(or I've seen the best minds...)
Neal Pollack's piece on the news that Dave Chappelle has checked himself into a mental-health clinic in South Africa and backed out on the new season of his show sort of annoyed me.
I love Dave Chappelle and even though I don't know him, I'm a little sad about the news. Pollack writes,
Chappelle may be America's most incisive and original comic mind on issues of class and race, but that's not what frat boys are thinking about when they buy his DVDs. It's "I'm Rick James, bitch," all the time. Chappelle made his own choices, and, like the rest of us, he has to live with the consequences, even if he is better funded. It's not our fault.Pollack does recognize Chappelle's unique talent, but he's hinting that Chappelle is sort of a sell-out and that his current troubles may be a result of that "choice." I don't see Chappelle as a sell-out at all. Anyone who can include "incisive and original" bits on race, class and politics in their comedy in today's America isn't.
Pollack highlights Chappelle's drug humor and assumes drugs are the source of his problems when it's more likely a matter of his fame clashing with his integrity. (The New York Times reports, "Representatives of Mr. Chappelle have vehemently denied that drug use played any role in the suspension of his show.") In other words I give Chappelle more credit than Pollack does. Pollack's main intent is to blame and critique the wider "hipster culture" but by noting that frat boys love Chappelle too - even though he could be merciless about that type of individual - and slamming Chappelle on the fact, he exemplifies the worst tendencies of that culture. (Last season, "Chappelle's Show" averaged more than three million viewers a week, twice as many as Comedy Central's other big draw, "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart." I've read the DVDs are the best-selling for TV DVDs. No doubt Pollack believes the Bush-bashing Daily Show has more "hipster cred.")