Many of you may have read of the brouhaha over the Netflix special of comedian Dave Chappelle, The Closer. Chappelle’s routines are notorious for jokes that insult and mock nearly every group, including whites, women, gays, Jews, and Asians. His usual material largely revolves around biting comments on race and identity, and Bloomberg has glowingly described him as “a leading voice on race.”
In his routine, he focused on the transgendered, proclaiming that “gender is a fact,” engaged in some raunchy comments on transgender genitalia, and mocked those with “hurt feelings.” From the resulting outcry, it seems he has finally found a group that one dare not make fun of.
GLAAD, the LGBT advocacy group, has denounced him for “harming” and “endangering” transgenders, and poet Saeed Jones has pronounced it a “betrayal.” Others have criticized him for failing to “support” and “build up” the transgender community, apparently confusing the role of comic with social cheerleader. Netflix is under assault, and the always thoughtful Twittersphere has erupted.
Let’s step back for a moment and take a breath. This is comedy. Comedy is supposed to challenge and shock the audience. It is expected to explore the forbidden. Boomers recall comedians like Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, George Carlin, and Eddie Murphy whose shtick revolved around offending traditional sensibilities. You liberals will have to accept the fact that your dogma has become “the establishment view,” against which dissidents and comedians must rail.
And, let’s get real. This brave, new genderless world, in which our language and scientific nomenclature have been hijacked to reflect newly discovered “truths,” really offers a lot of comedic opportunity. For example, the lawsuit against a hospital resulting from a “man being denied a hysterectomy,” well, the joke writes itself. When politically mandated semantics conflict with readily observed reality, you know that hilarity is sure to ensue.
The outrage over Chappelle’s show, and the whole “cancel” thing, seems to reflect a difference in generational attitudes. We now have many people who seem to believe that they have a veto over any expression that they disagree with. Perhaps it’s from being allowed to shut down any discussion by saying it “makes you feel unsafe.” Chappelle has certainly said plenty to insult and offend people like me, but we have somehow survived.
When you humorless liberal scolds find yourselves fighting bitterly against popular comedians, perhaps it is time for you to recognize that you have lost the cancel culture war. While the critics dutifully panned his special, fearful of being canceled themselves, the viewers have been much more receptive and have given it a 96 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Other entertainers, like Bill Maher, have been successful in speaking out against cancel culture, and the tide is turning. Netflix has made a lot of money off of Chappelle and is unlikely to let the indignant sputtering of a few people with the media megaphone deter them.
Comedy will always be subversive and will not bend to political diktats.
John Donegan is a retired attorney in Pismo Beach. Send a response for publication to [email protected].