Over the weekend, comedian Dave Chappelle made his third SNL appearance. It was funny. For people who believe that SNL has overstayed its comedic welcome by at least a decade (*raises hand*), Dave’s skits were a welcome departure from mediocrity. If you’re a Game of Thrones fan and Chappelle’s Show (*raises hand and waves vigorously*), you have to love his parody of House of the Dragon. And the “potato hole” skit was nothing short of brilliant.
In that skit, Chappelle plays musician Willy T. Hawkins, who titled his new album Potato Hole, which the white hosts of the fictional talk show found amusing—until Hawkins explained, “A potato hole is a hole that slaves would dig to hide their food and possessions from plantation owners.”
Yep, there are few things I love watching more than white people getting flustered after realizing they were poking white privilege fun at a thing and that they might suffer white people’s greatest fear in the 21st century—being called racist.
But before the oppressive revelation, there was something else in the skit I found interesting. At one point, one of the fake hosts of the fake talk show asked, “Can we even say potato hole on television,” because they had all assumed the term was of a sexual nature. It was interesting to me because she asked the question then right after, “potato hole” was said more than a dozen times with no fear of consequence (again, until the racism was pointed out).
And that, my friends, is Dave Chappelle in a nutshell as of late.
For the past handful of years, my main complaint about Chappelle has been that he’s a walking contradiction of his own narrative. He keeps whining about not being allowed to tell jokes he’s actually being paid hundreds of millions of dollars to tell. He claims the LGBTQ community has been deemed off-limits—while freely telling LGBTQ jokes without fear of consequences. In my opinion, his first Netflix special, The Age of Spin, was his most inflammatory towards LGBTQ folks, and trans people in particular. Yet he went on to do more specials for the streaming service after that one was released.
Sure, he’s had a show or two cancel on him and a few platforms decided they didn’t want to work with him—but these platforms and venues have just as much right to shoo him away as he has to say what he wants on stage, do they not? And people exercising their own rights to free speech by speaking out against SNL for continuing to give him a platform did nothing to stop his latest appearance, right?
Dave’s latest SNL monologue was no different.
“Before I start tonight, I’d just like to read a brief statement that I’d prepared,” Chappelle began. “‘I denounce antisemitism in all its forms, and I stand with my friends in the Jewish community.’ And that, Kanye, is how you buy yourself some time.”
“Early in my career, I learned there are two words you should never say together,” Chappelle went on to say. “Those words are ‘the’ and ‘Jews.’ Never heard someone do good after they said that.”
Then Chappelle proceeded to use the words “the” and “Jews” several more times.
“I’ve been to Hollywood – it’s a lot of Jews,” he said, for example. “Like, a lot.”
He also noted that Adidas, one of a handful of companies that ended their partnership with Ye after he tweeted “death con 3 to JEWISH PEOPLE”—which even Chappelle appeared to admit was egregious—was a company founded by brothers who were members of the Nazi party in the 1930s.
“I guess the student surpassed the teacher,” Chappelle said.
To be fair, Chappelle did suggest that the idea that Jewish people control everything in the entertainment industry and beyond was more myth than truth. He even called Kyrie Irving out for sharing the antisemitic, Holocaust-downplaying, Hebrew to Negroes: Wake Up Black America documentary noting that Irving’s “Black a** was nowhere near the Holocaust.”
Still, the point is, Chappelle claimed to say even perceivably negative things bout “the Jews” would end an entertainer’s career—then proceeded to do it himself anyway.
It’s almost as if he knows he’s lying and has no problem demonstrating it in real-time while purporting to be a vessel of truth.
“It shouldn’t be this scary to talk about anything,” Chappelle said during the closing of his monologue. “It’s making my job incredibly difficult, and to be honest with you, I’m getting sick of talking to a crowd like this. I love you to death and I thank you for your support. And I hope they don’t take anything away from you—whoever they are.”
Chappelle, once again, appears to be ignoring the fact that those who criticize him also have the freedom of speech to do so. If it “shouldn’t be this scary to talk about anything,” then “anything” should include harsh criticism against him and even calls to boycott and platform that hosts him.
He seems to think the problem is censorship—yet he appears to be trying to silence those who speak against him.
Side note: It’s worth mentioning that the Anti-Defamation League did come for Dave’s SNL appearance, not that it will do much, if anything, to hurt him.
Again, overall, his latest SNL appearance was great. The House of the Dragon satire, the “potato hole skit,” his no-lie-detected quip about how Herschel Walker is “observable stupid.” This was all good stuff.
But, in my opinion, his continued disingenuous whining takes away from it.