Lionel Shriver Lionel Shriver

My advice to Dave Chappelle

Getty Images

I’m accustomed to a sense of urgency in relation to Netflix offerings because the streaming service often buys short-term rights that abruptly run out. But this time, I rushed to see Dave Chappelle’s new stand-up special The Closer lest Netflix’s own disgruntled employees succeed in getting the performance taken down. Strictly speaking, the affronted staff aren’t demanding the show’s withdrawal, but it’s hard to see what else the proposed employee walkout on Wednesday was designed to accomplish. After all, in the olden days if you didn’t like something on television you just didn’t watch it, but in our enlightened times you make damned sure no one else can watch it either.

Chappelle stoked the ire of trans activists with less than reverent jokes about gender swappers in his last Netflix show, Sticks & Stones. After being widely trashed as a ‘transphobe’, the comedian isn’t choosing to give such incendiary material a judicious wide berth, but in the new routine doubles down. In the interest of preserving his right to send up anyone he cares to, this is a sound stratagem: see, you can’t intimidate me. The show’s most trans-gressive lines — his calling surgically altered genitals ‘Impossible Pussy’, alluding to vegetarian fake meat — are also the funniest.

Where the performance sags is in its sincere bits. Particularly ill-judged is an over-long riff on a trans comedian who opened one of Chappelle’s acts, and who was subsequently lacerated on social media for supporting a notorious ‘transphobe’. Thereafter, Chappelle reveals dramatically, his colleague committed suicide. This is not funny, nor is it intended to be. The whole extended riff isn’t funny. Its purpose is to demonstrate that Chappelle cares deeply about trans people, that he knows and admires actual trans people, that he is not a transphobe.

Defensiveness is a strategic mistake, and betrays that your detractors got to you

In short, Chappelle sounds defensive, which has a lousy reputation for good reason.

Already a subscriber? Log in

Keep reading with a free trial

Subscribe and get your first month of online and app access for free. After that it’s just £1 a week.

There’s no commitment, you can cancel any time.


Unlock more articles



Don't miss out

Join the conversation with other Spectator readers. Subscribe to leave a comment.

Already a subscriber? Log in