Dave Chappelle’s The Closer is here, and in short it delivers all the scathing, controversial jokes and brutal honesty that we’ve come to expect from Chappelle.
As he matures with age, Chappelle seems to be developing a George Carlin edge to his comedy. The punchlines are perhaps not as frequent as they used to be, instead replaced by insightful observations dripping with harsh reality and brutal punchlines. He tells it like it is without even the thinnest coat of sugar. At moments like these he reminds the audience, “I’m going all the way.”
Much of The Closer is focused on addressing controversies and criticisms Dave has faced resulting from his five previous specials. He seems genuinely offended by the way his comments have been misinterpreted, resulting in him being labelled “transphobic” among other things.
At one point I felt he was talking about the trans community too much. But Chappelle closes the show with a heartbreaking story about a trans woman named Daphne, a story that drives his point home irrefutably.
If anyone in the trans community still considers Chappelle their enemy after watching The Closer then they are blinded by their own prejudices beyond repair.
He is clearly exasperated at times. Modern society’s inability to see the middle ground on anything is a thorn in the side of anyone like Chappelle who is not afraid to speak in depth about controversial issues. The fact that he throws jokes in the mix (often deliberately in the poorest possible taste) seems to only confuse people more.
He reminds us once again that he always supported the MeToo movement in principle but criticised their methods. “I support what you’re doing, but I think you’re going about it the wrong way” were his words in an earlier special. Despite explaining that statement in detail, many women considered Dave as an enemy to their cause.
The man himself has clearly had enough of being misquoted, misrepresented and misinterpreted. For much of The Closer he seems angrier than previous specials. The jokes are still there and the laughs are still big, but that mischievous look in his eye when he knows he’s stirring the pot appears less often.
But who could blame him? The story of Daphne was probably the last straw. For a comedy special, that story is about as dark and humourless as it gets. He throws in some jokes along the way, but the end of the story draws a horrified gasp from the audience. And rightly so.
It’s not all bickering about how much the trans community hates him. Chappelle also discusses how he caught COVID, happily announcing that he experienced no symptoms, declaring himself the “Magic Johnson of coronavirus.”
He jokes about writing children’s books that will teach kids about racism. He jokes about making a UFO movie. He jokes about filming his last special in Detroit because “I talked so much shit about Detroit in the first one.”
But the focus of this special is setting the record straight. And he does so by utilising all the skills that make him one of the greatest standup comedians of all time. His timing is perfect. His storytelling is captivating. He will still fearlessly throw a punchline in wherever he wants, enjoying the shock from the audience as much as the laughter.
The Closer is damn funny. But like all great art, it’s more than just one thing. It provokes thought, challenges the audience and entertains all at once. After five specials Dave Chappelle clearly still has a lot to say. Sure, he covers the same ground as previous specials to some extent, but it never feels like a re-hash.
The Closer is streaming on Netflix now. Make sure you watch to the end of the credits for a simple but touching dedication to the late Norm MacDonald.