Review of Dave Chappelle’s “Stick and Stones” special (Book & Film Globe, Sept. 2019)


Dave Chappelle opens his newest Netflix special, Sticks and Stoneswith a bit about how Anthony Bourdain killed himself despite having “the best job that show business ever produced.” He compares Bourdain to an underemployed friend of Dave’s, who Dave believes should consider suicide. Chappelle then quickly moves on to the special’s theme: He says he feels like the world is not just changing but closing in on him, and threatening to take away his right to joke about whatever he likes. He tells the audience directly, “Y’all niggas is the WORST motherfuckers I’ve ever tried to entertain in my FUCKING life!”

The fact that Netflix has paid Chappelle close to $100 million to make four new comedy specials in one year for the world’s biggest streaming platform renders mute any question of comic oppression. In fact, it makes all of Chappelle’s grousing on the subject feel like…a joke! Imagine that.

Chappelle has a different, more serious, more ponderous flow now. He’s transformed into your favorite uncle, whose stories you love listening to even when his logic’s not all the way solid, and he says some shit you might really disagree with if you weren’t so sure unc was joking. In the special, he moves on to both roast and attempt to vindicate a host of “persecuted” celebrities, judging the guilt or innocence of Louis CK, R. Kelly, Kevin Hart, Jussie Smollett—a bunch of people and controversies that most people likely will not remember 20 years from now.

He ribs the latest Michael Jackson molestation documentary (“I felt like HBO was sticking baby dicks in my ears for two hours.”), and though even the joke’s premise (that kids should be honored to receive fellatio from the King of Pop) is groan-worthy, and though it’s very hard to hear Chappelle even jokingly say, “I do not believe these [accusers],” he does land a string of solid, tasteless pedo jokes, including: “Someone needed to teach these kids that’s there’s no such thing as a free trip to Hawaii.”

My laughing at that joke doesn’t diminish my disdain for pedophiles. It’s not the world’s smartest joke; Dave could stand to take his own advice and leave MJ buried.  But it’s just a wild, wrong-ass thing for someone to say out loud. And because of that, I laughed. CLICK HERE to read the rest of this review at “BOOK AND FILM GLOBE”…

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