Monday, 17 July 2006

Chappelle a Quitter?

More Dave Chappelle. This is an article from the Hollywood Reporter that calls Dave Chappelle a quitter. There’s a good rebuke to it on Dead Frog.


Fraser said...

I have to agree for the most part with the Hollywood Reporter to be honest. Not that I care all that much, but if Dave was agonising about the impact of his sketches, he should simply have applied himself to writing better sketches. The idea that one dumb white guy not getting an ironic dig at racism is grounds for abandoning your fanbase and you commitments is just daft and is only one of the many excuses Dave has trotted out for quitting.

His decision to make of course, but it's true that he did let a lot of people down, including his writing partner and many others who had helped put him in a financial position where he COULD quit. I doubt Neil Brennan can.

I honestly don't buy the "racist epiphany" angle. Even if it is true, like i said it should just have made him more determined to get his true message across.

Dave Chappelle is an excellent comedian and I'm sure he'll continue to be so, but psydo-intellectual apolgists who witter on about "the affect" his work has on people are making excuses for a guy who doesn't need anyone to speak for him.

He did what he did because he wanted to and he could.

I know if I was doing 20 hours days for weeks on end, never seeing my family and amassing an army of hangers on I'd be looking for any excuse to haul ass.

But let's not dress this us as anything other than what it was. A no phone call no show.

Todd Jackson said...

I do see your point that Dave could have just focused on creating sketches that he did want to do. But I don't see how Dave leaving Chappelle's show is leaving his fanbase. The might be disappointed he doesn't do the show anymore, but it's not like he's quitting comedy. And besides, some comedians, in my mind, are artists. They have to follow their instincts and not necessarily do what their fans want them to do.

There have been a lot of other reasons Dave has brought up. Some of them are rational as well. It just particularly bothered me that the Hollywood Reporter story decided to ignore some of the strongest - the racial issues.

I assume the reference to a "psydo-intellectual apologist" is to myself and my post on Dead-Frog. I am not making an excuse for Dave, I'm resharing an excuse Dave made himself. Amd I don't worry about Dave's affect either (I know it's positive), but I can see why he does. And just because someone can speak for themselves doesn't mean a person shouldn't stand on their side.

I think it's very easy to reduce people in the public eye to simple power relationships as you describe it (doing what he wanted to because he could). Some people really merit that reputation but Dave Chappelle has proven himself to be an artist - possibly a very tempermental and confused one - and his motivations aren't necessarily simple. The fact that we still discuss why he did what he did shows there's a bit more to it than a simple freakout.

Fraser said...

A fair point about the fan base who will of course go where Dave takes them, sure but I stick by the majority of what I said.

For me the idea that Dave had some kind of racial epiphany is just too neat, too convenient and leaves Dave looking too much like the tortured hero, unwilling to be cast in the role of puppet.

I think he just got really tired, missed his family a lot, got freaked out about all the new faces he had hanging around him and he split. Entirely understandable.

But the idea that Dave is a victim of anything other than success in this instance doesn't wash with me and it bothers me he has trotted this out to be honest.

Chapelle was one of the few comedians who was examining black and white peoples attitudes about one another and his great achievement for me was that he managed to make the apparent differences obvious in their absurdity (white people like guitar music, black people like drums). In doing this he attacked the myth of cultural exclusivity based on race and did it providing belly laughs in the process.

I don't see how you can tackle this kind of material without making waves and raising difficult questions but if he holds to this racial epiphany angle it surely indicates that he is looking to shy away from the unapologetic approach that made him relevent and funny in the first place.

I also strongly disagree with the idea that an artist should in essence "watch what he is saying" in case its misinterpreted by morons. That's playing down to the lowest common denominator and results in exactly the kind of media we already have far too much of.

If you are second guessing yourself, wondering what some goober in the sticks is making of your material you are already well on the way to rendering whatever you come up with inert and worthless.

An artist, as you put it, must published and be damned.

BTW, I wasn't specifically referring to you when I used the expression "pseudo-intellectual apologist", but I apologise if it caused offence. It was a little rude in retrospect.

And of course the main aspect of the Reporter article holds firm. Artist or not, Chappelle put a lot of people who depended on him out of work, which for me makes him just another uncaring boss, another thing the world has more than enough of.

Maybe he can do some hilarious sketches about the people who helped make him what he is not being able to make their rent.

Tom said...

On the subject of Chappelle worrying that his material might be deemed offensive by some people.

Bill Hicks always said ‘play to the top of the intelligence in the room’. I recently watched a documentary on Second City and the things that they always used as a basis was ‘work to the top of your intellect’ and always assume that the audience is at least as smart as you are, if not smarter.

This certainly seems something that Dave Chappelle has lost sight of.

Perhaps this is a result of him taking his material out of the comedy clubs and seeing his audience expand beyond his measure.

Maybe this move is Chappelle’s Kid A, his attempt to drive away some of newly acquired fans he’d rather not have.

Fraser said...

Just to answer a point Todd made about simple power relationships. It's fair to say that more was at play in Chappelle's mind than the simple notion of wanting to quit and the simple realisation that he could.

My point is that without being wealthy, the other factors in the decision would have been pushed aside.

I can think of a million reasons to quit my crappy job. There's only one keeping me here.

So in the end it IS just a simple matter of power - the other issues are peripheral in the face of economics.

Would Dave had quit the Chappelle Show if he had been making minimum wage?

Of course not, whatever his concerns.

If I sign a contract of employment, I have to honour it otherwise I lose the little I have.

It's not the same if you are wealthy and can afford lawyers.

In essence, Dave signed an agreement he then reneged on, and while he may have had his reasons for WANTING to do that, the ONLY reason he was ABLE to was because he was financially secure.

So it's another instance of the rich not having to play by the same rules as the rest of us.