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The Rich People Are Fighting
A reader asked what I think of this new Dave Chappelle monologue, in which he explains why he asked Netflix to pull Chappelle’s Show—because he got contractually screwed out of (I guess?) licensing fees 20 years ago—and encourages fans to boycott the show on all other platforms until he gets paid for it. My thoughts are these:
-Chappelle is an incredibly charismatic storyteller;
-It’s reprehensible that Viacom duped him into signing away the right to get paid for his own work;
-But I feel like it’s also pretty conventionally understood that Hollywood fucks people over?
-Which makes it a bit strange to watch Chappelle, in November 2020, work through the idea that Viacom execs might not be on his side, or that just because something is legal doesn’t make it right;
-Clearly it’s supposed to be a hard-hitting punch (and indeed gets some applause) when he says that if he made a new Chappelle’s Show, he couldn’t call it Chappelle’s Show, because he doesn’t own the name;
-But the badness of the thing does not seem to match the gravity of the point being made;
-Which connects to my broader feeling that it’s optically weird for a hundred-millionaire to frame himself as a victim in this narrative, even if he technically is one;
-Especially given that Netflix, the company he praises for granting his wishes (as its partner in a relationship worth millions of dollars), is still fucking over loads of people with less stature than him;
-To whom I sincerely hope he lends his voice in future negotiations;
-Similarly, I cannot help but feel that were I a financially comfortable person who decades ago made a work of art that people still value today, I would want them to consume it whether or not I’m getting paid;
-Though I suppose I’d still be pissed off if other parties were making money off it?
-But probably less so if those parties had already given me tens of millions of dollars;
-(Which, again, if you have that much money, I kind of don’t care that you don’t have more! It’s a pandemic here, I can only care about so many things!)
-Zooming out a bit, I was disturbed by Chappelle’s invocation of MeToo: “I believe that they gave me a raw deal because this fucking industry is a monster. It’s the same monster that these Me Too bitches was trying to tell you about. But they hate the monster for how it fucks, and I hate that monster for how it eats. But my God, man, it’s the same monster.”
-Which complicates his critique (Hollywood fucks people over) by revealing how you can get fucked over and still have enough power to fuck other people over, whether by denying their humanity or using them as rhetorical fodder in your own narrative or BOTH!!
-It’s fascinating how Chappelle is such an incisive critic of power dynamics that affect him directly, while remaining utterly fogeyish about ones that don’t. You would hope a guy who respects Netflix for obliging his wishes might see the value in, say, obliging trans people’s wishes that he stop joking about them. I guess you have to give him $100 million before he takes you seriously?
This concludes another installment of My Thoughts On The Chappelle Thing.
Late Night… Good?
I enjoyed this Late Night with Seth Meyers segment so much that it convinced me late night might just be watchable if they permanently get rid of the studio audience:
One of my personal theories is that nothing’s funnier than funny people talking enthusiastically about their peculiar interests (see: podcasts). This conversation takes that vibe and adds a dash of conventional joke-writing, plus an uncanny Tim & Eric energy that I guess you get when you have some signifiers of late night (cameras, set, wardrobe, charisma) without the others (audience). Also, the clunkers turn out to be… kind of funny? when they’re delivered to silence instead of canned laughter.
I will say that the last joke, when Meyers says they could’ve had this conversation on the phone, is one of my Comedy Pet Peeves: jokes that require too much suspension of disbelief for an unworthy payoff. It’s insulting—I know you approved this premise, do me the respect of heightening rather than diminishing it!
Jimmy Fallon is a master of this style, somehow taking his straight man role to the unusual length of pointing out how sketches he’s in makes no sense. I’ve noticed this especially with Nick Ciarelli and Brad Evans’ material—
But it’s a longstanding crutch, going back all the way to a personal favorite of mine—
It’s a bad tic! As any improviser could tell you, when you question the base reality of a scene, you put a low ceiling on the places it can go. Give your funny writers space to be funny, I say.
That’s gonna be all for this week, unless, I don’t know, SNL throws another party. Have a great Thanksgiving and please don’t fly anywhere!