Fans of Dave Chappelle will find his trademark humor is replaced by a hunger to expound on hard truths in his new YouTube special.
Aptly titled “8:46”, referring to the length of time a Minneapolis police officer was taped kneeling on George Floyd’s neck resulting in his death, Chappelle’s surprise show quickly establishes the kind of content in store.
As the YouTube exclusive show begins, citizens of Beavercreek, Ohio, are shown pulling into reserved spots in the park where the show was held.
Their temperatures are checked by officials, and each group of people is escorted to isolated seating for maximum social distancing.
“This is weird, and less than ideal,” Chappelle said to acknowledge the oddity of the situation.
These are some of the first words uttered by the comedian as a caption notes it has been 87 days since his last stand up.
Like an elephant in the room, COVID-19, the Black Lives Matter protests and George Floyd’s death seemed to hang in the air.
“It’s hard to figure out what to say about George Floyd, so I won’t say it yet,” Chappelle said.
As the stand-up gets going, he gives credit to the young population of protesters, letting them know how proud of them he is. Once formalities are taken care of, “8:46” begins in earnest.
It is then, that the star comedian shines.
Without a filter, Chappelle passionately cuts through any form of niceties and decorum, unleashing a torrent of striking language that emphasises how seriously he takes the subject matter.
It is as if a nation had one voice in which to express its anger and frustration built up for decades.
“This man kneeled on a man’s neck! For eight minutes and 46 seconds! Can you imagine that?,” Chappelle said.
As he makes clear, “8:46” isn’t just about Floyd’s death, or even the outraged protests that followed. Chappelle makes sure to encourage the audience into remembering those that had unjustly died prior to Floyd.
“The guy killed the person that they were, what do you call it, apprehending? The guy was selling loose cigarettes!” Chappelle said. “There goes Eric Garner.”
All he can do is sigh and take a second to collect himself before naming the other Black men who have been killed.
Some of those specifically named are Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, Martin’s death hitting the comedian more memorably as his appearance resembles that of his own child.
“I hate George Zimmerman,” said Chappelle, “as an idea, not as a guy, I’ve never met the man.”
Zimmerman was acquitted of all charges in the shooting of Martin in 2013.
Chappelle uses him as a symbol of those who have inflicted injustices upon the Black community, which have now spurred Black Lives Matter protests across the globe.
In the last five minutes of the special, Chappelle makes some of his most poignant observations, first by going after commentator Candace Owens for bringing up Floyd’s arrest record.
Then using her own comment to make probably the best statement of the show.
First imitating the conservative and quoting her, he said, “Why do you choose him as a hero?”
“We didn’t choose him, you did!” Chappelle said. “They killed him ... We’re not desperate for heroes in the Black community.”
As the comedian’s fiery retort comes to an end, all he can do is finish with a resounding comment.
“Any [Black person] that survives this nightmare is my goddamn hero,” Chappelle said
The applause that follows exemplifies the pure gratefulness the audience, in the crowd and possibly those watching, feels succeeding such a passion-filled harangue.
Chappelle’s passion and anger shines throughout the special. While there were moments of laughter elicited from the audience, this show focuses more on the pain and outrage being experienced around the country.
The special is well worth a watch for anyone looking for a hard dose of reality and truth, just don’t expect to be clutching your sides in hilarity once it finishes.