Dave Chappelle: Sticks and Stones Review: Raw, thought-provoking, and hilarious outcry against cancel-culture
Views of comedy and comedians have taken quite a turn as social media and viewer’s opinions can actually play a heavy hand in their career and it’s become one of the toughest professions to have. Gone are the days of being able to freely joke or just even talk about social topics without getting a barrage of scrutiny from anonymous, offended social media users that can tank someone’s career with a few tweets. It’s crazy to think that comedians like George Carlin and Richard Pryor, two of the most influential and iconic names in comedy of all time, would be lambasted now for their acts. Personally, it’s even upsetting that Daniel Tosh received a lot of backlash online after he made a rape joke towards a heckling audience member as I felt that the situation didn’t warrant the flak he got. All of this is what makes comedian Dave Chappelle’s new stand-up special, Sticks and Stones, so refreshing and brilliant to watch.
For those unaware of who Chappelle is, back in the early 2000s, Chappelle made the rounds on the New York City comedy circuit until he gained universal acclaim from his appearance on Russell Simmon’s Def Comedy Jam. Later, after a slew of film appearances and HBO specials, he helped create his iconic Comedy Central sketch comedy show – Chappelle’s Show. On the show, Chappelle would portray a slew of various characters, including satirical impersonations of Lil’ Jon and Rick James, a blind black member of the KKK, and a crackhead, and promote the work of other black comedians like Paul Mooney and the late Charlie Murphy.
However, after feeling the weight of his father’s death and feeling disconnected to the entertainment industry, Chappelle traveled to Africa in order find balance within himself and reflect on things. Thankfully, though, Chappelle has had a strong resurgence in his career and appeared in films, like A Star is Born, and has won a couple of Grammys and Emmys for his latest comedy specials. He even won a well-deserved Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor for a Comedy Series for his hosting spot on Saturday Night Live where he brought back some classic Chappelle’s Show characters.
Now with his newest stand-up special, Sticks and Stones, Chappelle leaves no stone unturned as he tackles an onslaught of social topics completely unfiltered. With him touching on the Michael Jackson rape cases, school shootings, LGBT community, and the current climate of comedy – no one is safe. Honestly, the way he delves into Kevin Hart/Oscars controversy, working with his Standards and Practices department on Chappelle’s Show, school shootings, and LGBT communities is just plain brilliant, and I couldn’t stop laughing. He exudes this sense of confidence with each line and while he knows that people will scrutinize and be offended by him even touching on these topics, he chooses to be honest and raw with his comedy and it’s hard not to respect him for that. Even the way he interacts with the audience is great and shows how strong and personal of an entertainer he is. It’s the kind of raw comedy that is rarely seen today and why Chappelle’s willingness to be “offensive” is something to celebrate rather than mock.
Comedy has always been a place to reflect on the world in a joking manner and allows ideas and views to unapologetically flow throughout each story and punchline. However, social media and political correctness have changed the course of comedy and, with Sticks and Stones, Chappelle seeks to steer the medium back on course. This isn’t to say that there aren’t people that are going to be offended by what Chappelle touches on or necessarily agree with everything he says, but it’s hard not enjoy the sense of relief he gives and to respect him for knowingly putting himself out there. As a viewer, you can tell that this is a cathartic experience for Chappelle and makes the viewing experience comfortable, eye-opening, and thought-provoking as a whole. Not to mention, you HAVE TO watch the epilogue as it’s hilarious and offers a deep look into Chappelle that’s very emotionally driven and shows why he is such a unique person.
Stick and Stones genuinely shows that Chappelle is at the top of his game and is just as funny and thought-provoking as ever. At the end of the day, if you’re looking for the simple answer of “will I be offended” – frankly, that’s up to you. It’s no secret what kind of comedian Chappelle is, so if you’re the type of person to be easily offended, it’s probably best to stay clear and, personally, I wouldn’t give you any grief over it. However, I would hope that Chappelle gets the respect that he’s so rightfully earned, and that people see Sticks and Stones as an important outcry to the current climate of comedy.