Reggie Watts Isn't Amused By Chappelle's "Bigoted" "Hack Jokes"
Dave Chappelle hosted SNL last weekend in the highest rated episode of Season 48, during which the uncompromising comic delivered an opening monologue wherein he opined on the midterm elections, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the ongoing controversy surrounding anti-Semitic comments made by Kanye West and Kyrie Irving. As is customary every time the iconic comic opens his mouth, the national conversation over the past few days has been chock full of journalists, commentators and comedians all voicing their opinions on Chappelle’s opinions.
Of all the comments made both in support and in detraction of Chappelle’s soft stance on West and Irving’s open endorsements of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, few were as direct or worded as strongly as those of the surrealist Comedy Bang! Bang! comedian Reggie Watts. In a series of tweets yesterday evening, the current The Late Late Show with James Corden bandleader urged Chappelle to “consider a different approach to (his) current social commentary,” and called out the SNL host for his “hack jokes at the expense of others,” saying, “it just sounds bigoted.”
Watts was uncharacteristically unambiguous as the multi-talented, self-titled “disinformationist” opened up about what he finds to be a troubling trend in Chappelle’s recent trajectory. “It’s feeling joyless and lacking the enlightenment you used to inspire. I understand the idea of crossing the line, but there are many more subversive yet unifying ways to do so,” he said in a tweet addressed to Chappelle.
Watts clarified that his criticisms are not solely focused on this past weekend’s SNL appearance, telling his followers that, “This is an ongoing issue of the last few years,” likely referencing the recurring controversy regarding Chappelle’s jokes about the transgender community that draw extreme reactions from every end of the political spectrum each time Chappelle releases a new special.
The intention behind these posts wasn’t to attack or to silence Chappelle, as Watt repeatedly pointed out, but to start an open-minded conversation about the ideas expressed in Chappelle’s comedy. “When you have a large platform and you say things that are being challenged by enough folks I think it should be addressed in some way. That’s just me. He can do whatever he wants. I just like to see good discourse of which there seems to be very little,” Watts tweeted.
“Everything I’m saying is done from a place of love … It’s an invitation to discuss the responsibilities performers have when faced with direct challenges from their fans,” said Watts as the chain of replies reached a critical mass of deliberately obtuse commenters who misunderstood his attempts to start a conversation with a call for censorship. Watts continued, "I would argue someone with a platform as large as (Chappelle’s) has some responsibility to what they put out there. Ultimately he can do whatever he wants but why not use your powers for betterment?"
Twitter might not be the best place to start a level-headed discussion about the responsibility an artist has for the ideas they put out into the world, but Watts’ earnestness and willingness to delve into uncomfortable topics will hopefully balance out the discussion on Chappelle’s SNL appearance that, right now, seems more like a war between those who think Chappelle is the world’s most embattled philosopher and those who blame Chappelle for the existence of anti-Semitism.
It's still Twitter, though, so Watts shouldn't expect any scholars to show up in his replies.