February 20, 2006

Dave Chappelle's Burden

I just saw Dave Chappelle’s turn on Inside the Actors Studio, and I was riveted. It came close to answering some questions I have for Chappelle.

I was late to the Chappelle Party, but from the moment I entered, I always wanted to know: What's next? How do you take this to the next level?

Pointed, humorous discourse on race is good. His way of conveying it is perfect. Personally, he's never offended me, never crossed the line, but that's not what I need from him. But because he's so intelligent, so multi-layered with his comedy, I always want to know:
How do you take this to the next level?
What have you learned? What can you teach us?

I never expect any examples of honest, humanitarian behavior - or answers - from artists. I accept what they present to me, and use it in the manner most relevant to me. It’s a fair exchange.

But from Moment One with Chappelle, I developed these expectations:
What have you learned? What can you teach us?

These questions seemed inappropriate: Why would I expect something beyond what he's giving me? I never had an answer to that, just a strong intuition, just a hunch.

At one point, Lipton asks Chappelle what he would like to do for a living if not what he's doing. He answered:
A teacher.

It's in him, and he knows it. That's obviously what I keep picking up on.
Now, the man is obviously content being what he is: a comedian. But he's also always struggling to "keep it real." When showbiz demands started to compromise who he is and what he does, he split in order to save the pieces of him that he values. This kind of behavior is the true measure of a man, and not only does he measure up, but also he’s created a new benchmark.

Now, to place any heavy burdens on him is insane, and he won't accept any unnecessary expectations or compromises. But I think about the oft-asked question:
Where are the true leaders in the black community?
I think it's Dave Chappelle.
I think he knows that's in him, too. But that would carry him away from his true essence... or would it? And there lies his struggle.

With Lipton, he also said that his role is to point out and talk about the white elephant (institutionalized racism) in the room. To some degree, talking about it removes some of its power to harm. But then what?
How do you take that to the next level?
What have you learned? What can you teach us?

Dave Chappelle's actions show the content of his character, his mind and his soul. Thus, it brings up those expectations that I've developed for him. But I wouldn't notice it if he wasn't conveying it.

His family background puts him squarely in the ring of educational leadership. He even told Lipton that people of all races and ages come to him with their approval. He's primed for something beyond being a genius comedian.
It's his personal Black Man's Burden.
Mr. Chappelle, if Barack Obama should come knocking, open the door and let him in.


Anonymous said...

I'm certain that Mr. Chappelle is all-too-aware that Dick Gregory began as an observational comic.
-Happy talk

Anonymous said...

Me and the girlfriend came late to his work on TV since we rent the dvd's but we love his show and think that it deals with truths that our culture has learned to dismiss. Plus it is hysterical! Very smart and clever stuff. The PC crowd loves to deride him but they miss the point. We all have to laugh at ourselves occasionally. People are so shocked that he would show some integrity and walk away from all that money.