Dave Chappelle returns to the screen

Netflix released Dave Chappelle's collection on March 21, 2017. 

Though I was only 11 years old when “The Chappelle Show” ended, I’ve always been familiar with comedian Dave Chappelle whether or not I actually watched his work. He has such an entrenched stance in the stand-up comedy industry that it’s nearly impossible for a comedy nerd such as myself to ignore him. So when I heard that he was releasing two stand-up specials on Netflix, I decided that it was time for me to finally familiarize myself with this legend’s comedy.

After watching the two episodes, I wasn’t disappointed. The two hour-long specials actually incited laughs from me, even though I was watching it alone and tend to avoid audibly laughing when watching something solo. His decade-long disappearing act from the industry didn’t affect his ability to maintain relevancy with a crowd of long-time fans and newcomers such as myself.

The first episode, “The Age of Spin,” focused on Chappelle’s hiatus from performing and the four separate times he met O.J. Simpson. While covering topics like this and Bill Cosby — whom he talked about later in the episode — may elicit cringes from the audience, if delivered by lesser comedians, Chappelle managed to bring both levity and wisdom to these issues. He certainly doesn’t condone Cosby’s actions, but he has to admit that the man was once his role model and paved the way for African Americans on primetime TV. To Chappelle, neither aspect should be ignored.

In the second episode, “Deep in the Heart of Texas,” Chappelle aimed his sights on race in America and more explicit content than his first. While the first episode provides comedic insight into political issues, the second one comes off as more anecdotal and relaxed. Even though it has fewer laugh-out-loud moments, it’s clear that Chappelle feels right at home on the stage, chatting with his audience and even bumming a cigarette off a member at one point. In this one, the viewer gets an up-close sense of who Chappelle is as a father, brother and husband.

Neither episode is perfect. These hour-long episodes tend to drag in the middle and some jokes go on for too long. But these bumps can be expected of any stand-up comedy routine. What’s most impressive is that Chappelle proves that even after a decade of irrelevancy, he can still release two specials on Netflix and millions of people will clamber to see it. Even people like me, who have never seen a minute of Chappelle’s work before, still tuned in to watch a man whose name is steeped in infamy’s take on current events. And because of this, Chappelle’s stand-ups are more than worth the watch.

Emmy Freedman is a senior media arts and design and history double major. Contact Emmy at freedmee@dukes.jmu.edu.