Many comedy fans saw Dave Chappelle’s two-show special on Netflix as a comeback. After his infamous “hiatus” from the hugely popular The Chappelle Show on Comedy Central, Chappelle’s long break from Hollywood was at the center of speculation for years.
In the interim, his most popular work combined with his absence solidified the comic’s legendary status, one of a satirist with something to say about politics and race relations, ala Chris Rock. In fact, when Chappelle was tapped to host Saturday Night Live post-election, America tuned in to see both Chappelle’s comeback — and because they expected him to provide much-needed post-election analysis with a side of laughs.
With Netflix’s specials, In the Age of Spin and Deep In The Heart of Texas, many viewers again expected Chappelle to deliver politically charged, comedic commentary, especially after he hosted Saturday Night Live after the November election.
Did he deliver and meet expectations? Morning Shift host Tony Sarabia talked to Lisa Beasley, a comedian with Second City, and Tim Barnes, host of the comedy podcast It’s All True.
Lisa Beasley: I had just missed Dave Chappelle. It was more than a comeback comedy special. It’s positive in my opinion because the Chappelle show was so good, and we miss it. It was such an iconic time in comedy and important show for black people to see. To know that he left for moral reasons and we were like, “OK, we got you.” He made a comment like black people don’t support him — I was like, “I didn’t know that.”
Tim Barnes: It was nostalgic but also an adjustment. He’s doesn’t even look like the same Dave Chappelle. And he’s not the underdog anymore. He’s the king.
I saw him perform in Chicago a year ago in Pilsen, and it was some sort of a time warp because we couldn’t bring our cell phones in. We had to put them in vacuum-sealed bags. Entering the room and not being able to check my phone took me to a time I don’t even remember existing. A lot of what he’s doing now is maybe an eulogy to a time when Chappelle really reveled in stand up.
Beasley: It’s Dave Chappelle, so you should expect edgy. I was actually surprised he didn’t go further. But I thought he brought up those topics in a really smart way with the exception of the transgender jokes. But I think it kind of goes in line with black male masculinity and how they view the gay community. So to be able to speak in that voice and still be an ally is still something that’s very challenging and is something people will have to continue to hone and craft.
On who’s not laughing
Barnes: Stand up is such a one-sided conversation and the only feedback you get is laughter. If you are disappointed in his material, you should be equally disappointed in the people laughing at it. And that’s us. We’re laughing. If you were in that room, would you be laughing? And with the internet and press, (there) is this other one-sided conversation happening.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. Click ‘play’ to listen to the entire interview.