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Thursday, October 21, 2021

How Dave Chappelle became comedy’s cancel-proof king of controversy

We were made privy to cursory responses rather than a considered rebuttal – this was no era-defining meditation on what was said, and/or his right to say it. Casual, offhand, he let emphatic statements slip in and then sidle off: “I started transgender genocide, that’s what they are saying. I hope that’s not true, that clearly wasn’t the point of the act. If you’re going to kill somebody, then you should watch it again and really rethink the way you saw it the first time.”

“I can’t believe I’m in trouble for the jokes I’m in trouble for,” he said elsewhere. “I thought they’d be madder about ‘space Jews’”. Anyone who has seen The Closer, and noted its outlandish riff about aliens returning to reclaim their home-planet and likening them to Jews, will understand his disbelief too. A Muslim convert since 1991, he added: “They called me anti-Semitic – I will remind you that Palestinians are Semitic people as well.” Which is no answer.

Pre-empting the idea of being cancelled, he jibed: “That wasn’t just a special, it was a letter of resignation… I got so famous, and I can’t say anything, what the hell’s the point of being famous?” That will strike a chord with many but he must know that his wealth and his fame still protects him, as it does the likes of Ricky Gervais or Billy Connolly, who has voiced his concern that these days he would be silenced by the woke mob. For a chap who can’t say anything, Chappelle doesn’t seem much stymied, mixing the relatively innocuous with the risqué.

He recounts obtaining a protection order from a tattooed white racist who attempted to make a belligerent house call, offers some mildly outre thoughts on what it takes to keep a marriage going (“cheating” is one tip), makes a light-hearted allusion to a serial male rapist (“seven came forward which means he must have raped thousands”). And he risks further brushes with his old foes thanks to a gag about requesting to use the toilet in a bar hosting a trans party in North Carolina, where use of the bathroom is subject to trans-hostile curbs.

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