Let me start by saying that I haven’t seen Dave Chappelle’s recent stand-up special The Closer on Netlfix in which he makes comments about transgendered people that some find offensive. I also don’t think Chappelle is really that funny to begin with. I think he’s still trying to ride the success of Chappelle Show, which included many talented actors and writers, almost 20 years later.
Now, about that show, Chappelle said he walked away because of a skit where he was playing a stereotypical black character, an older white man in the audience laughed the wrong way. The irony of Chappelle stopping a skit show because he felt a laugh was inappropriate but shrugs his shoulders at making other jokes is lost on a lot of people, probably including Chappelle himself.
Now, I do support free speech and all that, but I do support also facing the consequences. To speak the truth, the same people who support Chappelle and Bill Burr and other comics also support Donald Trump, Alex Jones, Jordan Peterson and others. About 25 years ago, Chris Rock talked on Bring the Pain about the differences between black people and the N-word. I understood what Rock was saying as did other people. Unfortunately, the wrong people misconstrued what Rock was saying. And you can tell in Bigger and Blacker, his tone was more subdued.
Growing up in the south, people said derogatory words about BIPOC expecting everyone else to agree with them. Imagine a year-long Thanksgiving dinner. That’s what it’s like. Someone rants and raves about the Mexicans who were working at the carpet and rug factories or how the metro Atlanta area was corrupt because of “all the black people running it.” But they didn’t use the phrase “black people.” The same people laughing at Chappelle’s jokes about transgendered people were also laughing about racist jokes told around the poker tables and country clubs. When Chappelle appeared in blackface playing a minstrel character, they were people out there laughing too hard about it. Chappelle didn’t like it, nor should he. The show was edgy, but the jokes were lost on some viewers.
Over the years, Chappelle has made jokes about Jussie Smollett and his homosexuality, Michael Jackson and the accusations of child sexual abuse, and Chris Brown and the reports of domestic abuse. It’s not funny the way he tells them. But yet, I think people allowed him to say it because he was black. I couldn’t say those jokes. I wouldn’t say those jokes. But it seems we let black comics get away with it for one reason – they say what we want them to say.
In 2008, California passed Prop 8 about outlawing same-sex marriages. But the same demographics that voted in favor of it also voted for Barack Obama for President. Homophobia and transphobia is as rampant in black and Latina/Hispanic communities just as it is in some of the most backward white communities. This is what no one wants to admit.
Yet, if you watch Fox News or OAN, they’ll only allow BIPOC on if they say what they want them to say. There are millions upon millions of black, Hispanic, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian and Indian people in this world, but yet when one or two of them say what white conservative Christians agree with, they hoist them up on a pedestal. Do you think anyone at Fox News or at Breitbart knew who Stacey Dash was before she came out in support of Mitt Romney in 2012? If Dash wants to support Romney over Obama, that was her choice, but she didn’t speak for the millions of other black women out there.
With it being National Coming Out Day on Oct. 11, a lot of people who are in the LGBTQIA community are still walking around not being their true selves. Recently, Cassandra Peterson came out saying she was in a same-sex relationship for years. I’m happy for her. I’m happy for anyone who can find someone to be in love with and be happy. The problem is too many Christians and conservatives have misinterpreted “gay pride” as being “anti-straight.” No one is telling straight people they can’t be happy or proud to be straight.
Worse, people act like if they support the LGBTQIA community, they have to have a dog in the fight. You don’t have to have a relative, friend, co-worker, etc., who is gay or transgendered. Human rights should be universal. And if you think you don’t know someone who is in the LGBTQIA community, chances are you do, because they are afraid to come out. Luther Vandross lived his whole life in the closet with it only be revealed after he died. There were rumors that Sherman Hemsley was gay and people still question Reginald VelJohnson.
My question, is who cares? The fact that black actors who lived during a certain era have to publicly announce their sexuality and can’t live a private life is telling. This reinforces a stereotype that black men are heterosexual sex maniac predators. Some men are just happy being bachelors. Christopher Hewlett, who played the Mr. Belvedere character was a bachelor.
I think a lot of cisgendered men are sexually attracted to transgendered women. They’re just too afraid to be with them because they’re still trying to impress people who are busy setting limits for others. Violence is still an issue with transgendered women and there’s still some mentality that it’s okay to become violent with a woman who is transgendered if she didn’t tell you at first. They called them traps and older pornography has being fooled into having sex with transgendered women. I think it’s mostly for show, but still it’s set up this myth transgendered women as sexual predators luring cisgendered men into sex. It’s not real.
This notion that transgendered women must tell each and every man who buys them a drink at a bar or tries to hit on them they’re transgendered at first or else they get what they deserve is victim-blaming. No, it’s not okay. People try to excuse the brutal murder of Matthew Shepherd as it was okay because he went with his killers under the pretense of buying drugs. Even if that was the case, he didn’t deserve to be murdered.
And people listening to Chappelle are seeing a black man advocating intolerance toward transgendered people, even though that’s not what he’s saying. It’s a modern day lynching issue. About 100 years ago, shit, in the past few years, black people have been targeted by white people with violence for just smiling at a white woman or child. If a black man made a paper airplane in the second grade and threw it across the room and the teacher got on to them, there’s people who think that’s okay for a cop to empty a .40 caliber clip into their back.
Daphne Dorman, who was a transgendered comic, killed herself. She claimed to have support Chappelle and his jokes. I can’t speak for what was going on in Dorman’s mind, but I’m sure she struggled with a lot of things other people in the LGBTQIA community deal with on a daily basis.
And for someone who spent his earlier years watching Richard Pryor, George Carlin, Bill Hicks and even Sam Kinison, I can say they knew how to say things and make them stick. Kinison went off the rails later, saying that homeless people needed to be killed. There’s a difference. I used to like Dennis Miller, before he went on anti-Islamic rant, even saying soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan shouldn’t follow the Rules of Engagement. Ray Stevens was the same after 9/11. I guess his song should be retitled “Everything White is Beautiful.”
I thought about being a comic once but things changed for the worst. Comics aren’t the same as they were 35-40 years ago. I think it’s because many people grew up in their formative years when the PC Culture starting to change things. Since most comics are still a “Boys-Only Club,” it’s no surprise that people look at Louis C.K., Burr, or Jim Bruer as funny. They’ve been sitting around as teenagers and young men in their early 20s saying jokes, but over years, things changed and they’re still stuck in those early days when they could tell these jokes.
I got a secret all of you. Women don’t like the sexist, misogynistic jokes you say. Maybe they smile and grit their teeth, because they’re afraid of escalating a situation in a room of men. Eddie Murphy has come out and apologized for some of the homophobic jokes he said in shows like Delirious and Raw. It was the right thing to do and listening to it now, you can see how wrong it was to say them. Yes, times were different in the 1980s, but we change and comics should change.
Now, I know Chappelle isn’t threatening violence or pushing things too far. One of his film roles was in The Nutty Professor as Reggie Warrington, an insult comic, which I think he was great at. I don’t like insult comics. But other comics like Russell Peters or D.L. Hughley who’ll question why someone wore all white looking like a big sperm or a Members Only jacket is funny because they’re allowing the people to laugh at themselves.
If there’s one thing I don’t like is when people bring up Mel Brooks or the earlier movies of David and Jerry Zucker and Jim Abrahams. I think Brooks and his writers as well as ZAZ as there were known were tearing down stereotypes that others had established. Brooks often mocked Adolf Hitler and Nazis so he could comedy as a weapon. When ZAZ had Barbara Billingsley pop up in Airplane! as a Jive-talking interpreter, the joke was Billingsley not the black actors speaking Jive. Unfortunately, David Zucker went off the rails too with his offensive An American Carol.
Like I have said, I haven’t seen the show because I’m sick of Netflix and their mediocre programming. They needed a hit like Squid Game for a while and I’m sure the controversy over this will get them more attention. But as more people get their news from social media and YouTube, they’re not looking for facts, they’re looking for common opinions. You don’t have to like all comics, or TV shows or movies.
But the same people defending Chappelle were the same wanting to silence Andrew “Dice” Clay 30 years ago. They’re also arguing why Archie Bunker or George Jefferson were able to say what they said. For the most part, they were often proven wrong or shown how ignorant they were on their respective shows. And after a while, Hemsley asked for the writers to tone it down a bit.
Lastly, and it’s nothing against Chappelle and other comics, but if we’re willing to listen more to comics than two public figures, such as scientists and economics, it says a lot about our culture. We have millions who think that a TV reality star who was elected President through a system that was established mostly to prevent populist politicians, was unfairly treated by millions of others and they deserve to die. That’s what the Jan. 6 coup attempt was about.
We only listen to what we want to and we only hear what we want to.