Damon Young Thinks There Should Be Rules for Dave Chappelle--and That's the Problem.
...writes self-proclaimed professional black person, Damon Young, in a recent article for GQ, admonishing Dave Chappelle's recent Netflix specials.
And this is the society we live in. One where an internet columnist has the luxury of criticizing expression from behind his keyboard and "Decide" what the "Problem" with Dave Chappelle is. A society where self-anoited moral arbiters like Damon Young try to make cultural legislation while never having had the stones to bare their souls in front of a live audience of apathetic strangers at a sparsely attended dive bar open mic in Van Nuys that--for some reason--has the dude the movie Bloodsport was based on lingering in the back near the pool table, glaring at you. Comedians do the heavy lifting and then the chronically offended begin their busy work.
Damon Young's indictment of Chappelle reflects the endemic problem with these supposed Social Justice Warriors: The idea that cultural progress can only look and sound like what they believe and if it doesn't--it's Hate Speech. For example, Young erroneously asserts, "the best comedians, at least the truly transcendent male icons like Louis C.K. and even Rock (whose recent interviews and work suggest that his sensibilities have shifted to reflect our times and his circumstances), don’t just evolve with us. Like the best artists, they help to spearhead the evolution."
Wrong, Damon. Comedians are not your own personal Sean Spicer, validating your corrupt behavior no matter how wrong it is. We're not cheerleaders. We're the kids under the bleachers smoking spliffs, drinking Thunderbird and making fun of you. All of you.
Young talks about "spearheading the evolution" but ignores the single most important aspect of an evolution: The part where you get uncomfortable. This is what comedy, in its best form, does. It exposes ugly human nature and puts it front and center on a stage with a spotlight and forces us to look at our beautiful wretchedness--and laugh. But Damon Young and many others in the world of supposed egalitarian progressive liberalism believe "old-fashioned" thinking should be sequestered and taught how to "properly" think. Ideologies like that belong in the year 1984.
Thinking like this is going to give Donald Trump a second term. People, that is to say those whose minds you want to change, are tired of the Lecturing Liberal riding in on their Indignation Unicorn waving their Behavior Wand whilst making sweeping proclamations about what we're allowed to think, feel and say.
"The rules of comedy."
If I was at a show and listened to a comic preface his set with any of the aforementioned phrases I'd politely ask for my ticket to be exchanged for an Alduous Huxley novel and a rusty spoon to lobotomize myself with. Rules, respectability, acceptable: The ingredients for levity, laughs and libations! My God, what FUN you must be, Damon Young! Were you truly so appalled? A brother walking around the hood in high heels to avoid getting murdered by the cops? Come on, Damon. Don't tell me you didn't smirk.
But I get it. This is a concept that has been explored and probed for as long as comedy and challenging the status quo has existed. The question of, "What are comedians allowed to say?" and the invariable resounding answer: WHATEVER THE FUCK THEY WANT.
Now, that's not to say there shouldn't be consequences for what a comic says, but let that reflect in the form of a thinning wallet from lack of bookings or the thing a comic dreads more than anything--a silent room. When we try to impose these external restrictions on people whose literal job it is to say things that are not meant to be taken seriously we cause a greater problem: Justifying the ignorance and hatred of those who do seriously think marginalized people don't deserve respect and justice. When we silence the bigot we only make him stronger.
Damon Young has right to be aghast at Dave Chappelle's sly whimsies about things that are supposedly verboten to make light of, but the campaign to silence and eradicate Unapproved Thought is a far more frightening Dystopian Nightmare than Chappelle joking about dudes who do the most gangster shit in the world: Fuck another dude in the ass. So Damon, to quote Mr. Chappelle, "Man the fuck up or you're not going to make it through this show."
Duval Culpepper is a standup comic and Boss Nigger at Ever the Outsider. He can be reached at @evertheoutsider or firstname.lastname@example.org.