Chappelle’s take on George Floyd is a stunner. What would a comedian say? What of tragedy plus time? Has enough time passed? Is this the time for humor?
But it is the time to hear from our favorite comedian on the topic. There are laughs, mostly in his use of some choice words for some of his news commentator detractors.
There is also deep insight. Chappelle raises the issue of Chris Dorner, a former black cop who lost his job when he outed police brutality, then found himself left to express his rage in the only way he could. After a violent rampage, Dorner hid in a mountain cabin, but then when found, drew 400 police officers who proceeded to extract their revenge.
It’s the reason why the cops should understand the reaction to Floyd’s death. People on the streets are expressing their rage and it’s a diverse crowd of people who should have their say. The streets should be allowed to speak, Chappelle said.
People turn to their favorite comedian because comedians don’t lie to them, he added. Not like every other institution in America. When they’re good, comedians tell the truth. When they’re great, like Chappelle, they are moral leaders and comforters. We turn to him to hear him make sense of our feelings about Floyd, and the police, and America. This is what happens when the natural leaders fail us. We turn to our favorite comedian who knows how to fill our void. Surprisingly, it’s not with laughs. Just with a deep and pained silence that makes sense out of it all.
It’s the power of the best comedy. As Chappelle said, it’s called trust. In his little outdoor, socially distanced space in Ohio, it was an example of the public square, commanded by the leading comedian–not politician, not media person, but comedian–of our time.
Chappelle’s take is below. See my columns at the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund.