Hollywood drove Dave Chappelle out of his gourd. He bounced on a multi-million-dollar contract, went to Africa, got his mind right and realized that at the end of the day, hamming it up for The Man wasn't what he wanted to do.
Here's the problem: Although it was great for Dave's state of mind, it sucked for black television. What Chappelle created was a stage for running dialogue about real issues through a comedic filter. When he left, a rip in the black vortex was created.
Thankfully for us, sewing that cosmic tear is David Alan Grier, and his new Comedy Central show, Chocolate News. Hollywood is going to have a tough time pushing this black comedian over the edge, since Grier walks out on it butterball nakey and dives in head first.
Seriously, Grier has come a long way beyond his days as Antoine Merriweather, one half of the gay movie-critic duo, Men on Film, that he and Damon Wayans made famous on In Living Color. And Calhoun Tubbs or Cephus, two of Grier's former characters, couldn't get a look on Chocolate News.
Grier creates, produces and plays most of the characters in the half-hour long satirical sketch comedy, and the show delivers some of the raunchiest, uncut and just straight funny material on TV. Each episode is a bastion of glorious curses; more than half of the episodes have to be bleeped.
The setup is like Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, with Grier as the in-house anchor personality who sends correspondents into the field to do in-depth reporting on "Chocolate" stories. Think of it as Grier's answer to Fox News. It is a completely biased, unflinching, raw look at black issues. It's not exactly a black version of the Daily Show or The Colbert Report, but more of a TV-magazine-style-expose look at all subjects of blackness. Grier serves up segments on everything from the lack of blacks in baseball to the struggles of transsexuals in the black community.
The opening dialogue offers some of Grier's most poignant commentary, during which he welcomes viewers to, "pure uncircumcised realness," and warns that this is not, "Whoopi Goldberg sitting on a couch yapping with a bunch of white women." In one opening segment, he mourns the death of hip-hop which, "drowned from too much bullshit and champagne." He waxes philosophical about how, "rap is supposed to have a message, like 'it takes a nation of millions to hold us back,' not 'I'm young rich and famous with money hanging out my anus.'" "Hip-hop" he yells, punctuating each word, "have you lost your damn mind?"
In another commentary, he urges on-the-fence white voters to vote for Obama's white side if they can't bring themselves to vote for a black man. In another sketch, Grier plays the explicit fictional rapper "Phat Man," doing a PSA about the No Child Left Behind Act while rocking a fat suit, pouring champagne on the backsides of video hoes at Alicia Keys Elementary school and rapping, "I am talking about the ass dropping, booty popping…child…the child…no child left behind."
Whether boldly satirizing literary goddess Maya Angelou or taking on the visage of transsexual Candleabara Effervescence (whose boobie keeps falling out during the interview), it's clear that Grier suffers from comedic schizophrenia, which is a good thing for us.
This is not The Chappelle Show, nor is it trying to be. What the veteran comedian Grier does well is seamlessly intersperse the absurd with candor and reality. It's like when one of the black correspondents fumbles an interview, Grier chides him. "Don't you know when one black man stumbles, millions fall behind him?" The truth of comedy, spoken by a true comedian.
Stephen A. Crockett Jr. is a regular contributor to The Root.