World Series of Dice”?

    “Tyrone Counsels Kids About Drugs”

    “The Race Draft” (“Asians pick Wu Tang Clan!!”

    “Player Hater’s Ball” (Buck Nasty)

    “The Blind Black Ku Klux Klan Member” (had to divorce his wife after he found out he was black cause he couldn’t be with someone who loved a nigger)

    Come on! That’s some world-class shit right there!

    Please still be funny, Dave Chappelle! PLEASE still be funny!! The world NEEDS you!

    1. That children, was the first time I sucked a dick for crack….

      Best career day ever

      1. “I’M RICH, BYOTCH!!!”

    2. One of my favorites:
      “When keeping it real goes wrong”
      FUCK THAT! I don’t like people playin’ on my phone!


    Big news in The D the last couple days…so far GM’s holding out. Fuck them anyway, cause…they’re GM

    1. cause…they’re GM

      more like General Lee Motors

      1. Too bad the General Lee wasn’t a Camaro – then the circle would be unbroken

        1. now i want one

          1. Make sure to get a shitty mid-70’s Z-28 (preferably yellow) with the big, fugly, plastic spooilers. They were the Nikki of Camaros.

            Mine was a ’71 Rally Sport with the split front bumper. Chick magnet….

            *runs hand through mullet, takes pack of Marlboros out from sleeve of white t-shirt*

        2. Glad you got down to the nitty gritty of the issue.

  12. I read a Dan Savage column where he seriously debated what the correct response should be to someone calling a transgendered person “a transgender” instead of the tranny’s preferred term, “transgendered person”. It is the ultimate heckler’s veto where you don’t even know what the offended party is offended by. It’s kind of like trying to figure out why your wife is mad, except your wife won’t normally try to get you fired as long as you’re paying her bills.

    1. I had some woman tell me not to refer to a Jew as “a Jew.” Instead it should “Jewish” or “Jewish person.” Ok, so that other person is not “a Catholic” and that other guy is not “a Buddhist.” Give me a fucking break.

      1. She’s cuntish, that’s fo shizzle

      2. I’m going to guess that that woman wasn’t Jewish.

      3. I prefer “Hebraic-American.”

      4. Who are the jews?

      5. I saw some comedian take that on years ago, in the context of Judaism being unpopular even among Jews.
        “Hey Mike, you’re a Jew, aren’t you?”
        “Whoa whoa whoa – i’m JewISH.”

        1. This sounds like something from a Mel Brooks script.

      6. I had some woman tell me not to refer to a Jew as “a Jew.”

        I’m a Jew, and some shiksa tried telling me that once. She didn’t try it again.


        1. Good grief, there should be at least one approved (single word) noun (e.g., “Jew”) and adjective (e.g., “Jewish”). I don’t care what it is, but don’t rule out one whole class of words.

          1. If any Jew ever gets touchy with you calling them a Jew, curse them in Yiddish.


        2. “I’m a Jew, and some shiksa tried telling me that once. She didn’t try it again.”

          Did you raise her rates?

          I kid, I kid.

      7. The correct term is “red sea pedestrian”.

        1. Always loved that term. And the movie.


    2. I usually just call them by their name. If I don’t know them, I try to find out their name. And I avoid all discussion of gender, sexual orientation, religion, politics, the weather, family, work, current events, entertainment, science, math, languages, history, business…..

  13. ‘I support anyone’s right to be who they want to be. My question is: to what extent do I have to participate in your self-image?

    That’s an excellent way to frame it. In an ideal world, the answer would be “To the extent that you want to.”

  14. fuck everybody’s couch

  15. Some of his skits were a little prophetic.

    He did a wife swapping skit before that was a reality tv phenomenon.

    He did a history of crack before History channel started showing Gangland.

    There was a skit about pre-sex consent contracts.

    And Rachel Dolezal put me in mind of the racial draft skit

    1. “Look, I ain’t crazy. And if you tell anybody I been here, I’ll kill you.”

      “Mr. Washington, I can assure you that anything we discuss here is covered under doctor-patient confidentiality.”

      “Okay, then you know what? I AM crazy…and I’ll fucking kill you.”

  16. And does anybody find the voice of his white faced reporter character to be reminiscent of Obama?

  17. I forgot – “Ask A Black Dude” with Paul Mooney. Epic.

    1. Not as good as Negrodamus, though.

  18. His TV show was legendary in my eyes. When it was on during my sophomore and junior years of high school, it was usually the topic of discussion for days after a new episode would air. That being said, it almost seems to have a “had to be there” aura to its humor. I’ve tried introducing it via DVD/Netflix/Hulu to people who have never seen it. The usual result is that they see the humor, but don’t really find it to be anything special.

    Anywho, my fandom led me to one of his recent Detroit shows. No, not the one he was apparently drunk at. There were signs posted absolutely everywhere warning attendees to keep their phones put away and not to heckle. It started was an opening act consisting of some comedian of Middle-East descent, who re-hashed tired ME and terrorist stereotypes and such. After that a DJ/hypeman warned attendees about a dozen times about the phones and heckling during Chappelle’s performance. It was great. No he didn’t get drunk, but he sure joked around about the infamous drunk show and how attendees from it wanted refunds. He even went as far as to buy drinks for a longtime married couple near the stage, and said the money he gave the waitress came from that shows ticket sales.

    Traffic and parking however, were a slight pain. On the same night, the theater next door was hosting a Statheist gathering led by Lewis Black.

    “Hitlers momma got one big titty and one little titty. They call that bitch Biggie Smalls!”

    1. Well, sketch comedy in general is going to be mostly dated. The same people of your generation who would have watched In Living Color and said “I don’t get why it’s funny Paula Abdul is demanding her frame be stretched for her music videos” are the same as kids today who’d say “Who the hell are the Ying Yang Twins?” while watching Chappelle’s Show. And racism changes from generation to generation. Doing a joke about white white collar criminals getting treated different by the police seems harmless in the police shooting era. Just like In Living Color doing jokes about keeping Louis Farrakahn off of television was tame in 2005.

  19. //”It’s not just Chappelle who has changed over the past 10 years, of course. So has the culture, which has gotten noticeably touchier about all sorts of real and imagined slights.”//

    No. A small minority of people have just been giving extremely undue media attention to an even smaller minority of people, and said minority has managed to get its way in college administration.

    No actual meaningfully large groups of people buy into any of the modern insane PC bullshit about trigger warnings and affirmative consent

    1. Buy into? Maybe not. But a lot of non-ideological people who are just plain nice (as in not wanting to offend others) might go along with it.

  20. As opposed to right-wingers who these days seem to primarily concern themselves with their victimization, I don’t think its a mission of people who want limited government to unduly concern themselves with the cultural zeitgeist. That said, it’s well documented that the reason Dave chapelle left his old job was that he felt like white people were laughing a bit too hard at his skits that depicted Black characters. He didn’t want to do the Rick James bits forever for primarily White audiences– to his credit I say. So I think he’ll have an interesting time going after a new intolerance, if he wants to join the likes of Dennis miller and the eternally awful jerry seinfeld . I say he might still be better off going after the old variety of intolerance.

    1. Have you read the reviews of his stuff this year? He’s hardly doing Dennis Miller material. He’s doing true radical comedy by not going for the easy applause stuff Hannibal Burress and Key & Peele are doing this year. It’s too easy to do “Aren’t racist cops the worst?” and leave it at that. 2015 Dave is also going after the “Let’s talk about white people patting themselves on the back for putting on hashtags for us.”

  21. Motherfucker is insightful: it was Dave that pointed out that in order to get ‘big’ in Hollywood, a black man has to dress as a woman at least once.

    I struggle to name a single black male comedian who has not had to dress as a woman in a movie role in order to advance their career.

    1. Can’t recall ever seeing Bill Cosby in drag.


    2. Kevin Hart and Chris Rock are as big as it gets and neither has done it. And Rock was in sketch comedy in the years where Kids in the Hall were worshipped and everybody in sketch comedy did at least one drag skit. And I don’t think anybody from In Living Color did drag until 10 years after the show was over when the Wayans brothers did White Chicks (although that hardly advanced their careers.)

  22. OT: Charlie Hebdo will no longer publish cartoons of Mohammed.


    It’s usually trite to say “the terrorists won,” but this time, looks like they did.

  23. to what extent do I have to participate in your self-image?

    To the same extent manners has always required.

    1. No. Just no. It is like you haven’t even seen the news in the last 10 years.

      Respecting another’s self-image, a la Jenner, is a requirement that “manners” simply are not. You really think that failing to say please and thank you, holding the door for another, or using the right fork will have the same impact on someone’s political life as referring to her as “Bruce”? \

      It would be nice if that was true, if it really was on the same scale as politenes and manners, but it isn’t. And you know it.

  24. The first sentence hurts my brain. Where’s the edito….


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