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Over the weekend, I had a chance to watch The Kennedy Center presentation for Dave Chappelle’s Mark Twain Prize. This is the highest possible honor for a comedian to win. It is the nation’s top comedy prize, and the size and magnitude of the show demonstrated just how important it is.
But bigger than that, was simply the people that Chappelle brings together. Some of the best artistic minds came out to pay respects to Dave, who has been the single best comedic mind of the last 20 years. Chappelle’s show is a cultural phenomenon that has yet to be matched in both it’s wit and the issues it discussed in society. Dave then took 12 years off, and came back with some of the best (if challenging) stand ups of his career.
My favorite part of the actual award show is the section with Neil Brennan, who has been writing with Chappelle since “Half Baked” and was the head writer on Chappelle’s show. The stories he shared about working with Dave were to be expected, but what really stands out is the ability Dave has to make anything funny. It also helps that Neil has one of the best non-Chappelle specials I’ve ever seen “Three Mics” which is streaming on Netflix.
I know that Dave’s latest specials aren’t without controversy. And to be honest, I’m not a fan of him using the LBGTQ community as a basis for some of his material. But for me, I try and separate the two and look at the impact that Dave has had on comedy over his 20+ years and the topics he’s covered. Very rarely is Dave being malicious, but he’s generally a step or two ahead of everyone else on the things he notices and observes.
I’ll leave you with this. From the first episode of the first season of Chappelle’s Show, the story of Clayton Bigsby. A blind leader of the KKK, who also is unaware that he’s Black. Simply one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.