Review of Dave Chappelle: The Closer (2021)

Moving picture, 72 minutes

Seen in 2021.

This special closed out a loose series, in which it followed Deep in the Heart of Texas (2017), “Equanimity” (2017), “Bird Revelation” (2017) and Sticks & Stones (2019).

Using even less comedy than in the preceding shows, Chappelle spends almost the entire extended runtime dissecting and addressing activist reactions to his earlier work. This move surprised me. He’s not defeated by the controversy he wilfully stirred up, and he doesn’t really blame a “cancel culture gone mad” for his troubles, but there’s nothing spontaneous about this performance. The comedian is unusually self-conscious about every choice of words, guarding himself against a bad-faith reading, and he’s not funny.

The analysis is interesting, but Chappelle is not a philosopher and doesn’t try to be. In a manner consistent with his previous work, Chappelle’s main point is that those people of colour in the US who are descended from African slaves are at a disadvantage compared to women and LGBTQ communities of the dominant ethnic group, whom he accuses of protesting their oppression by relatively poor methods, such as wearing “pussy hats” instead of quitting their jobs, or trashing Chappelle on Twitter instead of applying empathy. The greater success of these inferior methods, he implies, is evidence of racial prejudice being the stronger force. In the course of making this claim, Chappelle himself asserts that walking away from money on the table at Chappelle’s Show (2003) was itself a more daring protest than #metoo. This is worth considering, but you can get better analyses from the professionals.

moving picture non-fiction stand-up comedy