The New Year is upon us and so is the return of Dave Chappelle with two new Netflix specials after the debut of last year’s specials The Age Of Spin and Deep In The Heart Of Texas. This time around Dave Chappelle takes the stage in Los Angeles for Equanimity. I found Chappelle choosing Los Angeles as the place to tape his special interesting; he puts himself in the epicenter of liberals while touching on topics that could be considered anti-liberal, homophobic, and even racist.
Chappelle opens the special on race exploring his childhood growing up Black amongst whites recalling eating over at a friend house who was mormon and white and his reluctance of wanting to stay for dinner due to them being white. I found this premise a great opener easing you in to his material subtlety. Chappelle style of joke telling is crafting them into personal stories; he sets up a world like no other then weaves in characters, truth,and humor. Though very engaging but without a defined punchline, Chappelle’s stories can go on without there really being big comedic moments but his inflection of the pronunciation of some his words guides the audience laughter.
Chappelle also tackles the transgender community without fear or care of backlash with his opinion of Kaitlyn Jenner. He walks a fine line but ultimately delivers a hard truth with laughter. A sour point in Equanimity is Chappelle’s material on Donald Trump in a world where there’s a nightly comedic commentary on the 45th President. Chappelle’s material on Trump didn’t stand apart from others nor did it deliver truth or a point of view that was interesting let alone funny.
I believe Chapelle’s standup has suffered a small bit from the fame of the Chappelle’s Show. He’s bought in to people coming to see him for the sake of being in his presence and hearing his commentary that he’s stopped or undelivered on telling jokes as a standup comedian in the traditional sense. Chappelle can sometimes go long lengths of time before there is something humorous enough to laugh at. Because of short runtimes, Chappelle’s comedy special punchlines needs to come more frequent than what’s been delivered to the audience though his comedy is poignant and smart doesn’t mean it has to lack in comedy. I give it 6/10
The more enjoyable of the two specials is The Bird Revelation This special’s runtime is less than an hour and is more engaging and paced better delivering laughs more frequently. The Bird Revelation is a more intimate special seeing Chappelle play to a small crowd of a Los Angeles comedy club and the special looks low budget as if shot on a smartphone.
The Bird Revelation opens to Chappelle mid set discussing the recent slew of sexual assault allegations in Hollywood. Chappelle puts the spotlight on Harvey Weinstein first discussing his appearance as an alleged sexual predator. Chappelle successfully takes a topic unsuccessfully attempted by many comedians in recent months and wrapping it in humorous truths that many of us will think about but never say.
Chappelle then moves on to Kevin Spacey with quick observations and punchlines before ending with his friend and fellow comedian Louise C.K.. The Louise C.K. set is the highlight of this special. Chappelle is able to humorously defend Louise C.K. for his misconduct without coming off insensitive or anti-feminist. With this topic relatively new and poignant, Chappelle shows why he is paid millions; he can talk reckless and serve it to the audience in a way that is digestible to the psyche and doesn’t come off offensive.
Chappelle ends his set going into quick introspective dialogue of the murder of Emmitt Till, Michael Jackson innocents, R.Kelly,, and Colin Kaepernick that comes off more thoughtful than comedic but still enjoyable. Though a step up from Equanimity, The Bird Revelation isn’t on the level of The Age Of Spin or Deep In The Heart Of Texas with saying that Chappelle is still able to make you laugh and think then exit stage left. I give it 7/10