The comedian doesn’t mind when people get upset at his material defending Louis C.K. or grappling with Bill Cosby’s legacy.
Dave Chappelle shrugged off backlash against his #MeToo jokes and other sensitive material in a new interview this weekend.
"They just want to see someone trying to get to something honest," he said of comedy audiences. "I don’t think they want to pay to see someone worried about the repercussions of what they say."
In the #MeToo era, there is a growing sensitivity not just to issues relating to sexual harassment and women in the workplace. It has spread far beyond that, policing what’s appropriate in casual conversation and even standup comedy shows. Since returning to the spotlight last year with a series of Netflix specials, Chappelle has come under fire a few times for his fearless commentary.
"I don’t mind that people get upset," he told PBS’ Jeffrey Brown. "I learn about a lot of things just from my critics."
He also thinks it’s important that people engage with art that challenges them. "I don’t have to agree with all the art I consume, but it helps me understand how I actually feel about it," he explained. The comedian added he finds "solace" in the arts.
When asked if #MeToo has moved the line as to what is appropriate and what isn’t, Chappelle admitted he didn’t know for sure. "We’re all figuring this out, I think, at the same time together," he said. "This is a huge collective moment." But he thought it would be disingenuous for a comedian to ignore the topic altogether.
"As a comedian, that can be a very, very difficult thing not to talk about," he said. "As a human, it’s a very difficult thing not to feel, to be indifferent to it."
And that’s why Chappelle hasn’t shied away from it, going all in during his last special of the year, "The Bird Revelation." Taped during the midst of the initial wave of #MeToo accusations (around Thanksgiving 2017), Chappelle went in on Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and fellow comic Louis C.K.
In a way, he even went so far as to defend his colleague, as reported by the Daily Beast, diminishing one of C.K.’s accusers who said that because of her encounter with the disgraced comic she gave up her own dreams of standup comedy. "You think if Louis C.K. jerked off in front of Martin Luther King, he’d be like, ‘I can’t continue this movement?’" Chappelle asked, saying the woman had a "brittle spirit."
No stranger to pushing the envelope, Chappelle brought his controversial and provocative vision to the masses in what many consider the greatest comedy sketch show of all time, "Chappelle’s Show." 15 years later, Dave Chappelle may be older and wiser, but he is no tamer. So have audiences just gotten more sensitive?
"Yes and no," Chappelle said. "Sometimes, I think that we’re painfully desensitized, because we’re bombarded by so much information. And then other times, I think people– it’s just, there’s a lot to be mad at. Especially when you know so much."
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