Comedian Dave Chappelle’s latest Netflix special, “The Closer,” is making the rounds but not for its hilarity. No, its high ratings can be attributed to the venom that it has elicited from the mainstream press and social media.
Nothing piques curiosity more than public outrage, after all. There’s no doubt, then, that a huge portion of viewers tuned in just to see what all the fuss was about.
As a longtime fan of the irreverent performer’s, I would have watched the show anyway. But many of my peers hadn’t paid the slightest attention to Chappelle until the scandal erupted. Once it did, they rushed to join in the conversation by seeing the program for themselves.
Chappelle was already Enemy No. 1 in LBGTQ circles for his “transphobia.” He’s been raked over the coals by feminists for his ostensible disdain for women. Some whites, as well, don’t take kindly to the veteran black comic’s persistent mockery of them.
But this time, his jokes about Jews have aroused serious ire. The anger stems from two main passages of the hour-and-a-quarter-long act.
He leads in to the first anti-Semitic sequence by talking about the COVID-19 pandemic by insulting other groups.
“I don’t want you to worry about me,” he begins. “I’m vaccinated; I got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. I’ve got to admit, that’s probably the most n**gerish decision I’ve made in a long time. … I walk in to the doc like, ‘Give me the third best option; I’ll have what the homeless people are having.’ ”
He goes on to say that he actually contracted the virus, which made him feel “gross.”
“I haven’t felt dirty like that in a long time,” he says. “Last time I can remember feeling dirty like that, man, I must have been a little boy … being molested by a preacher. But don’t feel bad for me; I liked it.”
He then recounts having had to quarantine for 10 days. Left alone in his room, he says, he watched videos, many of which, “sadly, were of black people beating up Asians for no reason.”
On the other hand, he adds, “I didn’t get sick at all. … I’m the Magic Johnson of coronavirus … but I was stressed, because I kept watching these videos of my beloved black people beating up my beloved Asian people and being so cruel. And the whole time … I couldn’t help feel[ing] like—when I saw these brothers beating these Asians up—it’s probably what’s happening inside my body.”
After giving the one-two punch to blacks for persecuting Asians and Asians (the Chinese) for having brought on the global health crisis, he takes a heavy-duty stab at the Tribe. He does this by saying that while watching videos about UFOs, he came up with an idea for a movie in which “we find out that these aliens are originally from Earth—that they’re from an ancient civilization that achieved interstellar travel and left the Earth thousands of years ago [to another] planet [where] things go terrible for them … so they come back to Earth and decide that they want to claim [it] for their very own. … I call it ‘Space Jews.’ ”
Critics blasted Chappelle for invoking the anti-Semitic trope of Jewish aims at world domination. Though there is some justification for interpreting his words as such, the point he was really making was about Israel—that Jews lived in the land thousands of years ago and returned when “things [went] terrible for the” elsewhere and “decided to claim [the land] for their very own.”
One member of the live audience grasped this immediately and responded by shouting, “Free Palestine!”
Far be it from me to defend such a hateful representation of Jewish roots in and rights to the land of Israel. Nor do I tolerate rants about “liberating Palestine.”
Furthermore, humor only works when it has a morsel of truth, which Chappelle’s depiction does not possess. The only sliver of a silver lining in his otherwise abhorrent description is his acknowledgment that Jews were in Israel for millennia before the state was established. This is a truth that the Palestinian Authority and its supporters on campus and in Congress deny through deceit.
This brings us to Chappelle’s second, even worse, anti-Semitic slur: comparing Jewish behavior (apparently towards Palestinians) to a particular freed slave, who was so good at farming the plot of land bestowed on him by his former “master” that he purchased slaves himself and treated them abominably.
“He did it just because that’s what successful people did at the time,” explains Chappelle. “How could a person [who] went through slavery perpetrate the same evil on a person [who] looks just like him? … [S]hockingly, they’re making a movie about him. Ironically, it’s called ‘Space Jews.’ ”
To be sure, the implication is appalling, not amusing. The trouble is that the outcry against Chappelle for rejecting “woke” political correctness isn’t funny either.
On the contrary, his “blasphemy” against the language and thought police is like a breath of fresh air in a polluted societal environment. Moreover, he’s an equal-opportunity offender.
In his routine, he repeatedly uses the “N-word,” refers to women as “bitches” and claims that “what the feminist movement needs to be successful is a male leader.”
He winds down his stand-up by quipping, “Any of you who’ve ever watched me know that I’ve never had a problem with transgender people. If you listen to what I’m saying, clearly, my problem has always been with white people.”
He goes on: “And they’ve canceled people more powerful than me. They canceled J.K. Rowling … [who] wrote all the Harry Potter books. … She sold so many books [that] the Bible worries about her. And they canceled her because she said in an interview … that gender was a fact. And then the trans community got mad as sh*t and they started calling her a TERF, and I didn’t know what … that was, but I know that trans people make up words to win arguments. So I looked it up. TERF is an acronym [that] stands for ‘trans-exclusionary radical feminist.’ These are women who don’t hate trans people, but [transgenderism] offends them the way that blacks are offended by black face. I’m team TERF. I agree [that] gender is a fact.”
Finally, he says, “It’s over. LBGTQ-L-M-N-O-P-Q-Y-Z, it’s over. I am not telling another joke about you until we are both laughing together.”
He’ll have to wait until hell freezes over for that day to come. A better suggestion would be for those insulted by Chappelle to ignore him, rather than boost his sales. And to stop nurturing hurt feelings at every turn of phrase.
Another piece of advice, this one for the American Jews who were horrified by his anti-Semitism: Expend more effort combating the vile phenomenon where it most matters in the United States these days—in the Democratic Party.
This might be a tall order, though. The vast majority of those concerned by the likes of Chappelle not only belong to that side of the aisle but have contributed greatly to, if are not mainly responsible for, the current climate that borders on cultural totalitarianism.
It’s fine to call a comic to task for crossing a line. Doing so is what free speech is all about. Prohibiting comedians from being sacrilegious, on the other hand, is a sign of a sad—and dangerous—society.
Ruthie Blum is an Israel-based journalist and author of “To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the ‘Arab Spring.’ ”