2017 is the year of the Netflix comedy. For the rest of the year, Netflix has committed to releasing one comedy special per week. Netflix is scheduled to stream specials from some the biggest names in comedy, exemplified by its most recent collection, “Dave Chappelle.” The collection includes two standup specials: “The Age of Spin,” Chappelle’s first performance in Los Angeles in the past decade, and “Deep in the Heart of Texas,” a special that was recorded at Austin City Limits in 2015.
“The Age of Spin,” the first installment in Chappelle’s collection, is punctuated with stories of his four encounters with O.J. Simpson, focuses on his absence from Hollywood and addresses Bill Cosby. Chappelle addresses his infamous performance in Detroit, and what it’s like to have to return to the same stage the next night. He also talks about the complicated emotions that come with the overwhelming number of rape and sexual assault charges against Bill Cosby, a former hero of his.
The second half of his collection, “Deep in the Heart of Texas,” is slightly dated from its 2015 date of recording, and noticeably more casual than “Age of Spin,” which has a much more elaborate set and style.
In “Deep in the Heart of Texas,” Chappelle goes into challenging topics like race, domestic abuse and exploitation. He also introduces a new era of Chappelle-brand dad humor, where he talks about family matters such as his son’s school, the family dog and getting so high he accidentally eats his kids’ school lunches.
The theme of oppression is prevalent in both specials, specifically surrounding groups such as women, blacks, and the LGBTQ community. Netflix’s “Dave Chappelle” collection has already received criticism for Chappelle’s jokes about the gay and trans communities and for perpetuating rape culture. Some examples of these jokes are Chappelle suggesting that trans women like to seduce men and trick them into believing they are women, or that gay couples should determine which one of them is “gayer” and label that person as the wife. Although the comedy legend appears that he’s attempting to be open-minded, some of the ideas and labels he gives in his special are offensive and feel a little like a step in the wrong direction for social progress.
Chappelle has proven time and time again he is not one of them. Anyone who has seen his cult-favorite sketch comedy series “The Chappelle Show,” knows that his comedy doesn’t limit itself to the politically correct. This may cause some cognitive dissonance for viewers who think parts of Chappelle’s specials are funny, but also see parts as offensive and closed-minded. Although, in both of his specials, Chappelle isn’t desperate to please his viewers, he’s confident and consistent in his delivery whether his viewers like it or not. He’s not trying to rebrand himself, or trying to convince viewers that his time away from the spotlight has turned him into a good boy. Dave Chappelle has returned, and he’s telling his audiences that he’s not ready to retire his career to “Dancing with the Stars” quite yet.
Chappelle’s collection for Netflix proves that his retreat from the spotlight hasn’t affected his abilities as a comedy savant. “Deep in the Heart of Texas,” and “The Age of Spin” are promising signs of more great Chappelle specials to come, including a third special in the works scheduled for release later this year.