Dave Chappelle has a characteristic response to critics after his stand-up special won an Emmy on Sunday night: "shut the f— up." Chappell's latest Netflix special, Sticks and Stones, got a generally poor rating among critics, with a 32 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes at the time of this writing. Chappelle was not shy about treating his acceptance speech as a victory lap.
"Boy, this comes as a complete surprise," Chappelle said in the pre-recorded speech. "I mean, I read all the reviews and they said so many terrible things. They were embarrassed for me; I had lost my way, it wasn't even worth watching — I hope all you critics learn from this. This is a teachable moment. Shut the f— up, forever."
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Sticks and Stones was written off by critics as intentionally edgy for its own sake, with incendiary jokes about the "Me Too movement," and transphobic humor. One of the most notable outrages was that Chappelle declared he simply did not believe any of the men who have accused Michael Jackson of sexual assault, shortly after the release of the HBO documentary Leaving Neverland.
"It's a special night because comedy gets to be itself," Chappelle went on in his speech. "It's all we've ever wanted. I hope the war is over. We good? And as always, I would like to thank my wife, Elaine. Elaine has been with me for the last 25 years and has had to endure the pains of living with the greatest comedian ever."
Sticks and Stones hit Netflix in the August of 2019. It was Chappelle's fifth stand-up special at Netflix, following on the immense success of Deep in the Heart of Texas, The Age of Spin, Equanimity and The Bird Revelation — all released in 2017. The streaming service announced that the first two were the most-viewed stand-up specials in their history, and they garnered numerous awards.
Chappelle has continued working at a near break-neck pace through this success as well. In June of 2020, he released a half-hour stand-up special called 8:46 — named for the amount of time that Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kept his knee on George Floyd's neck. The special was recorded and released within the coronavirus pandemic.
All of these creations have been met with some measure of the backlash that Chappelle was referring to in his acceptance speech on Sunday night. However, Indie Wire critic Libby Hill argued that there was an inherent contradiction in the dynamic. She argued that Chappelle's critiques of "cancel culture" rang less true as he continued to win Emmys and other awards for them. Chappelle has five stand-up specials and other productions available on Netflix now.