My Thoughts On Dave Chappelle’s “The Closer”


Aiden DeMonte, Contributor to Scratch Paper

I got a lot to say about this special. 

Off the bat, I do not speak for anyone but myself here. I am cisgender, a big fan of Chappelle, and these are just my first impressions. Also, please watch it and don’t just exclusively read the headlines, or read tweets about it. There’s a lot more context to his special than a lot of people are leading on. The first part of the special when he’s not talking about LGBTQ+ is actually pretty good. Not classic Chappelle, or even up to some of his other Netflix comedy specials, but I did find myself laughing a decent amount, even if he does rely a bit too heavily on dark humor that you’d find in a middle school. The end is pretty great too, as it features a quite sad story about fellow comedian and friend Daphne Dorman, who sadly took her life back in 2019, and Dave is able to tie the loose ends of his special into it, while also keeping it real and funny. He has a couple fun segments regarding COVID-19 and children’s books, but the first topic of this special that I want to get into is cancel culture. 

Let’s get into “cancel culture” for a second, because I’m personally very sick of every comedian complaining about it. Chappelle is very anti-cancel culture and he names the Kevin Hart & Oscars situation in his rant. No matter your stance on what happened back in 2018, using one example is not a reasonable defense for such a complicated topic. I think when a majority of the people who have been deplatformed have not been attacked for jokes, but rather issues regarding sexual misconduct (Chris D’Elia, Louis C.K.) or unironic discrimination (Sam Hyde), I don’t think that it comes down to what Chappelle views as people speaking on controversial topics and being attacked for it. I also find it weird that Dave wants to claim that Twitter is insignificant, but then he also wants to act like cancel culture is huge. You can’t have it both ways. 

The real meat of this special is his remarks about the trans community. This is the reason I wrote this whole review and I have a lot of feelings about the way Chappelle has and continues to approach this topic. I don’t think Dave hates trans people. I really don’t. The story he tells about Daphne (who was a transwoman) was, when separated from the context of this special, quite touching. But that’s the thing, it’s really hard for me to say that Dave doesn’t actually hate this group of people, when he loves to make jokes about them.  He says he recognizes and stands with oppressed people, yet proudly calls himself a TERF (trans-exclusionary radical feminist). He wants to convince you so badly that he is not punching down, to the point of making it a recurring theme, but nearly all of his jokes are at the expense of trans people. He talks the talk, he does not walk the walk. Again, if he saw a trans person in real life, I don’t think he’d outwardly discriminate against them or anything, but I also think his views on this topic are so fossilized, because he feels pressured to keep them that way. He doesn’t want to be seen as a person who gives into any sort of mob, who caves into any sort of thinking, even when it’s for the benefit of this group of minorities. He has always been a comedian that is not afraid to get dark, he has tackled the LGBTQ+ community several times before in the past. My issue is that he does not see the harm in what he’s doing, and he certainly has not evolved. Worst of all, he’s not funny in this section. I only chuckled a couple times, the vast majority of this special had me completely lacking any emotion, and when I did react, it was out of anger. His take on J.K Rowling infuriated me on a very emotional level. He comes to the aid of the Harry Potter author, supports the idea that “gender is a fact” and claims he is “Team TERF”.  How can you claim not to hate this group of people, when you identify with the oppressor? When you actively identify with the TERF community, why should we trust you when you say you’re an ally? Dave wants to act like he’s not the power that he once used to fight against. It greatly upsets me because these feelings bleed into his story about Daphne. It feels like he’s using her as a prop. It’s like if I were to tell 30 minutes of racist jokes, and then dedicate the special to my one black friend. At the end of this special, Dave says he’s going to stop making LGBTQ+ jokes, and while I never like to promote any source of censorship, this topic seems to be something he is not fully informed about, and I hope he is able to get in touch with people who can show him why the way he treats the community isn’t the best. 

Now, that doesn’t mean he was 100% wrong at every part of this special. He has a  valid point about mob mentality. When Daphne supported “Sticks And Stones” (Chapelle’s previous stand-up special), she got attacked and harassed for days on end by the trans community. I think there is a real issue on Twitter where people won’t listen to another viewpoint. I personally did not like “Sticks And Stones” due to a lot of its subject matter (it also tackled the LGBTQ+ community in a very awkward way), but if someone from that community wanted to defend it, I would listen to what they had to say before I bashed them. We live in an age where people do not listen to each other at all, more so than ever before. There is a lot of potential in this topic, but I wish this was properly explored, instead of being used for ammunition on why cancel culture is crazy.

This hurts even more when you realize that this is his last Netflix special for the time being, and potentially his final stand-up special. This might be the last time we ever hear recorded stand-up from him, and it’s pretty much entirely him vs the LGBTQ+ community. It’s not completely awful, but it misses the mark for the majority of it’s runtime. What a disappointing end.