I know: just a week ago, I began the last section of the day’s warm-up with “He’s not exactly an Ethics Hero, but…Dave Chappelle’s new concert video, now streaming on Netflix, is thought-provoking, brave, and full of ethical insights and analysis. I could do a two hour ethics seminar using just his material.” Several things have changed since then, however…
- I am desperate for ethics heroes. We all are. If the Democrat candidates debate proved anything, it was that.
- Chappelle is being attacked, hard, by the very same cancellation culture and political correctness dictators he has been willing to challenge.
- There is an organized effort to try to discourage the public from watching his Netflix special “Sticks and Stones,” not because it won’t be funny to anyone still capable of finding things funny, but because it will inspire people to think. Can’t have that…
- Only one reader, the usually intrepid and culturally aware Humble Talent, commented on the issue last week. Sometimes I think that including a topic in the warm-up rather than devoting a whole post to it causes some Ethics Alarms readers to gloss over the issues involved, or maybe miss the item itself, as if each warm-up topic is only 20% of a serious ethics topic because there are typically five in a post. The benefit to me of this format is that it saves time (you would not believe how long it takes to set up an individual post after the text is written) and helps me avoid an ethics backlog, but sometimes whether a particular issue is covered in a warm-up item or in a full post is arbitrary, a matter of timing, what else has occurred and my mood at the time.
- Upon further reflection, I have concluded that Chappelle is an Ethics Hero.
One of Humble Talent’s perceptive comments on that post on September 8th was that the so-called Streisand Effect was defeating Chappelle’s critics: he had decided to watch “Sticks and Stones” because of the publicity sparked by the furious attacks on the comedian. So had I. Yet I have asked many colleagues and friends if they had seen the concert video, and virtually no one has. I said that I could do a two hour ethics seminar using just his material, and I am serious about that. But I can’t talk about it if nobody has seen the comic’s material. I don’t want to paraphrase his lines, reducing skillful satire and humorous commentary to spoilers.
Think about this amazing fact: there are no gratuitous Trump-bashing jokes in the whole concert. Indeed no politician is directly mocked at all, though most of Chappelle’s social commentary has deep political relevance. This itself is ethics hero territory for a comedian.
As I was watching, I realized how much I missed stand-up comedy, which the recent phenomenon of our most high-profile practitioners pandering to Trump Derangement while declaring other spectacularly mockable individuals–blacks, women, gays, and Democrats—off limits has rendered repetitious and nasty. In the past, I have enjoyed a wide range of stand-up masters who frequently had as much wisdom to offer as laughs: Godfrey Cambridge, Bob Newhart, Bill Cosby, Phyllis Diller, Richard Pryor, Lewis Black, Robin Williams, Jerry Seinfeld, Ray Romano, and many others. Good stand-up comedy can open minds, challenge conventional wisdom, make the listener feel uncomfortable while simultaneously provoking laughter. Great stand-up comedy requires more than just performing skill, but intelligence, perspective and courage.
One of the reasons I detest Stephen Colbert is that he possesses the intelligence, wit and perspective to challenge the mob, and instead panders to it—for money, for popularity, for safety, I don’t know. I don’t care. He’s a comedy whore, and a partisan political operative, seeking to nail shut already closed minds. Despicable,
In his comment last week, Humble Talent noted that the movie review site Rotten Tomatoes had rigged its system to give the Chappelle concert a rating of zero. I was late in investigating this, but he was correct, and it was an unethical effort to censor a politically incorrect voice. Can you trust a review site that intentionally manipulates its ratings according to a political agenda? Should you? Should anyone? No, no, and no.
Nor can you trust the critics whose biases caused them to misrepresent Chappelle’s work. Here’s a typical hit job that materially misrepresents what Chappelle says, either because the writer has an agenda, or because the whole thing went over his head. I suspect both.
“South Park” co-creator Matt Stone,told the Hollywood Reporter this week that he believed critics were under pressure from the “woke” entertainment industry and social media to condemn Chappelle. “They may have laughed like hell …and then they went home and they know what they have to write to keep their job,” Stone said. “So when I read TV reviews or cultural reviews, I think of someone in prison, writing. I think about somebody writing a hostage note. This is not what they think. This is what they have to do to keep their job in a social media world,” he explained. “So I don’t hold it against them.”