Dave Chappelle has come a long way from his first hour-long HBO special, Killin’ Them Softly (2000).
Back then, he was dressed down in jeans and a baby-blue t-shirt which made him look like a curtain raiser to his own show.
The chorus to DMX’s “Party Up in Here” thumped through the hall as Chappelle languidly walked on stage at the Lincoln Theater in Washington, D.C.
His casualness made you think he was opening for Chris Rock’s “Bring the Pain” or Richard Pryor’s “Live on the Sunset Strip”.
Or Eddie Murphy’s “Raw” where Eddie, decked out in a purple one-piece leather suit, accessorized with dark scarf, racing gloves, and fat-cat gold ring, posed in silhouette like a black Elvis at the start of his show.
In “The Closer”, Chappelle no longer looks like a curtain-raiser. With his loose ash-grey suit and sneakers; he looks like the main act.
As the song “Tribute” by Yasiin Bey (Mos Def) and Talib Kweli announces his entrance, Dave’s elevation to comedic royalty is complete.
His is now a curious mix of Eddie, Pryor and Rock.
Staged in Detroit, The Closer is Chappelle’s 6 special in a Netflix sextuple which includes such gems as 2017’s The Age of Spin and Deep in the Heart of Texas and 2019’s Sticks and Stones.
Dedicated to his “Screwed” co-star the late Norm Macdonald, The Closer could be his most important, although least funny, special.
It takes a comedian like Chappelle to pass through the eye of the needle of being funny and non-offensive all at once, if you’re not asking the LGBTQ community.
“The Alphabet People”, as he calls them, circle the wagons whenever Dave opens his mouth.
Their siege-mentality in the face of Dave’s comedy sucks all the tolerance out of them and a sucking sound also punctuates their appreciation for the verbal arts he employs.
The rhetorical devices employed by Dave to communicate his comedic social discourse are as cerebral as they are rib-cracking.
As a storyteller, he marshals anecdotal observations as a General mobilizes troops. So when he seems to make concessions, you’ll be wrong-footed by the cow-horn formation of his literal shifts in voice and perspective.
He’s an expert at comic misdirection, making you think one thing before he springs a surprise on you with something entirely different.
“Before I start I want to say, I’m rich and famous…I’m vaccinated, I got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. I walked in and was like; give me the 3rd best option. I’ll have what the homeless people are having,” he jokes.
His estimation of the Me Too movement, jabs at gay people and his commentary on transphobia prove he’s “invested in the gender construct, personally.”
That’s because what he says is always sincere. But, in being objective, his words are often bereft of that sense of outrage which political correctness demands we express when it comes to discussing minorities.
Yet the man who walked away from $50 million is far more serious about the plight of minorities than those social media phonies who think they can cure the world, one post at a time.
Dave reminds us that social media is not a real place, and change will come the old fashioned way with a Rosa Parks refusing to go to the back of a bus or a Mahatma Gandhi being thrown off a train and onto the razor’s edge of civil rights protest.
Real sacrifices must be made.
“I’m the one that got off the bus and left 50 million dollars on the bus and walked,” Dave says.
He is still making those sacrifices by speaking up for another key minority: the artist.
Artists can no longer express themselves freely without fear of being cancelled or pulled over by the thought police. And Dave’s comedy is pushback against the influences of these hidden persuaders, thought be led by the so called velvet mafia.
By the time the 1978 hit song “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor is played as the credits roll, I wondered what comedy, indeed art, will do now Dave is going back into hibernation.