Monday, February 13, 2006

"America Needs to Have an Honest Discourse with Itself"

No, the lede is not from some Broderesque "all are punish-ed editorial", it's Dave Chappelle on Inside the Actors Studio. If you missed it yesterday, I suggest you check it out. A phenomenal two hours of television. Usually when they have comedians on the stage, Lipton plays straight man for the subject to work on his new set or his improv (or, he's Robin Williams and needs no prompting).

That didn't so much happen with Chappelle. He was still funny, because he's Dave Chappelle (bitch), but in a conversational way rather than by 'performance'. I've long suspected that stand-up comics are among the most intelligent performers out there, and Dave only reinforced this theory: his mother founded the first "Black Studies" program at a U.S. college our university, his father is also a professor. His intellect came through, and it is formidable.

The discussion ranged from the surreal - with Lipton demanding royalties for the Chappelle's Show "Actor's Studio" parody, to the sublime - Chappelle and Lipton engaging in an impromptu dance battle.

Along the way, they explored 'fame' and its trappings, they deconstructed a few of Chapelle's routines (there is a lot of subtext to some of his material that you don't neccesarily consciously get ), and he was surprisingly candid about his 'vacation' in Africa: "The worst thing you can call someone is 'crazy'. It's dismissive. . . [speaking of Mariah Carey and Martin Lawrence] these are not weak people, you can't be weak to make it in this business, so maybe there's something toxic in the environment?"

But the headline came from the 'classroom' which ends the show. He was, naturally, talking about race as the 'elephant in the room'. He talked about how certain parts of his success unnerved him. He perceived that the laughs some of his more racially charged material was getting were for the wrong reasons. (It wasn't in this interview, but I remember reading a profile in which he said he first became wary when one of the audience members, a white male, was laughing, but too hard, and at the wrong moments of the sketch.)

Watch the whole thing, it's worth the time.

1 comment:

Kaiser said...

I've seen some clips from that and it does look excellent. I just watched Chapelle on Oprah video also, which was similarly good. Check it out...