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HomeBlogsMark and Candice's blogIf You Judge Dave Chappelle's "Equanimity" and "The Bird Revelation" by Sound Bites, You've Missed the Point

If You Judge Dave Chappelle's "Equanimity" and "The Bird Revelation" by Sound Bites, You've Missed the Point

December 31, 2017 113Views

These two performances can be easily discredited in soundbites. You take little parts of what he said and just make an entire news story that will anger people who haven't seen it.

I don't think I have ever seen a comedy standup special that I would describe as haunting or chilling, but that's exactly how I feel after watching the Netflix comedy specials from Dave Chappelle called “Equanimity” and “The Bird Revelation.” These are two separate comedy specials. “Equanimity” handles different material than the second one. Two different locations. Two different events. They have two very different tones.

 

Mark says

Something that struck me, especially because we actually watched “The Bird Revelation” twice back to back, which is really unusual for us, but I had missed the first 10 or so minutes of it puttering around the house, and Candice wanted to watch it again. During the second watch through I noticed that Dave Chappelle embodies in both comedy specials the attitude and the delivery that you find in the best pastors and preachers, not the stereotypically African-American pastors who have a reputation for being incredibly emotional and characterized for raising of their voice and getting the audience to “amen.” That's the stereotype, but the truth is if you ever watch or been in a sermon with a decent pastor who got you to think, what they did was a lot of story telling and a lot of connecting ideas throughout the course of those stories.

In both cases Dave Chappelle is speaking truth through storytelling in a way that connects these really big ideas directly to your life. And I wouldn't say that everything he says is perfect, but if you walk away from watching both of these, especially if you binge them and watch them back to back and you don't ask some questions about your own life as a result, I don't think you have connected with the material in a way that’s needed.

 

Candice says

Yeah, I agree with you to an extent. The thing that’s so powerful about his storytelling is that he'll say some kind of usually controversial statement or something I don't agree with and I think, “Oh Lord, why did he say that?” or you can kind of see the headlines that are going to come from people being upset that he said X, Y, or Z thing. But then as he continues to talk, I found that there was truth in what he said. No matter how uncomfortable the truth was that we didn't want to hear, it ends up making sense. And I think that's the thing that's so amazing about the way he is able to weave a story.

 

Mark says

Yeah and I think the interesting thing about that truth is you get the realization that it's not a truth that Dave himself likes either. He addresses some big issues that are currently going on like the #metoo movement and the uncovering of the all of these sexual predators in Hollywood. He addresses it in a way where he says some things that, like Candice says, immediately make you feel uncomfortable because there are some misogynistic viewpoints buried in them. Then the more you go, the more you realize he didn't just say it because he believes those things but actually because he's aware that they’re current viewpoints that people have that that are wrong but yet completely unchanged. I think the most potent idea is that the system needs changing versus changing people.

That idea pervades both “Equanimity” and “The Bird Revelation.” It’s an idea that is so timely and frankly so powerful right at the start of a new year because we're in a situation where regardless of where you land on the political spectrum you have to look at the state of things in this country and wonder will it ever be better or how can it be fixed. Watching Chappelle so effortlessly point out how it's not the people that need to be attacked, not individual politicians or even their beliefs that need to be addressed, but rather it is the system that enabled and empowered those beliefs. In both stand ups he offer those ideas. Of course he can’t offer solutions because no one can. If it was that easy, we would already have solved the problems. But the point is it's supposed to make you think about how how deep do I need to dive into my own life and my community if I want to make a change versus attacking individual people.

 

Candice says

I would say that “Equanimity” is basically more on its face what you expect from a stand-up special. The last stand-up special that he did for Netflix was a two-part comedy special like this one. And I remember the last time watching the first one and finding it to be so hilarious. It was amazing. Dave Chappelle was so on his game. Then I watched the second one and felt like he didn't know when to stop. I thought he really should have just made the one and not done the second. And when I first started watching “The Bird Revelation,” at first I felt the same way where I thought he had such a great set with “Equanimity.” There was an amazing callback in that one that just works so well. And he even boasts in “Equanimity” about how partly the reason why he wants to leave comedy again is because he's just too good at it. I thought, “It's almost weird to talk about that you're so good at something at the beginning of a stand up. What if this is terrible?” They actually turned out to be really good. So I was like, “OK so maybe you are just really good at this.”

And then when “The Bird Revelation” started there was so many places I was pointing out to Mark as he was watching the first 10 minutes that he had missed. I kept saying, “There's a couple places here where he just completely loses me.” You can feel that he loses the audience as well because he just says something that sounds victim blaming and it was a real turnoff. But having watched it twice, I hope people will push through those feeling of “You've said something I don't agree with. And so I'm going to reject this and walk away.”

 

Mark says

He talks about the the concept of strength of spirit. It's almost like he makes the audience live through that in that moment. Like he tries to shake them. He tries to offend them a little bit and make them feel uncomfortable. It's a question of “If you're going to persevere through this, what else are you going to persevere through for the sake of an idea?”

Maybe I'm attributing deeper meaning to this but given how deep he gets at the very end, and I'm obviously not going to spoil it, but if you stick through to the end of “The Bird Revelation,” however deep you think I'm talking about, it's about ten times as deep as that.

 

Candice says

I would compare “The Bird Revelation” to the second half of Patton Oswalt's “Annihilation.” It's not that it ceases to be comedy but it transcends comedy. It has humor in it simply because these men don't know how to be any other way but they are talking about the darkest possible shit that you could imagine. At the end of the second stand up, Mark and I didn't say a word. I don't remember laughing.

 

Mark says

I didn't laugh at all through the second half of it not because it wasn't funny. It was. That part of my brain just wasn't engaged.

 

Candice says

But I was so engaged in to what he was saying.

 

Mark says

The part of my brain that deals with these deep ideas was the part that was spinning.

 

Candice says

I was sitting there wondering how I never knew Dave Chappelle was this smart and this deep. He transcends the medium, and I'm glad he had this platform. He kept saying this one phrase over and over which was “real talk.” “This is real talk.” And this is some of the realest shit I've ever heard someone say on stage. No punchline. This is just him talking to a group of people and through Netflix to millions of people because I hope a whole lot of people watch this. I couldn't really breathe. At the end of it I didn't know what to say to Mark. Literally the only thing I said was “We need to watch this again” because my brain hadn't processed what I had just experienced.

 

Mark says

You know it's one of the one of the most powerful ironies especially taken both back to back is he toyed with the concept of his own success and the idea that his success has removed him from our sort of our level of experience because making as much money as he has makes him not like us. But the truth of it is when it comes to dealing with big issues like where the country is going in, what led us to this point where all of these people that were so important in the entertainment industry are being outed as predators, he's really in the same boat as us, which is not really knowing what the answer is and not really being able to distance himself from the pain of it. And I think that's one of the things that makes it so powerful to watch is he's joking about it because, like Candice said, that's his nature. He can't help that. But he's in pain just like we are. And there's a part of that that is so humanizing and yet he gives voice in such complexity to that pain and talks through different ideas that are deep ideas that result from it that you almost wonder, “Without the pain would we have had this conversation?”

The part that is incredible and watching all of this is, yeah, he's a man who has millions and millions of dollars and success and people that idolize him and he's created so many other comedians have followed in his footsteps, especially when it comes to the type of comedy that he did on his show, and he addresses that and you realize what an effect he's had on the world. If you're thinking about art being a means to immortality. He is immortal. He will continue to be thought of and discussed for decades to come.

 

Candice says

He mentions in “Equanimity” that he's going to take another 12-year break, and he's 44 now, so he'll be 56 if he comes back. I was watching “The Bird Revelation” and I realized what an important thinker we will have lost by him not sharing his thoughts with us anymore.

 

Mark says

There were a few news stories that happened last year where there was a discussion about him wanting to get involved in politics in Ohio, which is where he lives. I hope for the sake of what we saw in both of these specials that in some way or another he gets involved. I don't know his qualifications, but I would definitely say philosophically and intellectually, he's on a par with or above many of the politicians we presently have.

 

Candice says

By far.

 

Mark says

And by far more educated than the people we're currently dealing with on a national stage. So I hope that in his absence from comedy he doesn't disengage from society.

 

Candice says

Yeah I think the thing that's so amazing about comedians and really great writers is they're able to be in the world but view it like an outsider. You are within the machine, yet you still see how this how it works as a whole or how the systems are broken and then are able to comment on them in a way that is palatable to the average person. I think that's the genius of comedy, and if that is the genius of comedy, then Dave Chappelle is the Einstein of comedy because he is better than probably anyone else in our time. It's so amazing to see someone elevate and use this medium for the things that he's talking about.

 

Mark says

Anybody can point to something and say this is weird. This is funny. But Chappelle transcends that. This is us.

 

Candice says

It's beyond Seinfeld humor.

 

Mark says

It's not just observational. Naturalism or birdwatching, that's observational. This is actually on a genetic level. This is looking at what makes a bird different from anything else. And that's what makes it so powerful because you have to talk about it afterwards. I'm sure there will be conversations about things that he said that were controversial. This aired today I think in the coming weeks there will be people that will draw attention to that. He may take some ire for a few of the things that he said. I think far more important than any of those conversations, while they are important, is that people start talking about the deeper elements that he brings to the fore which is how do we move forward. How do we as people address these other issues?

 

Candice says

These two performances can be easily discredited in soundbites. You take little parts of what he said and just make an entire news story that will anger people who haven't seen it.

 

Mark says

Much like the Last Jedi if you missed the subtlety you will miss the entire point.

 

Candice says

Chappelle may say something that you don’t agree with but just keep listening. Sometimes when he says something I think there's no way he's going to be able to fight his way out of this. There's no way he is going to get the audience back onboard with him. But each and every time, I was right back onboard listening to him, and even if not agreeing, then at least seeing his point of view.

 

Mark says

And I think the last thing that I would say about it is if you are one of the groups that things that he said were damaging to, by no means are we minimizing that. If you felt offended or hurt by things that you said you are you. I agree with you 100 percent. Things that he said made me uncomfortable, but I challenge people to think, “Was that the point?” Was what he said like Michael Richards saying the n-word onstage because that was the only word he felt empowered him or is he saying these shocking things to make us question the accepted discussion that's going on society? I think that's what transcends saying something for the sake of being shocking and saying something to make people think and talk.

Mark and Candice

Mark and Candice

Sometimes the best part of reading an article online is engaging in a conversation in the comment section. However, discussions involving opposing points of view between strangers can devolve into a toxic environment. So what if these conversations were had between two people who loved each other?

At Cheek to Geek, our contributors consist of a diverse group of couples who are steeped in geek and popular culture. Our reviews reflect the back-and-forth, opposing or concurring, debates that geeks are notorious for having. But our founders, Mark and Candice Roma, have always felt that the love and respect felt for certain fandoms should carry over into the way we discuss them. Candice hopes that by modeling fruitful and productive discourses in our blogs, vlogs, and podcasts that we can show our readers the value in having disparate opinions and that differing perspectives don’t have to lead to hostile confrontation. “Mark and I have been together almost nine years, and every time we go see a movie, read book, go to a new restaurant, or see something awesome, we immediately ask what the other one thought. We don’t always agree, but having a conversation with my husband is my favorite part of experiencing something new.”

Although Cheek to Geek focuses on the opinions of specific couples, Mark believes that our vision for the site will extend far beyond that. “Ultimately the goal of art is to communicate, and the goal of communication is to build a community.” Our mission is to create a positive, inclusive, and safe environment for the appreciation and discussion of popular art in all its forms. 

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