This special is not for the easily offended
by Neil Khilwani
Staff Funny Guy
Dave Chappelle is no stranger to stirring up controversy, but his new Netflix special, Sticks and Stones, has placed the veteran comedian into perhaps his biggest spotlight of criticism in recent years. Throughout the hour long special, Chappelle tackles a myriad of topics from cancel culture, suicide, the LGBTQ Community, gun rights, and much more.
In an increasingly P.C. world, most comedians would proceed with caution, careful to avoid telling jokes on certain sensitive topics that would certainly spark backlash.
However, Chappelle does not operate by the social quo. He fearlessly speaks his mind, expressing his doubt towards the Michael Jackson sexual abuse scandal going as far to joke that if it did indeed occur, those victims should be honored to have the King of Pop as their first sexual partner. On the subject of abortion, Chappelle states that women should be the only ones involved in writing legislation pertaining to their body, but at the same time the father reserves the right to abandon the child should she choose to keep the baby.
His take on the LGBTQ Community is presented through a metaphor in which all the different “letters” are riding in a car together where they occasionally feud with one another. Chappelle’s jokes push the boundaries of what present day culture deem acceptable, which in turn has resulted in many calling the comedian as someone “stuck in the past.” That is an interesting statement because if this special aired even ten years ago, it certainly would not have raised such a divisive and fueled conversation of obscenity. However, we live in a different society now, where celebrities, including comedians, must walk on egg shells. Yet Dave Chappelle has never been one to follow the system. He speaks his mind because at the end of the day, he is still a comedian. While there are truths and lessons to be learned from his stand up, at the end of the day, they are merely jokes not meant to be taken so seriously. He is a comedian first.
Something interesting to note concerning the critical reception of the special is how it was originally exclusively given five critical reviews that resulted in a 0%. This clearly sent a message that those who influence the realm of what is acceptable to be shown in media, were clearly against Chappelle and the larger picture behind his material.
However, this is in-turn fueled Chappelle’s staunch supporters and when public reviews were open, the rating was a whopping 99%. Was this exceptionally remarkable rating made possible because of the reaction of Chappelle’s fans to the reaction of cancelling Chappelle after Sticks and Stones? Probably.
Now Sticks and Stones is certainly not without its flaws. While filled with many moments that will keep you dying of laughter such as his “Juicy Smolliet” Chappelle’s latest special fails to match his previous more cleverly written specials such as Equanimity, the Age of Spin, and For What It’s Worth. Also, his treatment towards the Michael Jackson abuse accusers was too insensitive. It flirted on the line of victim shaming even if he was just kidding.
Ultimately, a special such as Sticks and Stones may seem out of date to many, but this special has opened up a conversation on what is too obscene for our current society and whether we are going in a direction of over censorship in fear of offending certain groups. Therefore, if you have not already seen the special, you should definitely check it out and decide for yourself whether it is time to “cancel” Chappelle or celebrate him for his commentary on our current culture.