Dave Chappelle was at his inimitable best the week after election night.
We were all shook; we were all stunned. No one really believed that a reality TV star who bragged about eating Tic Tacs before making sexual assaults could be elected President of the United States. Donald Trump himself hardly believed he would win and he ranted about the system being “rigged” and how he would contest the election results. It was almost like Brooklyn in the aftermath of the titanic struggle between Bob Moses and Walter O’Malley over aspirations to build a new Ebbets Field baseball stadium. No one really believed that the Dodgers would ever leave Brooklyn. On November 9th, Americans woke up to the new normal of President-elect raving on Twitter intermittently between a media pageant of generals, pundits and propagandists angling for cabinet positions in a new “Post-Truth” era Trump Administration.
Saturday Night Live used the untimely death of Leonard Cohen to have Kate McKinnon sing “Hallelujah,” in a melancholy, defiant tone. And then there was Dave Chappelle, on stage once again, with a suddenly surreal timing for his long-awaited comeback to television.
“America’s done it, we’ve elected an Internet troll as our President, “Chappelle proclaimed in his wry, understated tone. “The whites are furious. I haven’t seen white people this mad since the O.J. verdict… I watched a white riot in Portland, Oregon last night. The news said there was a million dollars in damages. And every black person was watching it saying, ‘Amateurs!!!’ ”
ISIS guys going underground with Grindr accounts. Mass shootings everywhere, including a gorilla in a zoo. Grabbing a ‘big handful of pussy’ at the Trump Hotel because ‘the boss said its okay.’ A black President he didn’t think was possible. Going into a BET party in the West Wing of the White House, remembering a DC bus stop from his childhood, and feeling hope.
Dave Chappelle put it all in amazing perspective. He joked about the killing of Harambe, and how black men in Cincinnati were going to start wearing gorilla suits. He compared a mass shooter’s swearing allegiance to ISIS to someone shouting out “Wu Tang!” just before making love – that doesn’t make you a member of the Wu Tang Clan. And he also spoke about Frederick Douglas being the first black person to come to the White House, and how Theodore Roosevelt provoked outrage in the press when he invited Booker T. Washington to dinner at the White House. He remembered how proud he was at being invited to the White House, and how that made him feel optimistic about the future.
Sometimes the only thing we can do is laugh about truth that is so gut-wrenching real that it shakes us to our core.
One thing we can say about this new future in the Donald Trump world; comedians will have tons of material. They’ve struck a unbelievable gold mine for at least the next four years, with heavy doses of truth, incredulity and fear mixed in. We’ll need Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock, Louis Black and Louis C.K. and countless others to help us navigate all this.
We need the laughter, and a gentler version of pain and reality.