August 15, 2011

Chappelle explains silent routine

Comedian Dave Chapelle recently "performed" at a Native venue by standing silently on stage and texting on his cellphone. He apologized for this behavior in the following days. I didn't think the incident had a racial angle, but it turns out it did.

Dave Chappelle Tanked Florida Concert Because He Didn't Want a 'Reverse Kramer' Situation

By John SellersDave Chappelle appeared on a San Francisco area radio program Friday morning to promote a weekend concert but spent much of the interview explaining his sometimes contentious stage presence, especially his demeanor during a July 22 charity performance at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Florida.

The reclusive "Chappelle's Show" star said that he didn't even get a chance to begin his routine that night because attendees in the front row began heckling immediately and that he was worried that it would become a "reverse Kramer" situation--a reference to the bigoted tirade "Seinfeld" alum Michael Richards launched into at a comedy club in 2006. Instead, he stayed on stage for 46 mostly silent moments.
Comment:  We still don't know exactly what happened. If the audience was reacting to Chappelle's race, that's bad. If Chappelle was reacting to perceived "savagery" from the Indians, that's also bad.

Let's note that Chappelle often does racial bits, including this bit about Indians:



I'd say some of these comments are in questionable taste. Indeed, like many other comedians, Chappelle has employed hipster racism. "It's okay if I make fun of ethnic groups," he might say, "because I'm doing it satirically or ironically."

In general, audiences shouldn't interrupt or intimidate invited guests. Or disrupt the experience of other paying customers. But if people thought Chappelle was launching a semi-racist tirade, I could understand their reaction. When comedians harangue an audience, as Michael Kramer did, they have a right to respond.

For more on the subject, see Kathy Griffin in a Headdress and The Magical Power of Intent.

3 comments:

dmarks said...

I'd tend to put the blame on Chapelle. He's made a career out of racist humor. He's a successful professional racist.

L.E. Falcone said...

I don't know much about Chapelle but that video clip was pretty distasteful.

Anonymous said...

I don't know about racist humor:

Pointing out that the ambulance takes forever to get to Compton: Lampshade hanging.

Jokes about people being a certain way because of their ethnic background: Racist.

Somewhere in between is making fun of the fact that most white people think we can transform into animals.