Within the last 2 to 3 months, any UW student with access to cable and a sense of humor has either said or heard the following 4 words… “I’m Rick James, bitch.”
The catchphrase’s popularity reflects “Chappelle’s Show’s” growing success as one of the premier sketch comedy shows on TV and represents just how hooked Chappelle’s cult like following is. Tackling subjects with brutally honest humor, Chappelle is redefining the boundaries of comedy on television.
With his unique insight and complete lack of respect for political correctness, nothing is off-limits as ‘Chappelle’s Show” has featured sketches dealing with racial tension in America, drug addiction, money, music and countless other elements of today’s world.
The show closely follows the format of the since cancelled HBO sketch comedy show “Mr. Show” in that it is a mixture of videotaped pieces interspersed with Chappelle introducing the clips for a live comedy club-style audience. Complete with fake commercials, parodies and bloopers, “Chappelle’s Show” doesn’t offer anything new in terms of show design but the comedy speaks for itself. One element where Chappelle makes his imprint on TV format is ending nearly every show with a performance from a hip-hop act.
While the subject of race is usually at the heart of all of Chappelle’s work, it’s always presented in a way America has never seen before. Where most African-American comedians hammer out the same trite jokes concerning differences between races (think of how many times you have heard the tried and true “black people are louder than white people” joke) Dave Chappelle finds common cultural ground and uses it as his base for comedy. One example of this was a sketch featured on the show titled “Trading Spouses,” where Chappelle simultaneously parodied the new home improvement genre of reality television (The Learning Channel’s “Trading Spaces”) and the different lifestyles led by black and white families and how they handle disciplining their children, cooking and their sex lives.
Chappelle isn’t afraid to make fun of his race own either. Where most black comedians stick to making fun of everyone else, Chappelle utilizes all racial stereotypes in his show, regardless of color. “Chappelle’s Show” characters Tyron, (a crack head from the projects) Ashy Larry, (a black man with dry skin and gambling problems) Tyree (an intimidating former convict from the “Real World” sketch) and Dave Chappelle’s reoccurring white guy voice impersonation are all examples Chappelle’s hilarious non-bias attitude towards racial tension.
Another memorable sketch includes last week’s episode where Chappelle and actor/talk show host Wayne Brady parody the movie “Training Day.” In the sketch, Wayne Brady is portrayed as a thug straight from the projects while still assuming his Hollywood persona of the proper black actor. Perhaps the best way to explain the scenario is to quote a line from the show, “Wayne Brady makes Bryant Gumbel look like Malcolm X.” Other notable sketches include the blind African-American white supremacist Clayton Bixby (one of the best satire sketches in television history) and the aforementioned “True Hollywood Story” of Charley Murphy and Rick James.
Dave Chappelle began his career at the age of 14 as a stand-up comedian in his native Washington D.C. After a few years of performing at local comedy clubs around the area, Chappelle received an opportunity to perform at the famed Apollo Theatre in Harlem. His act was showered with boo’s and Chappelle was swept off the stage by the Apollo clown. However, he persevered and became a regular on the East Coast comedy club scene. By the early ’90s, Chappelle was gaining national attention as a young and energetic performer on HBO’s “Def Comedy Jam,” and appearing on late night talk shows like, “Late Night with Conan O’Brien,” “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” and “The Late Show with David Letterman.” Later he would act in movies such as “Robin Hood: Men In Tights,” “The Nutty Professor,” “Con-Air” and his breakthrough performance “Half Baked,” which he co-wrote with “Chappelle’s Show” Executive Producer Neil Brennan. Currently, Chappelle continues to tour the country performing stand-up when not shooting the show.
If you want to see an unprecedented style of racial comedy, turn to Comedy Central every Wednesday night at 9:30 p.m. for Chappelle’s innovative and politically incorrect humor. Laced with profanity and plenty of hit or miss ideas, the show will either have you sick of hearing the word “bitch” and wondering what’s so funny or have you rolling on the ground in laughter.