This has made the rounds since the surprise release last night of a comedy set from Dave Chappelle from last weekend, for understandable reasons — but it’s only part of the story. Fans of Chappelle and critics of the mainstream media will looove his shots at Don Lemon and the demands of and on the celebrity cult, and on that, Chappelle gives no quarter. But that’s not the only target of Chappelle’s ire, and some of the other targets in the set might not have conservatives laughing. Most of this set, in fact, is an impassioned demand for activism against injustice, specifically police brutality.
In this raw, still evolving set (which Chappelle delivers with notes), he spends a short period of time skewering Lemon for demanding that celebrities hog the spotlight from protesters in the streets. “Do we give a f*** what Ja Rule thinks?” Chappelle declares derisively at one point. Transcripts from BroBible, very much NSFW:
Dave Chappelle blasts Don Lemon for calling out celebrities for not speaking out on George Floyd murder “why would anyone care what their favorite comedian thinks when they saw a police officer kneel on a mans neck for 8 min and 46 seconds pic.twitter.com/Wuo2hMafVu
— gifdsports (@gifdsports) June 12, 2020
I’m watching Don Lemon…he says where are these celebrities?…Has anyone listened to me do comedy, has anyone not listened to me say these things before? So now all of a sudden this n***** expects me to step in front of the streets and talk over the work these people are doing as a celebrity…This is the streets talking for themselves, they don’t need me right now. Why would anyone care what their favorite comedian thinks when they saw a police officer kneel on a man’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.
This is a bit of a contradiction, though. By releasing this video, Chappelle is indeed doing exactly what Lemon demanded. That point wasn’t lost on Lemon or John Berman this morning, either. Lemon says Chappelle has a point, but also distills Chappelle’s point about the nature of the action they both are urging:
That’s the issue that a conservative embrace of this clip out of context will miss. Chappelle spends most of these 27 minutes venting his rage and frustration with the status of American policing and justice to demand sharp changes in both. Dunking on Lemon might be fun, but Chappelle’s not doing it for dunking’s sake, either.
To underscore that point, Chappelle dunks on Candace Owens for arguing that Floyd was a criminal, which Chappelle calls signaling to “white America” to ignore his homicide:
Candace Owens that rotten b****. She’s the worst. I can’t think of a worse way to make money. She’s the most articulate idiot I have ever seen in my f***** life. She’s so articulate that she’ll tell you how f***** stupid she is.
She told George Floyd’s record on the Internet. He was this, he was that he was a drug addict and why does the black community make him a hero? Why did you choose him as the hero?… We didn’t choose him, you did, they killed him and that wasn’t right, so he’s the guy, we’re not desperate for heroes in the black community, anybody who survives this nightmare is my goddamned hero.
That’s pretty much dead on. The only way Floyd’s arrest record would matter is if we adopted the idea that police can execute people on the street for having a record. Otherwise, it’s a non-sequitur. Chappelle then goes after Laura Ingraham more generally for her “shut up and dribble” rebuke to LeBron James and celebrities in general, which is the opposite of the point that some will take from his slam on Lemon.
Here’s the whole set from Chappelle, so everyone can see his argument in its full context. It’s not comfortable viewing for anyone, which is one reason why Chappelle matters.