Dave Chapelle arranged an outdoor appearance, with a socially-distanced audience in masks, for his hometown of Beavercreek, Ohio.
He threw on a black shirt and black pants, grabbed his black notebook — where comedians jot down ideas they want to work into “material” — picked up the mike, and spoke.
“8:46” is the name of this stand-up special, his first public performance in 87 days, a graphic tells us.
But he didn’t show up to be funny.
“Am I boring you?” he asks at one point. “This is not funny at ALL,” he admits later.
Because these aren’t “jokes.” He’s not waiting for applause lines to register applause. Chapelle goes late-period Lenny Bruce here, 27 minutes of enraged, emotional and blunt talk about George Floyd’s murder, TV talkers, the litany of infamous cases of police shootings and chokings, George Zimmerman shooting Trayvon Martin, the deaths of Philando Castile and Eric Garner.
He opens with the Minneapolis tape that triggered a national uprising. “I can’t unsee it,” he declares. “NOBODY is going home,” is his first thought after seeing it, lamenting that “This man KNEELED on his man’s neck for eight minutes and forty-six seconds! He said ‘I can’t breathe.’ He called for his DEAD mother. He KNEW he was going to die!”
Chapelle burns opinionater Candace Owens, “the most articulate idiot I’ve ever seen.” He claps back at those like CNN anchor Don Lemon, “that hotbed of reality,” asking where “celebrity” voices are in this sea of protesters, the police riots and agitator looting.
“You kids are excellent drivers,” Chapelle declares, of the young people taking to the streets. “So I am comfortable being in the back seat of the car.”
Chapelle gives the crowd (mostly middle-aged, from the audience cut-aways, largely white) a history lesson, charting the back and forth of murders — a civilian killed by cops here, here and here, Black veterans carrying out mass shootings we might have forgotten, men like the L.A. cop fired for reporting a colleague for abusing a suspect, Christopher Dorner, who wrote a manifesto (mentioning Dave) and went on a murder spree.
Chapelle’s voice cracks as he remembers his own history, his connection to the death of a black man by police in Beavercreek, with Chapelle “pulled over by that same cop the NIGHT before.”
And he remembers his family history, the South Carolina ancestor (his namesake) who was part of a delegation that visited racist President Woodrow Wilson in the White House to protest a lynching and the rise of lynchings in the South during Wilson’s presidency. That isn’t ancient history, the comic/truth-teller reminds us.
This isn’t Chapelle at his best. It’s just Chapelle at his most honest, unfiltered and unpolished material, spoken from the heart. Don’t expect him to make a habit of this, he says. He doesn’t feel the need to.
“These streets will speak for themselves.”
Cast: Dave Chapelle.
Credits: A Netflix is a Joke release, on youtube.
Running time: 27.20