Oh lordy, what’s that pothead prophet, Doper Dave, stuck his foot in THIS time?
Transgender issues? Again? Is there an Eddie Murphy confession Dave Chapelle will eventually get around to making? What is UP with that, my racial slur-er? Joining arms with J.K. Rowling? Identifying with her as a “TERF?”
That all points to a better title for his “last special for a minute” finale for Netflix. He calls it “The Closer,” as in wrapping things up, a King of Comedy headliner, a closing act worthy of that master salesman label “Closer,” and an end to his nearly twenty year long argument with the transgender community.
Dude should have called it “Baggage.”
The bulk of Chapelle’s “The Closer” is spent leaning into a subject that keeps him controversial, when that seems more pointless by the day. He’s transcended the need for controversy. He’s THE humorist/comic-cultural critic of the moment. And his blundering attempt to claim he’s not “punching down” by continuing his slap-fight with the ever-lengthening-acronym LGBTQ minority community over this, his declaration that the phrase “punching down” offends him, never helps.
“Closer” begins with promise; riffs on COVID, his single-man superspreader carelessness in Texas, chewing on Black folks beating up Asian folks over COVID on Youtube.
He does that thing he does where he sounds serious and sensitive and thoughtful, only to undercut Humane, Sweet Dave with a killer punchline. The first version of that gag? It’s a bit about the latest news on UFOs, his theory and his movie pitch, that “they were here, long before us, and left. ” And now they’ve returned and want “their planet back.”
“I’m calling it, ‘Space Jews.'”
And then he sidles into his main topic of the night for this Detroit crowd — cancel culture and the folks running it, most often people represented by one of the letters in LGBTQ.
The rapper DaBaby, he notes, “KILLED a n—a,” but it wasn’t until he had a homophobic onstage meltdown that he faced cancelation.
“You can kill, but you’d better not hurt a gay person’s feelings…”
He traces his “transphobic” and homophobic baggage to a San Francisco news article nearly 20 years ago, asserts that every criticism since has cited “those same talking points,” and starts his long discourse on defusing all that by A) noting a trans comic he befriended and helped out and B) the price that friend paid for sticking up for Dave through one of his many blasts of trans backlash.
Chapelle can seem a paragon of reason and above-it-all magnanimity when he joins the chorus of comics (especially) who describe this gay “cancel culture” community as “too sensitive, too brittle.”
“Gangsta gay,” those people who rioted at Stonewall, he says. “THEM I respect.”
His “the Defense rests” is far from his funniest special, although there are almost enough laughs to make it worth your while.
Chapelle’s sharpest observations are the career-imperiling minefield any celebrity faces via Twitter or — shudder — “going out.” He relates several episodes where he says he was “trapped” and/or “drunk” and got into this argument or that smackdown when confronted in public.
How funny you see that depends on your reaction to this explanation for one fight. “Bitch, I didn’t even KNOW you were a woman!”
He’s thoughtful about the “racial component of feminism,” calls himself a feminist, and then turns around and labels himself a “TERF,” just like J.K. Rowling.
I noticed director Stan Lathan didn’t show the audience much in this special, and not at all until one defiant slap at Chapelle’s LGBTQ critics inspired a few folks to stand up and applaud.
Few comics performing today work from as deep inside “self-satisfied” as this guy. Not quite Kevin Hart, but close. All his stories give him the last word and make him come off as the quickest, the wittiest and the wisest. Perhaps if he saw that in himself, he’d better understand “punching down.”
Chapelle can attack “mean” “bathroom bills” from reactionary state legislatures, and go for a laugh with “frumpy dyke.” He can see racism in the speed with which gay rights blossomed when compared with the slow pace of African American equality, and land his best punch with “Gay people are a minority, until they need to be white again,” and yet brag about the time he “whipped the toxic masculinity right out of that (lesbian) b—h!”
The average viewer — NOT “these transgenders” who “want me DEAD” — might find common ground in the phrase “My pronoun game wasn’t as (sharp) as it is today,” and enjoy his mockery of “Tiki Torch white people,” aka “MICHIGAN white people,” biting the hands that bought tickets to “The Closer.”
But the best thing to come out of his “last” Netflix special might be this promise. That this is “The Closer,” that he’s not wading into that alphabet soup any more, because, as he puts it, “I’m not transgender…I’m not even gay.”
Chapelle’s obsession with this one subject, which he keeps “explaining” over and over again, reminded me of late period Lenny Bruce, when he took to reading his court transcripts to audiences in lieu of doing his “act.”
Chapelle’s “rich and famous,” he reminds us. Huge. “Clifford” big, he adds. He should start acting like it.
And maybe, now that he’s stuck up for Kevin Hart losing the Oscar hosting gig for the umpteenth time, now that he’s appealed for the uncanceling of DaBaby, we can all move on.
He certainly could stand to.
Rating: TV-MA, profanity, racial slurs
Cast: Dave Chapelle
Credits Directed by Stan Lathan, scripted by Dave Chapelle. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:12