Okay, so it’s weird to post 3 times and then wait 3 years, so what?
It seems like a significant time in stand up, at least for Netflix subscribers. Just this past week (or two?) Dave Chappelle released two (count ’em) fantastic stand up routines. It probably helped sway me that he peppered in semi-esoteric boxing jokes. Anyway, they’re phenomenal and you should watch them if you haven’t.
First thing I noticed is that Chappelle’s style is noticeably different. He doesn’t have the same high-pitched, high-energy output he used to, but it might be better. He’s adjusted his material accordingly. Adorning himself in an almost military-style jacket and pants in one of the specials, he spends a good part of the hour affectedly smoothing the jacket. It has the effect of making you feel like you’re at a lecture of some kind. In a sense, the viewer is witnessing a declaration. What of? I don’t know, a new identity? A new perspective? Something.
Chappelle covers much more controversial territory than I’ve seen in the past. Not that white supremacists and babies selling weed on the street aren’t rife with shock value, but somehow this new material pushes past that, touching on Bill Cosby and OJ Simpson. He even playfully acknowledges some resentment that he had to watch Key and Peele do his show on Comedy Central. His delivery, if anything, is better than ever. And his content, for me, was at its best. I’m so glad to see such a triumphant return to the scene by the comedy magnate.
Just tonight, as far as I can tell, Louis CK released a new Netflix special, which is similarly progressive compared to his previous work. At the beginning, I wasn’t sure it wasn’t a bit of a low point for him. His introduction is abrupt and pitch-black but without any of the irony and absurdity that gave his past routines levity alongside the biting edginess. Also, his transitions lacked the indicators that normally tell his viewers that it’s all for fun (“I don’t know how to start shows, it’s just a problem that I have,” or “now that I know you’re cool”). He slowly and methodically discusses the issues of abortion and suicide with only the subtlest hints that he’s kidding around. The Atlantic (in a much better analysis than this) wrote: “The audience might be laughing, but I watched the first 10 minutes without even a nervous chuckle, amazed at the sheer discomfort C.K. was obviously trying to provoke right at the top.”
As Louis moves on in the routine, he discusses life as a parent and what it’s like to have kids. Thought he was done with suicide, death and abortion? Nope. Pulls it all back together. So was he joking? I don’t know, but this part’s much funnier. He starts adding in hilarious hand gestures and impressions. The high points that come to mind being the Victorian middle school dating practice of inquiring whether he might finger a girl he’d like to ask out on a date, and being seduced by Matthew McConaughey in leather pants.
In the end, the routine falls in line with his earlier work in terms of quality, if possibly coming in a little behind Chewed Up, Hilarious, or Word. By far, I’d have to say it’s his darkest yet—the bitterness in the material about romantic love is palpable, but it’s also some of his best work on addressing serious, hard realities.
Side note: Saw Tom Segura give a great show at the DC Improv not long ago. Great time, great venue, great performer.