EC-Sociological Talk-Chappelle Show
Comedian Dave Chappelle captivated audiences with his stand up; and in 2003-2006 with two season of the sketch comedy, Chappelle Show, a confrontational satire of politics and racial bigotry in America. Chappelle's Show regularly displayed racism and forces the audience to see the ridiculousness of the prejudice thinking when pushed to extremes. The sketches show the naked truth about prejudice and intolerance while openly ridicules those that are convinced that race is no longer an issue in American politics. The sketch I choose to analyze is not as well-known as the Clayton Bigsby or Niggar Family sketch but is equally pragmatic. In fact the sketch doesn't have a title or a lead in from Dave.
Instead the show returns from a commercial break and the viewing audience sees two Arab men sitting together in the front row of a plane, arguing in Arabic about the Fox Television show American Idol. Subtitles translate the conversation between the men. The first says, The Americans have picked wrong once again as I knew they would" to which his companion replies "Justin was the only choice in American Idol". The next scene of the sketch shows us the two black men sitting to the rear of the Arab men. Both of these passengers are shaking their heads while stretching their necks to look at the passengers in the front row. One of the men thinks to himself , "Of all the flights to be on, I've got to ride with those terrorist sons-of bitches. I've got my eye on you, Al-Quaeda" Behind the black passengers are a white middle-aged man and a young female passenger. Looking extremely concerned, the male passenger thinks to himself "What are those Negroes doing in first class? Must be rappers. (Holding the young woman's hand) I'd better keep an eye on Sarah." Sitting behind the white passengers are two Native American men wearing traditional tribal clothing. One of them says to himself, "Me no trust a white man. We better not go to the bathroom. White man will steal my seat and call it Manifest Destiny". The scene takes a seemingly absurd turn when we see two wild boars stuffed into the seats behind the white passengers. The subtitles read "At least you Indians got casinos. You corn-eating bastards!" In the last frame of the scene are Dave Chappelle and another white male passenger. The headline of Chappelle's paper, The Daily Truth, reads 'America United'
This sketch is provocative because it calls our attention to the fact that all cultures have racial attitudes about one another. These attitudes are enforced by our politics, media, and pop culture creating a dysfunctional society that believes racism is over but still plays off distrust and misinformation. As a society we are eager to leap into the new century with a postmodern view on race and an emphasis on meritocracy but the root of racism is often historically based and emotionally charged making it still prevalent in contemporary culture. The depiction of Arabs, whites, blacks, Native Americans and even wildlife culture in the sketch draws our attention to the strained relation that exist among us. For every race, culture or group that sees another as inferior, there is one that reciprocated the attitude. (Bell-Jordan, Katrina. 'Speaking Fluent 'Joke'. Performance Research. Volume 12, Issue 3. (2007). pp 74-90. Print ) Although racial comedy has been used by Black comedians Chappelle's approach of creating a visual set for absurd acts of racism to occur gives the audience a safe zone to laugh but also marvel at the absurdity of race politics in the United States. Comedians have often had an ability to criticize their society in a way that other intellectuals have not; their mix of satire and comedic relief show the audience the problem rather than tell or lecture them about it. This makes humorist like Mark Twain and Dave Chappelle all the more effective in helping to understand our society.