Right When We Need Him the Most, Dave Chappelle is Here to Help Us Laugh

I know this phrase has been overused.  I understand that the statement I’m about to type is as close to flogging the decaying carcass of horse-carrion as I ever like to get, but. . .

Dave Chappelle is exactly what we need right now.

Tuesday night, the election for the presidency of the United State mercifully came to a close.  That this heaving, unwieldy, Frankenstein of our own creation needed to be euthanized  is clear to me now.  It was a mercy killing.  Mirthless as it was stunning.  As difficult for half the nation to process, as it was a chance for the other half to raise their arms into the November air and declare victory.

As I’m sure you can guess by now, I did not vote for Donald Trump to be the leader of our country.  I voted for Hillary Clinton in spite of, not because of, her issues and I was saddened by the end result of the process.  But I went to bed last night deeply in love with our country.  I woke up, deeply in love with our country.  And I will continue to believe in America even if that makes me a sappy, naive bumpkin and I will believe in America, in spite of, not because of, our issues.  And make no mistake: they are “our” issues.  I believe that there is still an “us” and a “we” in our nation that will prevail and not a “them” or a “they”.

We can’t heal unless we want to.  And, I desperately want to.  I also fully recognize that all of these statements are made from within the framework of my own many, abundant, privileges and that others who lack the staggered-starting-line lead that I inherently possess are probably scared, and are likely scrambling to stay afloat amidst an uncertain rip tide.  If that’s you, it may be very difficult to share my unfailing optimism.

I am hoping that the healing process will begin a little, tiny, marginal, fractional bit on Saturday at about 10:35 PM central time when my favorite comedian will be making a triumphant return to the most hallowed of sketch comedy grounds: Dave Chappelle is hosting Saturday Night Live.

Dave Chappelle was a deity at my high school.  If not, then at the very least he was a demi-god.  We would listen to Chappelle’s standup albums on our lunch break as we wove through traffic in our cheap cars, looking for greasy food, and in between playing Nelly and 50 Cent.  Chappelle’s show was its own form of currency at my high school, genius in every way and eons ahead of its time.  Had you seen the latest episode from Dave?  Then you could trade that, almost monetarily, to anyone for a good laugh.

Cool kids loved Dave Chappelle.  Nerds loved Dave Chappelle.  Black kids and white kids and kids who weren’t sure of who they really were loved Dave Chappelle.

He was a cultural phenomenon in every way.

And then he went full Keyser Söze.

Poof.  He was gone.

With social media still in its infancy, the speculation ran rampant, analog style; back when word of mouth meant actually using your vocal chords.

“Did you hear that Chappelle went crazy?”

“I heard he overdosed on cocaine.”

“Didn’t he turn down $40,000,000 just to move to a ranch in South Africa?”

We were, all of us, kind of right and kind of wrong.

Chappelle walked away at his own time, for his own reasons, his enigma firmly attached to his brand, scrawled somewhere behind his signature with a parenthetical “genius” tagged on at the end like some doctor’s use, “PhD”.  He was bawdy and raunchy and manically hilarious.  He was as much a part of my formative years as any other pop culture phenomenon and his constant drive to find that etheral “line”, cross it, and then re-draw it to his liking taught me a lot about myself and how I saw the world.

For the longest time, I thought that was all we were going to get from Dave Chappelle.  He was like watching the best firework show in the world.  Amazing, bombastic, rattling in your chest.  And then over.  Gone.  Leaving nothing but smoke and wide eyes, but something we would talk about for years.  Like that firework show, there were images left behind, snippets and videos and clips, but they didn’t seem to do the man himself justice, taken out of the context of that time period.

It was a few years ago when I started hearing the cyber-whispers, in a time when “word of mouth” doesn’t involve anything other than your fingers.

dave-chappelle-snl-a-tribe-called-quest-700x336There were ripples that had him attached to different projects; nebulous sources claiming that Chappelle had jumped on stage to do strange, aggressively disinterested sets where he seemed to be courting audience animosity, or that he had done a few bits at some darkened hole in the wall comedy cellar. Then his reemergence came in earnest. He was back and touring his standup comedy. Still chainsmoking. But ripped now. Muscled up and seemingly at odds with the virality of his own return.

Dave Chappelle loves being funny. He doesn’t seem to even like being famous. To be so great at one and so averse to the other have never seemed more at odds with one another than they do in 2016, when he seems poised to take the next step in his career.

Recently we have heard more rumblings, tidbits passed along by the self-styled “comedy nerds” who seem to be so prevalent these days, that Chappelle has been working out bits centered on the current state of politics and the now-finished election. We only know of these things as they are reported to us by various audience members, since Chappelle shares his current work with all the openness of a 1950’s Cold War operation occurring in a missile silo buried under a Missouri farmhouse.

I’ve always believed that laughter is the best form of healing, that cracking a joke in the face of impossible odds is the ultimate form of badassery. So on Saturday night, when Chappelle strolls out to the microphone and starts sifting through the detritis of the 2016 Presidential election, damn are we going to need it.

I’m sure this is too much to ask.

Even if it’s one unknown blogger, from one small sports and pop culture blog, leaning so heavily on one man to try to make us laugh during a time when a lot of us need it so damn much is probably way too unfair. But, let’s be honest: Dave Chappelle can pull this off. Dave Chappelle will pull this off. And in between his comedic stylings, and an undoubted cold open for the ages with Alec Baldwin doing the damn thang, this might be the kind of volcanic catharsis we all need. Get your popcorn.

On Tuesday we elected a President. On Saturday, the King returns.

And not a moment too soon.


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