New to Netflix: Dave Chappelle ‘The Closer’ Review
Anyone that frequents our site knows that we here at Loud News Net love us some Dave Chappelle. Many of us, and I’m sure many of you can relate, grew up on Chappelle’s Show which he eventually walked away from, almost costing him everything. His career since then has consistently gone through ups and downs, sometimes seeming as though it may have gone in too deep. So seeing him win back the rights to his work from Comedy Central was such a big deal to fans. And even after all the smoke cleared and the media had dragged his name to hell and back, saying he disappeared to Africa in a fit of craziness, his stand-up game only seemed to get stronger, his storytelling more poignant, and his political and social commentary has developed into quite a force to be reckoned with. These past few years he’s been releasing specials via a deal with Netflix, each of them riddled with their own controversies and backlashes, and his latest and final special, ‘The Closer‘ aims to do just what the title entails – end the chapter on this era of his career.
In stellar Chappelle fashion, ‘The Closer’ has been met with a lot of criticism from certain groups and celebrities, even some calling for Chappelle to be “canceled”. In the special, he does what he has always done best by deliberately “crossing the line” and then challenging viewers’ perceptions of certain issues and ideas. But the big question with this one is did he go TOO FAR this time? Has he finally crossed the uncrossable line that will leave him shamed and unforgiven?
The quick answer, I believe, is no. Just like the issues and ideas he talks about these days are incredibly complex, so is what he is attempting to do with his comedy. He knew good and well that this piece would stir people up, and he was well aware of exactly what he was up against. While I don’t think ‘The Closer’ was his most laugh-out-loud funny, it did take me 2 views to finally understand what exactly he was trying to do with it. So there’s a lot here we are going to hash out in this review, but before we start, you should understand that this special is more than just a stand-up special, it’s a comedian on a mission. And with Chappelle leading the way, you know it’s going to be good.
Chappelle is as Deep and Insightful as Ever…
As someone who has watched his career grow from humble beginnings, seen him live in New York City, and studied his work and ideas religiously, I feel I’ve watched the blossoming of a true legend. I think his career, much like Richard Pryor or George Carlin, will be studied well into the future long after he is gone. He will be seen as not just someone paid to make people laugh, but a philosopher of sorts, someone who influenced a generation and beyond on a significant scale.
‘The Closer’ possesses that depth and insight Chappelle has become known for. He touches on a wide range of subjects, flowing from one to the next like a true master. He always manages to take popular topics and issues that it seems like everyone is talking about and give some sort of new perspective on it. And the way he delivers one-liners that have more depth than some people could put in a novel is truly impressive.
He also manages to jab at everyone and everything including Covid, DaBaby, and the Women’s March of 2017. Absolutely nothing is safe, and even at times when his comedy gets truly dark, he has this way of balancing it back out with some sort of deep insight or perspective. His flow and style are amazing to watch, and he just makes it look so easy. He is truly at the height of his game.
…and Also Ruthless as Ever
Since its release, there’s been a bit of backlash from people that thought that ‘The Closer’ went too far. A few employees at Netflix tweeted their dismay, one of them transgender, and the company ended up suspending them. And a few organizations have called for Netflix to pull the special down entirely, but Netflix has stood by Chappelle and his work instead as they have also done in the past.
The truth is that Chappelle is ruthless as hell in this one. While I don’t believe that he “went too far”, I absolutely can see why and how some people can see his social commentary as offensive, especially if they belong to the social group being talked about. While there are plenty of jokes that are so ridiculous that he’s obviously kidding, some of it does hit close to reality, sort of blurring that line of being simply a joke or rhetoric that can be thought of as coming from a hateful place.
The most notable subjects were the trans and LGBTQ community as a whole, two groups to which he doesn’t identify as belonging. So I’d have to imagine that if I identified as either, I’d find it a bit annoying to hear someone who doesn’t critique my experience, sort of like how I can’t help but cringe whenever I hear white people on Fox News critique the black community. While, clearly, Chappelle isn’t scum like a Fox News commentator, I’d imagine both don’t believe what they’re saying or what they believe is inherently offensive. And if given the proper platform they could explain and make sense of it to people.
My Take On It
At times, this special can feel like he’s poking a hornet’s nest with a stick. He spends time doubling down on comments he’s made in past specials that weren’t taken well, and even went as far as to defend J.K. Rowling who came under fire tweets criticizing the transgender community. It’s almost like Chappelle is trying to 1-up himself on how much shit he can stir up compared to previous specials.
But here’s the thing – maybe that’s the point. I think Chappelle believes it is literally his job as a comedian to stir shit up a bit and challenge people. His humor is considered dark by many, and I think it’s because you find yourself laughing at things that you probably shouldn’t be, or under normal circumstances wouldn’t. But as awkward as going through that experience is, it should be fun and engaging, and God Damn, no one does it quite like Chappelle.
I believe stand-up is an art and no comic exemplifies that better than him. Netflix’s co-CEO Ted Sarandos sent out a memo to employees concerning the controversy which included this bit: “Particularly in stand-up comedy, artistic freedom is obviously a very different standard of speech than we allow internally as the goals are different: entertaining people versus maintaining a respectful, productive workplace.”
There’s definitely a conversation to be had about whether or not certain “ideas” should be able to circulate so freely in popular culture, but if we don’t allow comedians to toe the line and stir the pot a bit, then who will? It is literally why they exist, and to take that away would leave us with something bland and boring. The dark side to it is that not every viewer is “smart enough” (for lack of better words) to dissect a joke from a hateful statement and use the guise of “just joking” to repeat what they hear.
But this all begs the question – if anyone else had done this special, would Netflix be so quick to defend it? I can’t help but think that Chappelle has achieved a certain privilege that many of his fellow comics probably don’t have. And maybe he should exploit the shit out of it, to possibly steer the conversation about canceling artists in a bit of a different direction, and set a new standard for future comics to come.
I didn’t go too much into detail on what was arguably offensive about the special because it’s part of the fun going into not knowing specifics. As I said before, I didn’t feel this was his laugh-out-loud funniest, but I do really dig it for a different reason that sets it apart a bit from the rest. I like the fact that I feel really challenged by it. As I wrap up this review I’ve seen it 3 times and I still don’t really know what to think. I keep asking myself questions like “does he have the right to talk about that?” and “what if I were trans, how would I view this?”.
I’ve overheard co-workers discussing it at my day job and friends bring it up to me casually, knowing I’m a fan. It’s been the topic of long, late-night conversations over a bowl with my fiancee for a few days now.
There’s so much to dissect and think about, and it really sorts of forces you to look it yourself in relation to society and other people in the wildest way. Chappelle is truly a master for that, and I’m looking forward to seeing what his future beyond Netflix holds…… that is if he doesn’t get canceled.