Before I kick this hornet’s nest, I just want to lay out where I’m coming from, and it’s one simple question: “How hard is it to say something?”
That’s it. That’s my bottom line. Unfortunately, we’re going to learn that speaking out is a pain in the ass to male comedians who can’t believe you don’t understand what their job is, you simple plebes. They’re pouring delicious, sacred comedy into your mouths, and you want them to take two seconds to act like human beings? How f**king dare you?
And, wow, that got heated already. This is going to go great.
So Neal Brennan is making headlines after appearing on The Breakfast Club where he addressed the recent backlash over the Chappelle’s Show R. Kelly “Piss On You” sketch. And on the surface, his comments do have an interesting anecdote, which is why they’re bouncing around the internet like crazy right now.
“I don’t think people understand what comedy is supposed to do,” Brennan said. “We will observe things, we will make fun of things. Did people want us to round up a posse and go arrest R. Kelly? Like, what were we supposed to do?”
Brennan makes a good point: Chappelle’s Show, a Comedy Central show, was one of the only places that actually took aim at Kelly. He equated it to Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator, which lampooned Adolf Hitler in 1940. It wasn’t his job to end Hitler’s regime, but to show how ridiculous it was.
And besides, Brennan says, Chappelle wasn’t on Kelly’s side. In fact, he saw some pretty significant blowback because of it.
“R. Kelly wanted to fight Dave,” Brennan said. “He literally… his goons stepped to Dave in Chicago and Dave’s goons intervened. The goons negotiated.”
In Brennan’s defense, Chappelle’s Show absolutely mocked the rumors that R. Kelly pees on “people.” But it’s a very generous interpretation of “Piss On You” to say that it called Kelly out. And I’m not saying the sketch didn’t attempt to shine a light on the situation, but it very jarringly leaves out the part that the “people” R. Kelly was allegedly peeing on were underage rape victims. In fact, all of the women in Chappelle’s version are clearly of age. Obviously, Comedy Central couldn’t have Dave Chappelle singing about golden showers next to dancing teenagers, but at the same time, it sends a very mixed message of “Oh, R. Kelly is just into some kinky shit.”
See for yourself.
As for whether or not Chappelle and Brennan knew the specifics of Kelly’s alleged victims? They made an entire sketch about it, and here’s where things get particularly messy. In “Celebrity Trial Jury Selection,” Chappelle is making a very clear and correct statement about the racism inherent in America’s justice system. It’s plain as day. On the other hand, when it gets to R. Kelly, the whole sketch turns into 100 percent rape culture. Essentially, Chappelle argues that for him to believe the accusations against Kelly, he would need to see what’s supposed to be a comical mountain of airtight evidence. When directly asked why he wouldn’t believe the underage victims, he slaps the bench and yells, “the burden of proof is on the state!”
What’s spectacularly f**ked up is that there is almost always little to no evidence in cases of sexual assault, so now you have an entire Chappelle show sketch saying, “Haha, suckas” about that very fact. It’s shockingly callous, and I had completely forgotten about the evidence part until I watched the sketch for the first time in 15 years while prepping this post.
Here’s where we get back to my main point of how hard is it to say something. These sketches are out there, so it’s not out of left field to wonder just exactly where Dave Chappelle stands on R. Kelly now. Sure, it seems like he was clearly calling him out way before anyone else did, but there’s also a substantial amount of wiggle room. On top of that, Chappelle declined to be interview for Surviving R. Kelly, which would’ve been an easy slam dunk for him. “Hey, we tried to warn you the dude is bad. Nobody listened!” BOOM. Case closed.
But Chappelle didn’t do that. In fact, he’s yet to speak out against Kelly, and he apparently gets downright pissy if you ask him about it. Here he is getting stopped by TMZ last night — which I’m sure is annoying as hell, but hold that thought — and when given a chance to condemn Kelly or at least support his victims, Chappelle’s literal response is, “Man, I just had dinner…”
On the opposite end of that spectrum, Chappelle was with D.L. Hughley, who had zero problem making it abundantly clear that R. Kelly and Michael Jackson are monsters, and that it’s bullshit for people to act like they know now but didn’t know then. Damn, right? I’d pay all kinds of money to sit in on that car ride home.
All of that said, my goal here isn’t to drag Dave Chappelle and by extension Neal Brennan. My issue is with the horseshit facade that comedians have built up (and their fans have willingly reinforced) where they believe telling jokes on stage has permanently insulated them from being questioned about anything. These dudes — and it’s predominantly dudes — are losing their shit over the slightest bit of pushback against the notion that they can’t just tell jokes and f**k off back to their lives with zero consequences for the ideas their jokes just reinforced. For example, that transgender pronouns are stupid, or oh I dunno, school shooting survivors shouldn’t try to prevent more school shootings. Off the top of my head.
The bottom line is Chappelle and Brennan made an extremely popular sketch about an alleged child rapist who’s finally being brought to justice. People are going want to know what they think, and it’s kind of bullshit for them to go, “Pfft, you don’t understand our jobs as comedians.” Of course, nobody expected Brennan or Chappelle to round up a posse and arrest R. Kelly. But there’s no denying that Chappelle commands a tremendous amount of respect in the comedy world and black community, so he could easily make a significant impact by speaking out against Kelly and supporting his victims. Especially in light of Surviving R. Kelly, which already did the heavy lifting. It would cost him nothing.
But Chappelle hasn’t done that. In fact, you’re kind of ruining his evening tossing him a softball about how child rape is bad. C’mon, man.
Header Image Source: Comedy Central