Dave Chappelle pushes the same boundaries that once got Lenny Bruce arrested
Part of the fun of watching edgy stand-up comedians is what I call the "Demolition Derby Effect."
Just as demolition derbies were born out of the belief that a lot of ticket buyers would rather watch cars wreck than race, a lot of people pay to watch edgy comedians in the anticipation that maybe, just maybe, any minute now they're going to (gasp!) go too far.
In that regard, notoriously edgy comic Dave Chappelle takes the prize with his latest -- and fifth -- Netflix stand-up comedy special, "Sticks & Stones," judging by the volume of complaints buzzing online in news and social media.
But, as longtime Chappelle fans -- like me -- know, that's not unusual. What is unusual is how much the blowback against Chappelle's special has come mostly from the liberals and progressives and how much praise he is receiving from conservatives and the far right.
"Dave Chappelle's New Stand-Up Is Hilarious (And Even Subversively Pro-Life)" says The Federalist's headline on senior editor Molly Hemingway's essay.
Iconoclastic author Bret Easton Ellis tweeted, "Did I just watch Dave Chappelle save America from itself in 65 minutes on Netflix?"
A headline on the conservative Townhall site crows, "Dave Chappelle: The Middle Finger America Needs."
But on the more liberal or mainstream side, a critic for The Atlantic calls the set "a temper tantrum." The Root calls it "lazy." Vice urges its readers to just skip it altogether. The Guardian sniffs, "Dave Chappelle's 'reckless' #MeToo and trans jokes have real after-effects."
Transgender YouTube commentator Natalie Wynn said on the progressive TheYoungTurks that Chappelle's jokes, particularly about transgender people, were stale, "out of touch" and "far from his best." She charged, for example, that Chappelle's mockery of transgender people, saying "I identify as Asian," steals from Ricky Gervais' declaration in his own Netflix special earlier this year that he identifies as "a chimp."
But transgender people are only one of the usually taboo targets Chappelle chews over in his whine list.