Politically correct millennials (and a few Gen-X/Y enablers) have turned stand-up comedy into a peanut-free play-date, a spindly shadow of its former raunchy, nicotine-stained self.
Each week seems to bring an earnest new dorm-room-debate of the “are jokes about Topic X ever acceptable?” variety.
I figured this week’s non-issue was going to be “How Do You Tell a Story About Four Black Guys Mugging You Without Sounding Racist?”
I was prepared to loathe Phil Mazo’s bit, assuming he was just another grovelling liberal “open mic” beta male.
Then I watched this video.
I hope you will too.
It belongs in a time capsule marked “America: 2013.”
The most photographed murder in history also remains one of most contentious.
So it’s no surprise that almost no one can agree on exactly what happened at Dave Chappelle’s August 29 gig in Hartford, Connecticut, either, even though there’s some amateur video of the event, and eyewitnesses are trading conflicting stories (and insults) in comedy website comments sections.
You’ll read that Chappelle had a “meltdown” (Not quite.)
That he was “booed off the stage.” (Sort of.)
What most people can agree on is that by the time Chappelle, the headliner, came out on stage, many in the 30,000 (!) strong crowd were drunk and rowdy.
As has happened time and again with Chappelle, he became so irritated by audience members yelling out his old TV show catchphrase “I’m Rick James, bitch!!” (and even “We love you, Dave!”) that he felt he couldn’t go on with his act.
Instead of walking off stage, however, this time he explained that he wanted to get paid, so he would fulfill his contractual obligations to stay on stage for 25 minutes.
Chappelle then passed that time chatting with a woman in the audience about her self-published prison memoir, telling stories about other black stand-up comics who had to deal with rude audiences, and smoking.
(That last detail seems to have annoyed some eyewitnesses the most.)
He issued a final reprimand to the crowd and then walked off stage.
In a sane world, Chappelle’s tantrum would be a pretty minor story:
Another temperamental artiste throws a hissy fit.
The annals of opera are full of such tales.
But this is (as I mentioned earlier) America, 2013, so naturally Chappelle’s Hartford crackup is being held up as the latest evidence of — you guessed it — America’s intractable systemic racism!
Leslie-Ann Lewis was at Chappelle’s Hartford gig.
I’m writing this to be fair: it needs to be written, it needs to be read. It needs to be understood.
Dave Chappelle walked off stage tonight and Black people understand why.
Being in that crowd, a sea of drunk White male faces and seeing Chappelle sit there and be jeered at made me uncomfortable. Heckling isn’t uncommon for comedians but often when a comedian as famous as Chappelle puts their foot down, it is usually respected.
Believe it or not, there are hundreds of more words after that.
Some of those words are “racist tropes,” “minstrel shows,” “shuck and jive” and “a Black artist shrugging the weight of White consumption.”
And that’s only on the first of two pages.
The only thing I found shocking about Lewis’s article is finding out that Ebony magazine is still around.
Honestly? I can’t think of much more to say.
I’m not black (and I’m not American) so I can’t pretend to really understand the country’s racial issues from the inside out.
I do know that, according to many of the comments I read (none of which were contradicted), many of the Hartford hecklers were black.
Since they’re one of the only voices of sanity in online comedy nerd-dom, I’ll give Brian McKim & Traci Skene at SHECKY magazine the last word:
If you can’t adequately deal with the adulation and the fanaticism of your supporters– and you simply can’t forego personal appearances– then you might have to huddle with creative types and/or trusted associates and figure out a way that enables you to present your comedy in a way that is satisfactory to you and your fans. Or you should quit.
James Taylor’s breakthrough hit was “Fire And Rain,” which detailed his battle with drug addiction, depression and the death of a close friend. It went on to be named one of Rolling Stone’s 500 greatest songs of all times. Taylor knew that he was “doomed” to perform the song for the rest of his career. He dealt with that by writing “That’s Why I’m Here.”
Oh, fortune and fame’s such a curious game
Perfect strangers can call you by name
Pay good money to hear fire and rain
Again and again and again
Some are like summer coming back every year
Got your baby got your blanket got your bucket of beer
I break into a grin from ear to ear
And suddenly it’s perfectly clear
That’s why I’m here
Singin tonight, tomorrow, everyday
That’s why I’m standing here
That’s why I’m here