To Chapelle or not Chapelle—that’s been the question.
For the polarizing comedian’s legions of fans, it’s been a rough couple of months since the introduction of The Closer—his sixth Netflix special released back in October—introduced accusations of reckless transphobia that threatened to derail his vigorous comedic empire. Employees of the streamer staged a walkout in protest, suspensions and firings ensued as Netflix attempted to restore order—it was all bad.
Fast forward to April, and with the Netflix Is a Joke Fest—a massive, 11-day endeavor featuring over 130 comedians getting their jokes off and going viral in the process—set to descend upon Los Angeles, fans of Chapelle have been forced to confront their feelings about the man who hasn’t exactly endeared himself to the trans community in the aftermath of his colossal faux pas. That being said, he’s still one of the greatest comedic minds of our time—which means that despite their reservations, there are still plenty of people who would happily exchange their firstborn for tickets to one of his sold-out shows during the festival.
And I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t intrigued myself.
Would he be contrite? Or fire off jokes with his signature snark with no remorse? There was only one way to find out.
Friday’s iteration of Dave Chappelle & Friends, which took place at the prestigious Hollywood Bowl, was a predictably sold-out affair brimming with plenty of sarcasm and even more surprises. After DJ Trauma blessed the crowd with a masterful set sprinkled with all types of deep digs and original samples that only the truest of hip-hop heads would recognize, host Jeff Ross unleashed his hilarious Roastmaster General schtick upon unsuspecting audience members (and dearly departed close friends like Bob Saget and Gilbert Gottfried), Donnell Rawlings continued his reign as one of the most unappreciated stand-up comics in the biz, Deon Cole did what Deon Cole does, and Bill Burr batted cleanup—letting the chopper spray with blunt observations seasoned with his trademark political incorrectness.
Soon after, Chappelle hit the stage and commanded the massive crowd as only he can—and yes, he addressed The Closer controversy in the most Dave Chappelle way possible. While I’m not at liberty to go into detail about everything he and the rest of the Infinity Gauntlet of comedians shared on stage—after all, they’re still working out these jokes and where is the fun in spoiling everything?—I can attest that no matter how divided his fans are about his recent transgressions (pun intended), laughter was indeed the best medicine—though holding himself accountable and being genuinely contrite didn’t hurt.
And is there a better way to close out an epic three-hour comedy show than to have Busta “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See” Rhymes put jaws on the floor with a rousing 45-minute set?
No, there’s not.
Dave won’t ever be who we want him to be, but for better or worse, that’s exactly why we fell in love with him in the first place.
Netflix Is A Joke Fest takes place in Los Angeles until May 8.