Queer comedians are not here for Dave Chappelle’s new material.
Comedian Joel Kim Booster, who appears in Hulu’s Shrill and the upcoming NBC comedy Sunnyside, is one of several LGBTQ+ comics speaking out about the once-cutting edge icon’s new Netflix special, Sticks and Stones. In the hourlong set, Chappelle claims that not offending the LGBTQ+ community is the one “unwritten and unspoken rule” and unspoken rule of Hollywood, despite the entire history of film and TV being filled with homophobic and transphobic jokes.
Booster told the WNYC radio show All Of It that “it’s kind of sad” to see what Chappelle’s work has become, arguing that the once-beloved comedian “no longer has that many interesting things to say.”
“It felt a little bit, I don’t know, old, when I watched it,” he said.
According to Booster, the wealth and fame that the comic accrued from the success of Chappelle’s Show on Comedy Central has affected the quality of his material. While he “used to have really interesting and prescient things to say about power structures and things like that,” Booster argued that Chappelle “has been rich for a long time now.”
“I just don’t think he’s interested in dismantling that anymore,” he said.
When a comedian gets stuck inside their own narrow point of view, their comedy almost always suffers. Sticks and Stones could have used more perspective and more empathy for the communities Chappelle targets in his standup. He claims the “trapped in the wrong body” narrative (which isn’t accurate for every trans person) is a “fucking hilarious predicament” and compares being transgender to a Black man saying they’re actually Chinese, which ended in a terrible, racist impression.
Other queer comics have joined Booster in taking issue with Chappelle’s material. Lesbian comic Elsa Eli Waithe took to Twitter to shut down his suggestion that he should be allowed to say the word “faggot” if he’s also allowed to say the “n-word.” Waithe claimed this was a false equivalence, and as a member of a marginalized group, Chappelle should know better.
“You don't belong to the group,” she wrote. “This is mad simple, not clever and low hanging fruit. Not a good look, Dave.”
Gay comedian Guy Branum also tweeted about that aspect of the special. “Comedians should support each other,” he said, “and one way Dave Chapelle could support me more is by calling me a faggot less.”
However, Chappelle has long made bad transgender jokes in his standup, dating all the way back to 2000’s Killin’ Them Softly. More recently, he has compared trans people to Rachel Dolezal, complained about the prospect of seeing former Olympian Caitlyn Jenner pose for Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue, and said the “only reason everybody is talking about transgenders is because white men want to do it.”
In Sticks and Stones, Chappelle himself admits he “can’t stop writing jokes” about trans people, and it shows. Mr. Chappelle, why are you so obsessed with us? It’s tiresome, unfunny and annoying. Stop calling us, we’re not interested.