Comedy Show Review: “Deep in the Heart of Texas: Dave Chappelle Live at Austin City Limits” and “The Age of Spin: Dave Chappelle Live at the Hollywood Palladium”

Details: Two hour-long shows of Dave Chappelle doing stand-up comedy in front of a live audience. Aired on Netflix.

I recently watched an interview on Jimmy Kimmel of Dave Chappelle for his new comedy specials that are now on Netflix. In the interview, Chappelle says that the specials were filmed a while ago and not specifically for Netflix. If you watch the shows, you can tell that the issues and headlines referenced are somewhat old. Even still, this was a great two shows. Additionally, Dave Chappelle got paid sixty million dollars from Netflix for these two prerecorded shows and for a third show that has yet to be made.

I am an unabashed Chappelle fan. The first time I heard the name Dave Chappelle was when a friend let me listen to an mp3 of Killing Them Softly, one of Chappelle’s earlier comedy specials. I loved that show and listened to it many, many times. Then the Chappelle show came out and I enjoyed that, too. Then he disappeared. In short, I’ve needed my Dave Chappelle fix and now I can finally get it.

If you’re not familiar with Dave Chappelle’s humor, then there are some things you should expect. His stand-up goes into controversy, news headlines, social issues, and personal experiences. A lot of it concerns black social issues… because he’s black. It’s a subject he actually knows something about and has experienced. There is a lot of profanity and he does say nigger and bitch in like every other word. If you don’t like that, then you won’t like this. It’s humor that’s told from his point of view.

What’s changed from his prior work in comedy is that his perspective has changed. His old comedy was told from the view of a weed smoking, relatively poor, single black guy. Now his comedy is told from the perspective of Dave Chappelle, the family man, the celebrity, and still a black guy. He also still likes weed. The jokes have changed. The subject matter has changed. And so has the delivery, just a little bit.

There’s a lot to appreciate here. If you’re not a comedy fan, then you probably aren’t familiar with how these comedians and comedy specials work. Comedy is work. You have to sit down and actually write and structure jokes. Then you go on local comedy circuits and test out those jokes on relatively small groups of people. Some jokes succeed, some don’t. You work on it and change and improve as needed. You polish and perfect the jokes, like cutting and polishing a diamond. By the time you get to a comedy special like this, the jokes you tell in the comedy special have been told and reworked hundreds, maybe thousands of times. A comedy special is simply a collection of the best, most refined jokes and the best structure in which the comedian has figured out to tell those jokes to an audience within the allotted time. In this context, there is a lot to admire about Chappelle’s stand-up.

The subject matter has new news headlines as well as the old race/gender subject matter Chappelle is known for. There’s something new and familiar. Furthermore, the way he has structured and delivered a lot of these jokes is amazing. For example, two jokes that I really enjoyed were the O.J. Simpson jokes and the Bill Cosby rape jokes.

The segue into the O.J. Simpson jokes was hilarious and timed well to just surprise the audience, which is amazing considering that he informs you at the very beginning that he is going to tell you these jokes. The audience spends the rest of the show forgetting about the jokes and at the same time building hype towards the next O.J. Simpson joke.

The Bill Cosby joke is good because it concerns the controversial subject of rape and it attempts to make a joke out of it. It’s tough to go into issues like rape because people have strong feelings towards it. There are victims of rape. It’s hard to try to make people laugh about the subject. Other subjects that are tough to write jokes about are Israel-Palestine, pedophilia, race, etc. The trick is to somehow make a statement on the subject while keeping the audience on your side. Despite the difficulty, Chappelle did it well. He interweaves a story about a gay superhero movie into the idea of a racist, rapist superhero movie, then he leaves the subject for a while before talking about Cosby and his rapes before tying it all together with a fitting punch line. It’s just well thought, well planned, and well delivered. Great stuff concerning a touchy subject.

Overall, I really enjoyed the shows. Chappelle offers well structured jokes on current events and social issues. Not only do you get a good laugh out of it, you get some commentary and opinions on the subjects delivered through comedy. It’s hard to hold your nose in the air and keep a closed mind when someone is making you laugh your ass off with some really funny jokes. Additionally, I think the Age of Spin was easily the better of the two shows.

Score: 8.2/10

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