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THB #255: Chappelle. Again.
I am a fan of Dave Chappelle. He is a genius with words and ideas.
I also think Dave Chappelle is a self-serving, ego-maniacal, manipulative lying asshole who plays the victim from a position of enormous power.
We last discussed his work after his last Netflix special, in which his response to Trans people being offended by one of his earlier Netflix specials was to be a jerk about it. Funny too. But punching down and claiming he could not punch down because he is Black.
It was the 4th Hot Button newsletter ever.
Didn’t really want to go back… though I did (THB #10: Netflix, Chappelle & Constituencies), at least once.
I think he is brilliant. I think he is insightful. Like most human beings, he has a few giant blindspots, which for people like him, who get rich and surround themselves with “yes” people, can be very unattractive. And because he observes and speaks about things for a living, instead of remaining silent about his blindspots, he whines about them in public and exposes his partial-asshole.
This has become a Bill Maher disability in recent years too. It’s all very Trump. But these are people who my people - liberals - tend to like, so we work around the fucking obnoxious entitled bullshit to keep enjoying the good stuff.
I am also aware, from living a long time, that many of my Black friends believe in a lot of false tropes about Jewish people (which is also true in reverse). My best friend in the world still makes a comment anytime I order pork of any kind. Jews are “them,” meaning not only are we in the category of entitled white oppressors, but we are also hyper-entitled by perceptions of wealth, political prowess, and higher levels of education.
I could not care less if Chappelle calls Shabbat, “Sha Na Na.” It got a laugh in the context in which he offered it. I laughed.
I have never really understood how this thing between Blacks and Jews took such hold. Both peoples have been held down, exiled, slaughtered, and suffered attempts to remove what is uniquely ours in the world. It is somewhat insane to compare atrocities, but personally, I believe the Black Holocaust of slavery is a step worse than the Jewish Holocaust that killed 6 million of then 17 million Jews on earth because slavery not only killed and demeaned and tortured Blacks, it sought to homogenize away any cultural history away from them. I don’t want to argue this very arguable opinion here… but though more than a third of our entire Jewish populace was murdered, we still had the Shma (perhaps our most known prayer of just one sentence). “Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one.” It isn’t a Zionist prayer. It is pure Old Testament (Deuteronomy).
America has been much kinder to Jews than to Blacks, no doubt. But that doesn’t mean Jews have had a cakewalk here. Our entry into America was often fleeing, but ultimately by choice. I don’t think a lot of Black Americans realize that many places we now think of as Jewish now were often restricted to keep Jews out through much of the last century (often along with Blacks and Dogs). It’s not taught in school because Jews are a tiny minority in America. About 2%. Blacks are about 13%. Except within our own communities, our history - aside from The Jewish Holocaust - is really not taught.
But yeah… the 2% has an outsized influence on America. Nothing close to the dominant one that people like Kanye or Chappelle are imaging… but outsized for sure.
Jews created Hollywood and Las Vegas, with their efforts and money. It’s true. Most of the Vegas money came from non-Jews, but Bugsy Siegel was undeniably Jewish, as was Meyer Lansky. The Jewish mob. First note to Dave Chappelle… there was and surely is a Jewish mob and no one is denying that Jews are above criminal enterprise.
Here’s the thing about Chappelle…
When he is talking about cultural sensitivities, he is quite insightful and clever. But in the midst of being truthful about the issues, he slides into blaming whomever his target is that day… and sets standards he refuses to apply to himself or his ideas.
Last night, on SNL, the target was “The Jews” and the conversation was around the “cancelling” of Kanye West and Kyrie Irving. He said…
There are two words in the English language that you should never say together, in sequence and those are the words “The” and the word ‘Jews.” I’ve never heard no one do good after they said that.
Has Chappelle heard anyone say, “The Blacks” in this last decade and “do good after that?” Has he heard anyone say, “The Gays” in recent years and “do good after that?”
I mean, Chappelle has a direct and ongoing relationship to that last pairing of words… he’s been publicly whining about it for over a year now. And in his whining, he sees himself as the victim of those mean ol’ LGBTQ+ people.
On the other hand, he manipulated Netflix into grinding Paramount for more money for the exploitation of The Chappelle Show, a show which was made under a pretty standard contract in its time and for which the huge payday was offered by Paramount to Chappelle after the show’s success... the way it happens for almost all young talent. Chappelle chose to walk away from the deal of his own accord. Then, more than 15 years later, inferring racism - that Paramount was abusing The Blacks by not paying him millions more than he was legally entitled to in his deal - Chappelle got paid some more.
Part of Chappelle’s monologue invoked the claim that spreading lies about Jews was not so bad because Kyrie Irving wasn’t alive during The Jewish Holocaust. So I guess that since no one who did the deal for The Chappelle Show still works at Paramount, the studio shouldn’t pay any more for the unexpected long-term success of the show. And I guess white people, none of whom are still alive from the time of American slavery, can just blow off any national responsibility since we were not alive. (Always a poor piece of rhetoric.)
It is not really acceptable to call any minority group “The XXXes” in 2022. It’s considered deeply rude and potentially “ist.” Let’s not even get started on what would happen if a white celebrity went on TV and dropped The N-Bomb… in any context at all.
Chappelle said other stuff… funny… insightful.. but then he goes back again…
“He broke the show business rules. Is this a rule? You know, the rules of deception. If they’re Black, then it’s a gang, if it’s Italian, it’s the mob. But if they’re Jewish, it’s a coincidence that you should never speak about.”
As noted early, this is just bullshit. The Jewish Mafia is not undiscussed. There have been myriad TV shows and movies about it. In America, there have been more feature films about this than about any other aspect of Jewish life, for sure. Chappelle knows The Godfather and no doubt, many of the movies that have dealt with mobbed-up Jews, like Casino, in which DeNiro plays the Jewish lead.
What’s insidious about this comment is, first, that he reduces concern about anti-Semitism, which is thriving in America right now, to “a show business rule.” No. It’s Jews being killed for being Jews. It’s “Jews will not replace us” openly chanted in Charlottesville and The Then-President Asshole condoning it. It’s the use of otherism - including against Blacks - that has become a tool to create fear and divisiveness in places like Ohio, which Chappelle cites as his home.
When a Black man was murdered, shot in the back by police, in a Wendy’s parking lot in Georgia, was it “fast food rules?” Ha ha ha. No. Not funny.
“The rules of deception” has the stench of a claim that Jews lie about their status as a group.
Black leader Louis Farrakhan in 2018: “The false Jew will lead you to filth and indecency. That’s who runs show business. That’s who runs the record industry. That’s who runs television.”
Farrakhan alleged that Jews often force aspiring actors to submit to anal sex. “Do you know that many of us who go to Hollywood seeking a chance have to submit to anal sex and all kind [sic] of debauchery [before] they give you a little part?” he asked. “It’s called the casting couch. See that’s Jewish power.”
Chappelle cleverly engages the audience’s anti-Semitism - often shared by Jews ourselves - and the cadence of comedy to say something he would never accept if it was turned on Blacks. And he should not accept it. Not for Blacks. Not for any minority.
I know Chappelle is a comedian. But he clearly believes Jews are, to whatever degree, controlling show business and his viability in the market of ideas and money based, in some way, upon being Jews.
What would happen if Timothée Chalamet said that he was going to “go Def Con 3” on Black people and started talking endlessly about how Black people are keeping movies he wants to make from being made because they are demanding a reasonable place at the industry table?
Cancelled. Instantly. (Timothée, of course, would not say that or think that.)
Ezra Miller has a whole series of legal woes piling up and Warner Bros Discovery has $200 million+ invested in a him in a movie that still hasn’t come out, so they are pretending it doesn’t change anything.
But if Ezra Miller went on a rant on some podcast tomorrow about how much he hates Black people, WBD would be writing down The Flash within a couple weeks and the only place we would hear from Ezra again would be in the tabloids.
And does Chappelle really want to die on the hill for Kyrie Irving, who is being paid $30m+ a season to play basketball and has selfishly, repeatedly, undermined the franchise that is paying him? He is getting cover for his anti-Semitic choices by the NBA right now because there is too much to lose. But Chappelle, like others, is sooooo offended that the NBA wants Kyrie to clean up the mess - sincerely or otherwise - so they don’t have to deal with boycotts and other disruptions.
Is Chappelle coming out to defend - post-mortem - Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder or Howard Cosell, whose legacies were destroyed by trying to explain they physical prowess of some Black athletes?
Did Cosell even call Alvin Garrett “tht little monkey” because of his race? “Despite supportive statements by Jesse Jackson, Muhammad Ali, and Alvin Garrett himself, the fallout contributed to Cosell's decision to leave Monday Night Football following the 1983 season.”
Did The Jews get The Jew?
I have flipped 2 specific words Chappelle used last night in the following direct mis-quote…
“I know that Black people have been through terrible things all over the world, but you can’t blame that on Jewish Americans… you just can’t. You know what I mean?”
But that is just what Kanye and Kyrie have done. And what Chappelle is doing is excusing it as though they are being freshly victimized by The Jews.
“I have been to Hollywood and this is what I saw… It’s a lot of Jews. Like a lot. But that doesn’t mean anything. You know what I mean? Because a lot of Black people in Ferguson Missouri… they ain’t running the place.”
People laughing and giving an applause break on this line reminds me a bit of people giving Will Smith a standing ovation at The Oscars after he had assaulted Chris Rock. Habit. Rhythm.
But did people think through what he said? If anyone famous publicly said, “I went to an NBA game… it’s a lot of Blacks. Like a lot,” would they have a career the next day?
And then the weird connection to Ferguson, where a Black man was killed by a policeman and there were riots… is he saying that this is what it is for Black people and Hollywood is what it’s like for Jews? I mean, it’s really a non-sequitor… but it isn’t. Chappelle connected the two things for a reason.
More good stuff from Chappelle about an array of things… but he is not done with The Jews. He references his first Netflix special in which he said something about taking a shoe deal but “as soon as I say something that makes those people mad, they’re going to take my sneakers away.”
I am guessing that when he said it, he meant powerful white people who own shoe companies, like non-Jew Phil Knight. The quote he makes doesn’t refer to Jews.
But then, in last night’s monologue, he makes a great joke about Kanye being reduced by losing 1.5 billion in a few days. The problem is, we are back to “they” taking things… as though there is any kind of monolithic “they.”
He closes with, “I hope they don’t take anything away from me… whoever they are.”
Clearly a callback… to The Jews. With a wink to everyone agreeing with him about The Jews.
It’s very hard. I laughed at the monologue, including some of the jokes about The Jews. But, as Chappelle himself would say, you might watch Saturday Night Live and you start connecting some kind of lines, and you can adopt the illusion that Dave Chappelle truly believes that Jews run show business and are conspiring to decide who gets cancelled and only cancel people when they attack The Jews in any minor way.
Not a crazy thing to think. Not a crazy thing to say out loud.
Do I think Dave Chappelle lives with hate in his heart for Jews? Or for Trans people, for that matter? I do not. But that is what makes him somewhat more dangerous than people who do. Because he hides behind his intellect and his likability and the magic of being an incredibly skilled stand-up comic and in the name of what I think he truly thinks is self-defense, points an ugly, hateful finger at The Other. A Trojan Horse of hate. A hypocrisy that he would destroy in anyone else.
I guess it’s a little like having a friend you love who is abusive to women (short of violence) or who is a little bit racist. We all have them or have had them. And most of us know people of some small group that looks down on another small group without breaking the bar on what we believe makes them a racist. Once you become an adult, the world gets complicated.
Dave Chappelle is complicated.
I don’t like when people who disagree with me tell me to get educated. It’s a very passive aggressive posture and they really have no idea what I know or how I have processed it. They just know they disagree in some way and therefore, I must be ignorant. Chappelle is almost 50 years old and very wealthy and isolated by that wealth and power. He is not likely to change his mind on The Jews.
I am guessing that he thinks that not punching down would represent him not being his authentic self. I know a number of assholes who take that position. I have taken that position (which made me an asshole at the time).
I have no answer. I will keep listening to his insights and will laugh at his jokes. And mourn, deeply, what hatefulness he can’t rise above.
I believe in the third rail of comedy and of all intellectual discourse. Bring it on. Work through it. Don’t be a wimp.
And personally, I would prefer that you not stereotype me and I do not stereotype you. It’s not a productive form of discourse.
Nothing clever to say tonight… your subscription would be most welcome.