Dave Chappelle: Equanimity & The Bird Revelation



This makes me sad. I’m not done watching it yet but I’m like 27 minutes into the first one and I had to pause and write some things down before moving on, I couldn’t really watch more without doing that.

So———the first like 10 minutes of the special, I’m rolling. Laughing out loud to myself in my room. Stupid laughter, these big unwieldy surprise laughs that almost only Dave Chappelle can get from me at this point. I watch so much stand up, I usually just smile or think, “that was a good joke.” But I’m LAUGHING. Then, Dave starts talking about the trans community.

Which, number one, why?? Dave! I’m getting to a point where I’m really annoyed to hear men complain about how people get offended “these days.” Every time you turn around some dude is only too willing to explain to anyone who’ll listen how people are too sensitive now, too PC, blah blah blah. Yes, the world’s changing! You have good medicine and computers now! First of all if you can accept progress in medical & scientific fields, accept it in social and cultural fields. Second, people aren’t “just now” getting offended, they were fucking offended before, you just didn’t know about it because they didn’t have a platform. But now, marginalized communities have access to global platforms, which is a fucking gift, so we have access to those perspectives. Also YES things are changing- buckle up! It’s only going in one direction (hopefully!!!). There’s trans people. People are non-binary. Also none of these concepts is unique to America or recent at all, but ok you’re just now hearing about them, fine.

I DO NOT understand the reaction/impulse to DIG IN your fucking heels and WHINE. People don’t like your shitty jokes where you call women cunts? Boo hoo! Write a better fucking joke. With Dave’s last special I had much more empathy because I was like, “He’s figuring it out, he’s not just gonna arrive somewhere all of a sudden, he’s a comic he needs to talk it out to get there and process.” And that last special was amazing. I’m sure this one will be amazing too, and the one after it. But why the fuck does he feel the need to stubbornly live in his willful ignorance out loud? And I say willful because oh boy does he claim innocence so many times. He describes a letter he got from a trans fan who was ‘devastated’ and hurt by his jokes and he says he has no idea what joke upset them (“I have so many transgender jokes” he reminds us proudly). He goes on to say he really likes the transgender community and doesn’t know WHY he keeps upsetting them.

All ya have to do is ask Dave! Talk to one trans person! Read some stuff! It’s all there. It’s not very difficult. But he continues to act as if trans people are kept behind some glass that no one gave him the combination to, and he just has to endure not knowing.

He then goes on to tell a joke about a trans person that he speculates is the one that was so upsetting, while shrugging like a child who ate a cookie before dinner. It’s about dancing with a trans person and having sex with them (“only titty-fucking!”) and it really felt like that was to shore up this idea that he might not say the right thing but he does the right thing/his actions are unprejudiced. But the whole way he tells the story contradicts that very notion! He puts the burden of his reaction to that person’s identity on them, blaming them for not telling him they were trans. He also told this story after describing the idea of Caitlin Jenner’s naked body, specifically the idea of her genitals, as, “Yuck.” Dave, you can’t in one breath treat someone’s sexuality as disgusting then ask for a medal for dancing with them!

ALSO sidenote: So many men seem to think them deigning to say they’d fuck a trans person is the ultimate validation. That that’s the ultimate extension of humanity, if they’d stick their dick into something, or that it’s a compliment. It’s not! Plenty of trans people wouldn’t fuck you!

Someone’s identity isn’t validated by whether or not you want to fuck them, also you don’t have to personally come to terms with the genitals of trans people (get out of there!!!) to recognize their humanity. Ugh, the whole thing made me really sad because this impulse to fucking double down on your own ignorance makes you at best come off as old and out of touch, but at worst, willfully hateful.

Another incredibly confusing part to me is his insistence to treat being trans and being black as if they’re mutually exclusive. Like there aren’t black trans people. It’s so strange. He outlines “If I’m being brutally honest” the only reason he feels the trans community is gaining acceptance is because white men ‘want to do it’ and it stems from white privilege. Which I’m sure is a comfort to all the trans women of color murdered every year, we’ll tell them.

It seems like he set these two identity markers (being black & being trans) which are not mutually exclusive, in opposition in his own mind then constructed a lil oppression Olympics for them. The general vibe very much seems to be, “I was oppressed without humanity/recognition so now you have to be too.” At one point he asks the audience, “Since when does America care how people feel?” In reference to trans people being vocal about their identities, and the room erupts in applause. Are we all clapping that in the past culture has been exclusionary and harmful? Why wouldn’t you want to change that?

Also, if you truly don’t understand…………shut the fuck up! It feels like for a lot of these older (I know he’s 44 but he’s been around for 25 years) comics they think they have to talk about what everyone’s talking about to seem relevant & have a take. There is like TWELVE fucking minutes dedicated to this. Dave! You’re 44. Call Janet Mock, call Laverne Cox, fuck call Chaz Bono, just don’t keep writing jokes in an empty room about something you know nothing about. It’s hurting people. And he has no excuse now, because people TOLD him. And he just keeps doing it. That’s what makes me so sad, because he’s so funny and amazing. He’s probably the funniest person I think, to me. He’s the one. So to see someone you idolize and respect just digging this hole of their own words and stubbornness to be right over everything else? It’s the fucking worst. I’m gonna leave this now and continue watching. I’m sure everything else will be fantastic and great. Just this. This is the hill he has publicly chosen to die on.

Yeah, now he’s talking about his dick being Morgan Freeman (“without the dots”) and it’s hilarious. Goddamnit. Cause also wtf he had this line in the trans thing, after he read the letter and he said, “Then I did something that many black men in America don’t have the time or money to do. I thought about how I felt.” And that’s so important to remember how we as a culture don’t prioritize or encourage the emotions of black men—ugh it’s heartbreaking to me how one person can be so insightful about one issue and so obtuse about another. It’s funny because later he uses this example of why Amish people’s God is wrong (lol) where he’s on the highway and the speed limit is 75 mph but one lane is blocked by a horse and buggy. YAH EXACTLY DAVE. THE HIGHWAY IS GENDER FLUIDITY AND UR THE HORSE!!! CLOGGING IT UP FOR THE REST OF US.


“Initial reactions are often wrong, or more often incomplete” and the whole standing too close to the elephant thing- every part of his special could be mirrored back to him to prove why he’s wrong about his own point. Everything else is good! The kick her in the pussy thing worked for me, everything else pretty much. Ok I’m gonna watch the second episode and hopefully he doesn’t mention anything about trans people and it will all be good. Although something that’s striking me about this one and the last two he did before- these jokes aren’t classic/timeless jokes like his old specials, these all seem to be topical political reactions. No one’s gonna be repeating lines from this in 10 years (like they do with the others), because these things (hopefully) won’t matter anymore and the jokes aren’t written to be repeated anyway they’re more anecdotal aside from a few punchline/callbacks. I wonder if the second one will follow that construction or vary.

The Bird Revelation

Oh fun!!! In this special he’s talking about rape!!! Oh lord he’s talking about the Kevin Spacey thing and is choosing to focus on how mature gay young boys are? Daveeeeeee. Dave!!!! First of all, lol to talking about this while your sweatshirt is so tight I can see your necklace through it, second, DAVE. Also you think the biggest problem with him molesting that boy is making the child keep an adult’s secret for 30 years? Not the sexual assault? Ugh. now he’s talking about Louis. This is bad, this is really bad. It’s as if he thinks that if says, “But ladies, you’re right” after everything he says it’s ok? It ameliorates that he said he thinks the harassment was funny when he heard about it? Ok, so after saying he thinks the women Louis CK sexually harassed were weak, he’s comparing those instances to middle passage.


This is interesting because it’s the exact same tactic he took with the previous special: Take an issue you have no personal experience/point of emotional reference to, compare it to racism, find it lacking, dismiss it. It’s like he doesn’t know what relativism is. Two things are allowed to be bad at once. (There’s also black women who are sexually assaulted!!!) But ok. He also does this tonal shift to do an amazing searing black history refresher-in this one the legacy of black injustice & forced labor starting with middle passage all the way through reconstruction, Jim Crow, (“They made us do their work, then the irony is hundreds of years later they called us lazy”), and the one prior he did the entire story of Emmett Till, but then shifts back in the joke, and brings the point parallel to something else he’s been talking about, almost as if to demonstrate it isn’t as bad.

At one point after saying one of the many things where you can feel the air leave the room a little bit he says to the audience while inhaling his cigarette, “C’mon baby it’s me. I was right once? Remember that?” To me this is the essence of both these specials. He remembers being revered & on the forefront and can’t step down from that role/doesn’t understand why he isn’t now. “I walked away from 50 million dollars. A lot harder to walk away from than Louis’ freckled dick” they’re not the same! You as an established comic with your own show on Comedy Central choosing not to renew a contract isn’t the same as two women in a hotel room at a comedy festival being sexually harassed. Nor is anyone saying they need to be!

“The most uncomfortable person in the room is the person that’s right” -that’s why trans ppl are uncomfortable at your shows Dave! It’s honestly incredible how much what he’s saying can be inverted to prove a point about himself he refuses to see.

He talks for a while about how men want to help, “I want to help,” like it’s our problem to solve, and men can choose to be a part of it or not. Not like it’s their problem too, or that they’re part of both the problem and the solution and inextricably linked to both. Like women are the gatekeepers of their own harassment and men are standing on the sidelines with Capri-Suns and women with short haircuts won’t let them pass them out.

I really thought this special would be ok. Dear God in Heaven, please let Dave Chappelle be trapped in an elevator with Frank Ocean and Alok Vaid-Menon and Jessamyn Stanley and Didi Delgado and let them bring him into this new year with us because I need him here. I need him to acknowledge that women who are affected by sexual harassment EVEN OVER THE PHONE YES are not weak, and that the joys of being wrong, and speaking recklessly, certainly have value and are worth considering but not without any context or regard for whose truth you’re being reckless with. I have already seen comics quoting those lines on Facebook and yeah it’s cool to think of ourselves as these truth crusaders but what he left out is it has to be your own truth, otherwise you’re just a wrong asshole. And so far it hasn’t been his own. It’s been trans folks and survivors of sexual assault and he’s been depressingly didactic about how they should both handle those things.

I’m just. Almost at a loss for words. This second one was a lot harder for me and sad. Because all the things he says about women made me sad. And I think he’s a genius. But just like Kanye, his only flaw is he doesn’t respect women at all! (That is a joke, I’m joking). Dave respects women in some capacity but he doesn’t understand gender and you can’t respect something you don’t understand and it was really difficult to hear him call women who came forward about their sexual harassment weak, and hear a tale about a pimp where the twist is that he tricked a woman into selling her body for him 6 months longer, and I know it was an allegory about himself and maybe I just didn’t understand, but you know.

There were also a lot of abstract platitudes. Like, “Hollywood is no place for moral absolutism.” Why not? Is the world? Is anywhere? What’s the standard then? What’s our goal? A lot of times he ends these big speeches with something equivocal that doesn’t feel all the way right to me, “We all need to come together,” “We all worked hard and are where we are now.” Calls for unity, and that most of America has differences but respects each other. Truthfully, I don’t know if the world feels like that right now to me. And I don’t think there can be true equality unless there is a breaking down of almost all the systems, social and otherwise, that are currently in place. I don’t think black people will have true freedom until white people understand systemic oppression and privilege and history. And I don’t think most white people do understand those things. And I don’t think women can be equal until men understand sexism and misogyny, and I truly don’t think most of them do. If they did we wouldn’t have men saying “Why didn’t she just hang up the phone?”

I love Dave Chappelle but I’m happy this is his last special for a bit because I think he needs to listen for a while.

4/10 Pimp manifestos, will masturbate again whenever Trump is out of the White House

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1 Response to Dave Chappelle: Equanimity & The Bird Revelation

  1. JamSham says:

    I think he did so people like me could read reviews like this and have a laugh about it all over again. Funny shit

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