By: Alex MacDougall
Dave Chapelle is one of the biggest and most famous performers in standup comedy — or at least he was, before his sudden disappearance from the spotlight almost ten years ago. Now he’s back on tour, and he proved he hasn’t lost a step in his latest standup comedy stop, where he performed at Worcester’s Hanover Theatre last Friday.
Entering the stage casually smoking a cigarette, Dave Chapelle immediately made the New England audience burst into laughter by, talking about his love for Clam Chowder, and he had just come from Portland, Maine, where “The men dress just like the lesbians in Seattle.”
Chapelle is most known for his hit sketch comedy series Chapelle’s Show which aired on Comedy Central from 2003 to 2006, until Chapelle’s sudden and unexpected departure. It contained a slew of memorable and controversial sketches, among which Chapelle played a black white supremacist, a crack addict named Tyrone Biggums, and perhaps most famously Rick James, a sketch which became so popular it began to eclipse much of Chapelle’s other work, which is rumored to be the reason why he left the show.
Since then, American society has undergone some profound social changes, such as the rise the smartphone, the legalization of gay marriage, and the Bill Cosby scandal. For Chapelle, all of these topics were subjected to his brand of risque, no-holds-barred style of humor. In an era that has given rise to to what has been referred to as “outrage culture” in which even the mildest of politically incorrect statements can lead to wave of internet fury, Chapelle’s outrageous style is maybe more important than ever. Chapelle himself brought up the topic of outrage during his performance, in which he recounted a time an Asian woman in the front row of a performance called him a racist for his “insensitivity” towards her interracial marriage.
“The thing is, I’m in an interracial marriage too, and my wife is Asian,.” Joked Chapelle. “So I’ll see you at Thanksgiving!”
Chapelle also commented on the rise of transgender rights in America, talking about a time he tried to help a transgender woman about to overdose on drugs (whose friends were more concerned about Chapelle using the right pronouns), Caitlyn Jenner, and a time he watched a story about a transgender man interviewed by Diane Sawyer who had received hateful messages on his answering machine.
“That’s when I began to feel really bad about the guy,.” Chapelle said. “Mainly by the fact he still had an answering machine.”
Chapelle took aim at the Republican candidates Donald Trump and Ben Carson as well. He doubted Donald Trump’s ability to get elected, despite his popularity, because he would be “The first president ever to have herpes.” On Carson, he said that he liked him but “No way will America elect two black presidents in a row.”
But perhaps the biggest applause of the night came during the middle of the performance. Joking about Pope Benedict XVI’s retirement, he remarked “And I thought I was crazy for leaving Chapelle’s show!”, which led to a thunderous applause. It was a sign that, ten years later, Chapelle and his show are still adored by America.