Dave Chappelle hosted Saturday Night Live this weekend, and as usual, the comedian pulled no punches on social issues. In his 15-minute long opening monologue, Chappelle cracked jokes about "poor Whites" and "murderous Whites," causing an uproar on social media. Whether the response was positive or negative, in most cases, it was laced with surprise.
Chappelle gave the SNL audience 15 minutes of stand up comedy on Saturday night before launching into the sketch show. He spent surprisingly little time on the 2020 presidential election's projected results, reserving the time for some jokes about the coronavirus pandemic, the economy, and other recent issues. On Sunday morning, it appeared that most viewers were preoccupied with his jokes about his hometown in Ohio, where he mocked the "poor Whites" he lives alongside.
Chappelle explained that during the coronavirus pandemic, he hosted socially-distant stand-up shows in a cornfield in his small town, which he said "was dying," apparently referring to economic collapse. While he shows were a boon to the local economy, he said some neighbors didn't like the noise, and before long, he was subjected to a town meeting about the issue.
"It was so embarrassing, and I resented it!" he said. "I resented that these country farmers could decide a guy like me's fate. These people don't deserve to do that, they don't know enough. They haven't seen anything."
Chappelle soon turned to jokes where he assumed that these local critics were racist and said that they probably didn't wear face masks in spite of the coronavirus pandemic. He said: "I don't know why poor White people don't like wearing masks. What is the problem? You wear a mask at the Klan rally, wear one at Walmart, too! Wear your Klan hood at Walmart, so we can all feel 'safe.'"
Chappelle also joked that White people have committed the bulk of mass shootings in the U.S., saying that America doesn't feel much safer even after Biden was elected president. "Do you guys remember what life was like before COVID?" he asked. "I do — there was a mass shooting every week. Anyone remember that? Thank God for COVID. Something had to lock these murderous Whites up, and keep them in the house."
Although these were all jokes, Chappelle left no doubt that he believed in a basis of truth beneath them all, even saving some time to remark on the real issues of addiction and economic despair creeping into White communities. Still, the response to his jokes on social media was uproarious. Here's a look at what Twitter had to say.
The Only One
Dave Chapelle is the only black comedian that can tell white people the hard truth about themselves and make them laugh while he does it. He was raw— Tessa (@CurtessaJacques) November 8, 2020
Many fans marveled that Chappelle seems to be uniquely positioned to say things that other public figures can't get away with saying — as a joke or not. Most seemed appreciative of this talent, not resentful of it.prevnext
Dropping truth bombs everywhere https://t.co/5VaWhnfqMm— Mrs.Eknoid (@EknoidMrs) November 8, 2020
He didn’t lie😭 https://t.co/fVEQ50U6Y1— RS1 KOLO (@ColorMeRosie) November 8, 2020
Although Chappelle's monologue was comprised of jokes, many fans were quick to argue that there were important truths in it, which shouldn't be ignored. They urged their friends to take Chappelle's words seriously, even while laughing at them.prevnext
If he made anyone uncomfortable then he did his job.— Irish Coffee (@irishcoffee74) November 8, 2020
Some commenters took turns reminding each other that Chappelle's goal was not to make anyone feel comfortable. Unlike other feel-good performers, Chappelle is almost always subversive, and seeks to make everyone in the audience take a hard look at their biases and presumptions.prevnext
Dave Chappelle being able to say whatever he wants in his material because nobody can cancel him >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>— • (@WholesomeRyan) November 8, 2020
These days, there are often discussions of "cancel culture" from the ground up, with media consumers "canceling" the performers they watch, but in the case of Chappelle, some were more surprised that NBC and the SNL producers let him say what he said on Saturday. They chalked this up to the comedian's legacy and his reputation.prevnext
Although I'm getting sick of hearing white ppl now in one category. I never did that to any other race. Let's be inclusive and move forward— Allison (@Allison3337) November 8, 2020
While they acknowledged the truth behind Chappelle's jokes, some white critics argued that they were not productive for the social goals Chappelle appears to have. This was argued, in some cases, but in many others it was ignored.prevnext
On the other hand, there were some with unrestrained criticism of Chappelle's monologue, genuinely believing it was offensive and harmful. Part of the reason these concerns seemed to be ignored was because Chappelle's reputation precedes him, and these jokes have been a part of his work for decades.prevnext
Lost for words, some viewers turned to memes and GIFs to try to describe their mixed feelings over Chappelle's monologue.prev