"Chappelle's Show is skit comedy as it's supposed to be - a brutal skewering of contemporary life." - Entertainment Weekly
men argue heatedly aboard an airplane
. Though they speak another language with suspicious annunciation, from their subtitles
we as an audience are aware they are talking only about how they thought Justin should have been the "American Idol
Behind them sit two black men
, shaking their heads angrily. "Of all the flights to be on I gotta ride with these terrorist sons of bitches," one of them thinks to himself. "I got my eye on you, Al Queda
Just behind the black men sits a white man with his daughter. He wonders how two Negroes
got seats in first class
, deduces they must be rappers
, and that he will keep a close eye on his little girl.
Behind the white man sit two Native Americans
. One of them thinks to himself that he better not go to the bathroom or the white man will steal his seat and call it manifest destiny
Behind the Native Americans sit two Buffalo
. One of them says to the other, "At least the Indians
. Corn eating bastards."
And behind the Buffalo sits Dave Chappelle, fast asleep in his seat, with a newspaper
tucked in his arms. The Headline reads "AMERICA UNITED". Dave scratches his balls. Fade to Black.
Chappelle's Show premiered on Comedy Central in January, 2003 to the expectation, says its host and creator Dave Chappelle, of being immediately cancelled. It wasn't, and has since developed an incredible cult following as the funniest and most daunting show on television.
Deftly analyzing race relations, politics, drug culture and the American way of life through comedy, Chappelle has made a connection with his audience that is somewhat difficult to articulate. Particularly in the first season there was an evident lack of common sketch comedy structure that left the show appearing less like professional television and more like the basement antics of your funniest friends. The show has evolved so that you can no longer see the seams, however has grown creatively to the point where you honestly don't know what to expect when tuning in. Case in point: Though the show is easily defined as sketch comedy, Chappelle spent an entire episode in Season 2 re-enacting fights his friend Charlie Murphy (Brother of Eddie Murphy and cast member of "Chappelle's Show") had gotten in to with Music Mogul Rick James in the 80's. The result was one of Chappelle's funniest shows, spawning in the youth of America an instant catchphrase:
"I'm Rick James, Bitch."
In another Season 2 episode, Dave is fired and Chappelle's Show is taken over by less abrasive comedian Wayne Brady ("White People love Wayne Brady because he makes Bryant Gumble look like Malcolm X," said Chappelle's Show regular Paul Mooney on an earlier episode). Chappelle then spends the rest of the episode trying to get his show back, climaxing in an homage to "Training Day" that is too hilarious to spoil here.
Chappelle defies the label of sketch comedy. Though the show does have some reoccurring characters like "Saturday Night Live", their appearances are scattered freely in the Chappelle's Show Universe, unconfined to a single type of sketch. They come and go in the same sense that the characters of Quentin Tarantino or Kevin Smith's films all seem to exist in their own worlds. Among these character's are Crack Fiend Tyrone Biggums, Harlem Dice Player Tron, and a guy who simply is always doing the robot. The show also makes great use of its guest stars including Arsenio Hall, the aforementioned Wayne Brady, Snoop Dogg (as the voice of a puppet with VD) and Mos Def as 80's gangleader General Cornrow Wallace (Mos Def has appeared many times on the show, including as a musical guest).
Chappelle's Show exists as something bigger than sketch comedy; it's our world inside a circus tent, walking the highwire between brutal truth and satire, with enough color and respect for everyday life to make us feel okay with knowing that in the sideshow of existence, we're all the freaks.