October 17, 2004

Humor: Dave Chappelle

Chappelle told the crowd he knew why they liked his sketch-comedy show: "Because it's good. You know why my show is good? Because the network officials say you're not smart enough to get what I'm doing, and every day I fight for you. I tell them how smart you are. Turns out, I was wrong.

"You people are stupid."

Much of Chappelle's act - with its jokes about genitals, and sex talk, tales of strip-club escapades and frequent use of the n-word - is unprintable in a family newspaper. But that's not the best part, anyway. Chappelle is most effective when he ventures into social commentary - race, poverty, the cult of personality.

One of his better rants had to do with children and at what age they might be responsible for their own lives. Elizabeth Smart, the 15-year-old Utah girl who was kidnapped from her home, figured prominently in the commentary. He contrasted her case - she was discovered about nine months after her abduction only a few miles from her home - with that of 7-year-old Erica Pratt, who gnawed through her duct tape bindings to free herself from kidnappers in Philadelphia and was responsible for the arrest of the two men who had taken her. Pratt is African American, and her story received much less attention than did Smart's.

Then Chappelle placed Smart's case in opposition to that of Lionel Tate of Florida, who was convicted of murder in the death of a 6-year-old neighbor. Smart, at 15, was considered a child. But at 14, two years after the crime, Tate was sentenced as an adult to life in prison without parole. (A previously rejected plea bargain was later accepted, and he is now free.)

"When is a 15-year-old a kid and a 12-year-old an adult?" he asked, indicating it might be because one was white and one was not.

Chappelle said race relations are at such a low point in America that, "You can't say anything real when it comes to race. That's why Bill Cosby's in such trouble for saying black folks have got to take responsibility for their own lives.

"I spoke at my high school last week," he said, "and I told them, 'You've got to focus. Stop blaming white people for your problems.' "

He then added, sarcastically, " 'Learn to play basketball, tell jokes or sell crack. That's the only way I've seen people get out.' "

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