It has been 13 long years since we have seen Dave Chappelle grace the stage for a stand up special. 13 long years since Dave vanished from the comedy and Hollywood scene. 13 long years since I have had such a great time laughing at a stand up special on tv. Dave is back and in his new Netflix specials, he reminds why he was so adored and beloved in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Deep In The Heart Of Texas (recorded in Austin in 2015) and The Age Of Spin (filmed in L.A. in last year), both follow up his very recent appearance on SNL, which critics and viewers alike thought was the best of the season so far. Commenting on the election, showing off his old Chappelle’s Show characters and creating a strange sketch about a swan, Dave made his comeback strong and filled with classic Chappelle flair.
Flash forward to 7pm March 21st, I gathered around my TV with friends, ready for Chappelle to continue his comeback tour. It was an event for me because as I grew up watching Dave’s style of comedy and the racially and politically charged messages he tried to get across to his audience, I began to learn more about the world around me. Dave is earth shatteringly good at talking about race and it is one of the main issues he had with himself and his show when he quit Chappelle’s Show. Needless to say, he did not disappoint in his big comeback.
Both sets were a little different from one another, however there is some sort of rhythm set in different ways for each. After watching them back to back, I do believe that you should watch Deep in the Heart of Texas first, because it is what was filmed first. Dave is good in this set, keeping his calm, narrating stories of the time, like ripping on Paula Dean and Ray Rice, however, he seems a little off the tracks here and there. He talks a bit about one thing, moves on to the next and comes back to another, kind of in a choppy, unpolished way. Even so, that does not take away from his jokes.
The better of the two specials was clearly The Age of Spin. Taped in LA, Dave comes on stage with much more confidence and swagger than in Texas, just a year before, which is understandable seeing as he took such a long break from stand up. Touching on topics such as OJ Simpson and the 4 times he met him, Bruce Jenner’s transformation to Caitlyn and even ravaging himself for botched stand up attempts in Detroit and New York, Dave kills. He also hits on taboo topics, such as race relations, Bill Cosby and the LGBTQ community, (“the “Q” being the sometimes y letter of the gay alphabet”) which approach the line but do not cross it, as Chappelle always so masterfully does.
The best part of these jokes is Dave telling them. His reactions to his own jokes make the joke that much funnier. The laugh, his faces and the voices he makes elevate the jokes to what you would expect from classic Dave Chappelle. He knows that his jokes are funny and he also knows they can sometimes almost cross the line, but that is what comedy is. It is an attempt to point out the obvious, pick out the taboo topics and make people laugh about them but at the same time know, this issue is real.
When watching these specials, it is apparent that Dave has aged. He is no longer a skinny kid trying to make it in white Hollywood, he is now a 42 year old man with convictions and experiences that have shaped his craft. He talks about his interactions with racist and how someone threw a banana peel on stage at him once. He spoke about a time where he and his muslim sister got snowballs thrown at them on the side of the road. He takes these instances and captivates his audience with elaborate stories and sharp punchlines. He tells women, I know you feel when you say you’re unequal but he also says that black people have suffered differently.
In his style and comedy, it always comes back to his race, as a reminder of, yeah really terrible things have happened to black people and gay people and women. Period. No buts. He takes that pain and turns it into crafty comedy that both leaves the audience laughing and thinking, should I be laughing at this? Touching on Bruce Jenner he says “He was beating Africans at track and field!” about his athletic career and follows it up with how many Americans were so accepting of the transition by saying “Is this a time in American history where an American can make a decision for themselves?….Although David Chappelle, the black American, he was a little jealous—transgender people beating black Americans in the discrimination Olympics.”
Dave is back. Period. You can tell he is enjoying himself and he missed doing stand up in these two specials. He was sharp, funny and classic Chappelle the entire time. With one more special promised for release on Netflix later this year, it has me not so patiently awaiting Dave Chappelle’s comeback tour and I can only hope that this leads to some sketch comedy in some shape or form. He is a master at his craft, taking tough subjects and making you laugh, even when you probably shouldn’t. Even though The Age of Spin is the better of the two, I suggest you sit back and watch both at the same time. The evolution and the tightening up Dave does from Texas to Spin is noticeable, but both are spot on Dave Chappelle.
Age of Spin: 9.5/10
Deep in the Heart of Texas: 8.8/10