I can’t say that I’m an ardent fan of the comedic stylings of D.C.’s own Dave Chappelle but in recent years, I have made it a point to view his series of shows presented by Netflix. I was more an Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor, Kevin Hart kind of brother.
Actually, what first caught my eye was the controversy surrounding Monique and her tirade over how much more Black, male comedians like Chappelle were being paid in comparison to women like her. For me, that was a brief blip on my personal radar screen.
What continued to garner my attention was Chappelle himself – his penchant for telling a story, his ability to deliver a joke whose punchline came out of nowhere and how much he made me laugh.
After recently watching his final contribution in his Netflix series, “The Closer,” I found myself doing something that I don’t often do when watching comedians do their thing: I listened closely to what he said and then listened to his explanation for the subjects he had chosen and his rationale for his perspectives.
And he made sense. I understood. And I was not offended.
But clearly, a lot of people do not share my conclusion, particularly those from the transgender community and their advocates.
Chappelle admits that when he takes on a group of people, making them the focus of his jokes, that he’s also examining himself, seeking the similarities which he shares with the “targets” of his musings and working through the human process of better understanding those who walk along different paths.
I applaud him for that. And I thank him, too.
Why? Because as a same-gender-loving man of color, I have often found myself being unfairly critical of the “T” portion within the LGBTQ community.
My criticism, I hate to say, has been fueled mostly because I cannot understand why those who make up the transgender community would go through so much pain and oppression because of how they feel inside. But I’ve had my own pain to address and hurdles to overcome. In addition, I’m still dealing with male privilege notions and my own prejudices. This is my truth and my cross to bear.
But as for Chappelle, as he concluded his musings on transgenders during his latest show, he shared one story that made me stop, examine my own shortcomings and turned a light on within my own mind and soul.
While talking about a transgender woman who he only knew for a short amount of time, he shared what he said to her one evening about the path she traveled and the challenges she faced: “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Her response was illuminating: “I don’t need you to understand me . . . I just need you to believe . . . that I’m having a human experience.”
That’s really the point, isn’t it?
Chappelle helped me grow in ways that I believe will remain with me forever. By sharing a brief conversation about a subject that probably confuses a lot of others, he hit a home run.
Maya Angelou once said in a poem that I reference over and over again, “Human Family,” that “we’re more alike than unalike.” And indeed, we are.
So, in his honest attempts to better understand a segment within the human family, the transgender community, Chappelle revealed his own humanity and willingness to become a better person – a man in seek of gaining greater empathy for others. What more could we want than that?
Sometimes, the jokes that comedians perform get under our skin. Sometimes those jokes, and with good reason, make us want to pick up signs of protest and demand that the comedian offer an apology for saying such “offensive things.”
But I’m not jumping on the bandwagon this time.
No, I am not joining the new crusade to go after Chappelle for allegedly being “transphobic.”
And while I may lose a few friends, I’m going to keep on supporting him, listening to his jokes and, most of all, listening to what he says.
I urge others to do the same.