The following contains a few joke spoilers and, needless to say, foul language.
“It is laughter that demasks the nonsense of totalitarianism,” declared Czech novelist Milan Kundera in a 1981 interview in Paris. “It is laughter that shouts ‘the emperor has no clothes’ and enables people to resist the stupidity of the regime and keep their interior distance from it.” Proving his point, the unamused Czech government revoked Kundera’s citizenship when his novel The Book of Laughter and Forgetting was published in France in 1979.
Today’s Progressivism is a totalitarian ideology, and totalitarians cannot tolerate being the butt of jokes. The totalitarian state maintains control of the population through fear and division, and people who feel comfortable enough to ridicule the regime clearly are not sufficiently afraid or divided. The greatest enemy of authority, wrote the philosopher Hannah Arendt, is contempt, and the surest way to undermine it is laughter.
Though we don’t (yet) have a totalitarian regime in America, we have a cultural elite imposing a “soft” totalitarianism through an ideologically-aligned alliance of Big Tech, woke corporatism, the mainstream media, the entertainment industry, the indoctrination mills of education, and the ruling political class. The essential pillars of this neo-Marxist movement are Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and the Left does not tolerate even gentle mockery of these sacred cows. Comedians like Jerry Seinfeld and Chris Rock have been complaining for years that humor has dried up on college campuses thanks to politically correct sensitivity toward leftist-approved victim categories, particularly the LGBT community.
Comedian Dave Chappelle, who is no conservative, fell afoul of the humorless Left years ago, when he stated in his politically incorrect 2019 Netflix special Sticks & Stones that Hollywood’s one unspoken rule is “Never upset ‘the alphabet people,’” by whom he meant the bullying LGBT lobby. He went on to do just that in his 2021 Netflix special The Closer, when he cracked jokes that the unamused Left considered homophobic and transphobic. Outraged Netflix snowflakes even organized a walkout demonstrating their support for the transgender community and demanding that The Closer be taken off the network. Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos refused to accede to this demand, but later announced that he “screwed up” by not acknowledging “that a group of our employees were in pain, and they were really feeling hurt from a business decision that we made.”
At least one LGBT individual, self-identified bisexual Isaiah Lee, was in so much “pain” that, armed with a knife, he tackled Chappelle onstage during a packed Hollywood Bowl appearance a few months after The Closer aired. In a jailhouse interview, Lee admitted that Chappelle’s material about the LGBT community had “triggered” him to commit the violence: “I wanted him to know that, next time, he should consider first running his material by people it could affect.” Translation: make jokes at the expense of the leftist victimhood classes and we will come after you.
Isaiah Lee underestimated the unrepentant Chappelle’s defiant spirit. The comedian has a new Netflix special now called The Dreamer, a standup show filmed recently at the Lincoln Theater in Washington, D.C., and Chappelle’s critics were watching to see if he had learned his lesson.
Right out of the gate in that performance, Chappelle tells a long story about the opportunity he once got to meet a comedian he revered: a young Jim Carrey, who happened to be in the process of filming the 1999 flick Man on the Moon, in which Carrey played the late performance artist Andy Kaufman. Carrey was so deep into the role that he never broke character, even off-camera, which frustrated Chappelle: “I wanted to meet Jim Carrey, but I had to pretend this nigga was Andy Kaufman. All afternoon. And he was clearly Jim Carrey. I could look at him and I could see that he was Jim Carrey.”
The audience was already laughing, but then Chappelle hit them with the punch line: “Anyway, I say all that to say: That’s how trans people make me feel.” Not expecting that twist, the crowd exploded with laughter. Chappelle flashed a mischievous grin and declared,
Here we go! Now, if you guys came here to this show tonight thinking that I’m gonna make fun of those people again, you’ve come to the wrong show. I’m not fuckin’ with those people anymore. It wasn’t worth the trouble. I ain’t sayin’ shit about trans people. Maybe three or four times tonight, but that is it. I’m tired of talkin’ about them… I ain’t doin’ trans jokes no more. You know what I’m gonna do tonight? Tonight, I’m doing all handicapped jokes. Well, they’re not as organized as the gays, and I love punching down.
Chappelle went on to say he has tried to “repair his relationship with the transgender community” by writing “a very sad play” about “a black, transgender woman whose pronoun is, sadly, ‘nigga.’ It’s a tearjerker. At the end of the day, she dies of loneliness because white liberals don’t know how to speak to her.” Brutal. This sequence of jokes was also a hit with the audience.
Chappelle wasn’t done. He added later that if he were convicted of a crime, he would claim to identify as a woman so he could be sent to a women’s prison where he could demand that the inmates “suck my girl dick” and “Don’t make me explain myself!” There was more; contrary to his promise, Chappelle directed more jokes at trans people than at the handicapped, and the audience response seemed overwhelmingly positive.
But the critical reaction to The Dreamer in the left-wing media was predictably stuffy and disapproving. The headlines were so uniform in their emphasis on “Dave Chappelle takes aim at the transgender community once more” as to suggest there was a coordinated campaign to mark his Netflix special as transphobically toxic.
In “Dave Chappelle’s ‘The Dreamer’ Proves He’s Obsessed With Trans People,” for example, Rolling Stone complained that Chappelle’s shots at the trans community were “uninspired.” (There’s nothing so uninspired in comedy as the relentless anti-Trump jokes that dominated late-night talk shows and the propagandistic Saturday Night Live throughout the Trump years, but did Rolling Stone ever complain about those?)
Variety too took umbrage at what it called Chappelle’s “obsession” with trans people. The Daily Beast also huffed that “Dave Chappelle’s New Netflix Special Proves He’s Learned Nothing,” and whined that Chappelle is “bullying the LGBTQ+ community” and “tell[ing] already marginalized people that their existence is a joke,” when “there’s so much in the world to talk about right now.”
Already marginalized people? Trans activists aren’t marginalized; they’re lionized. They are the most protected class in the Left’s entire victimhood rainbow. Our culture now requires the mandatory celebration of trans activists. Chappelle’s joke that he enjoys punching down is funny but ironic, because he is actually punching up at the sacred cows of our Left-dominated culture. Taking shots at the trans community’s expense would be a career-ender for a performer of less stature and independence than Chappelle.
“The more you say I can’t say something, the more urgent it is for me to say it,” he said last year in a speech at his high school alma mater in D.C. You don’t have to be a fan of Dave Chappelle or his comedy to appreciate that when he refuses to kowtow to his ideologically driven critics, he is striking back at the cultural hegemony of the Left and skewering their inane worldview – a destructive worldview to which the Left demands we all subscribe or be personally and professionally cancelled. And it’s paying off – he may be rubbing leftwing critics the wrong way, but not his audience; Chappelle raked in more money in ticket sales than any comedy act in 2023, grossing $62 million for just 31 ticketed shows.
“Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon,” reads Rule #5 in the infamous Rules for Radicals written by community organizer and Machiavellian strategist Saul Alinsky. “There is no defense. It’s irrational. It’s infuriating.” The Left has wielded this weapon successfully against its political enemies for decades, but nothing frustrates and infuriates Progressives quite so much as when the tables are turned.
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