Series review

Dave Chappelle's return reminds us why he's 'one of the true originals'

The most biting satirist of a generation has re-entered a world which has changed drastically since he fell from view 12 years ago, writes Tymon Smith

14 January 2018 - 00:00

It's the sort-of-but-not-quite JD Salinger story of the comedy world - a lanky, buck-toothed, slightly vampire-eared goofy young man from a middle-class black American family who started doing standup at the age of 14 rises to become within a decade the most biting satirist in a generation.
Lauded by fellow comedians, beloved by audiences and given the opportunity by Comedy Central to produce a skit show that dissects the racial politics of America so raucously and irreverently that it makes even the most liberal of the African-American cultural establishment uncomfortable and becomes a touchstone of television in the early days of the millennium, going on to become the biggest-selling TV series on DVD for years.
But that success scares off the lanky young comedian who, to the amazement of fans and colleagues, walks away from a $50-million dollar offer to produce a fourth season of his show and disappears, resurfacing for a few weeks in Durban, holing up on his farm in Ohio, refusing interviews and doing his best not to have to answer the increasing swirl of rumours surrounding him which include murmurs of crack addiction, mental breakdown and general lack of confidence.

For 12 years while the world rapidly changed around him and a "woker" generation arose with its trigger warnings and hashtags and outrage against the racism of the police and the rising fanaticism of Middle America - the public heard little or nothing from Dave Chappelle.
Over the past few years Chappelle has returned to the stage, clawing back his audience, his reputation and reminding Americans of his status as one of the true originals who claims his place in a line of uncomfortable truth tellers that stretches from Lenny Bruce to Dick Gregory, Richard Pryor and George Carlin. It's a status that Netflix has been only too keen to help the comedian cement thanks to a recent $60-million deal that has seen the release of four specials on the streaming service since March last year.
While the older Chappelle is a little heavier in the face, more inclined to buy into his own mythology than he was back in 2004 and more prone to indulge in philosophical tangents, he's still the chain-smoking, risk-tasking unapologetic keen observer of the uncomfortable contradictions that remain at the heart of the country he loves.
WATCH | DaveĀ Chappelle official trailer Netflix..

This article is reserved for Sunday Times subscribers.

A subscription gives you full digital access to all Sunday Times content.

Already subscribed? Simply sign in below.

Registered on the BusinessLIVE, Business Day, Financial Mail or Rand Daily Mail websites? Sign in with the same details.

Questions or problems? Email or call 0860 52 52 00.