Kyle Smith is probably right that Sticks and Stones, the new hour long comedy set by Dave Chappelle that was released on Netflix this week, isn’t his best work. Though his section on Jussie Smollett is pretty great.
Chappelle has developed a habit of shifting into longer and longer “preaching” segments in his sets, especially where it comes to politics. And that can get a little tired. Kyle points out that in this show, Chappelle seems to have a weird take on the wave of abortion restrictions across states, implying that they’re a result of a backlash against #MeToo. It is odd. But by the end of the sketch, I had come around to the idea that Chappelle had softened the audience up with his rhetorically pro-abortion sympathies, only to pull the rug out from them toward the end. Here’s how it goes:
If you have a d***, you need to shut the f*** up on this one. Seriously! This is theirs; the right to choose is their unequivocal right. Not only do I believe they have the right to choose, I believe that they shouldn’t have to consult anybody, except for a physician, about how they exercise that right.
Gentlemen, that is fair. And ladies, to be fair to us, I also believe that if you decide to have the baby, a man should not have to pay. That’s fair. If you can kill this motherf***er, I can at least abandon him. It’s my money, my choice. And if I’m wrong, then perhaps we’re wrong. So figure that sh-t out for yourselves.
The last few lines depend quite a bit on the delivery. He proceeds through “I can at least abandon him” to “My money, my choice” quickly in a way to stir up a storm of applause and shocked expressions about what he said. And then the very last lines are delivered slowly underneath that little riot of appreciation. I thought it was deft.
Conservatives have been pretty giddy about Chappelle’s new routine, because it is constructed as a taunt against his politically correct critics, and many liberal outlets are putting out schoolmarmish tut-tutting commentaries on it. I appreciated Kyle’s pushback against the general tide of enthusiasm on our side. I suspect Chappelle wants to make the bulk of his traditional audience more sane and light-hearted about comedy, not seek out an entirely new audience of people like us.