The show includes some stand-up in front of a studio audience, but that's just an appetizer for the main course — a variety of parodies in the form of prerecorded skits. In a recent episode, Chappelle plays an itchy, white-lipped crack addict tricked into attending an "intervention" with people he has taken advantage of. In everyday life, obviously, a story like this would not be the least bit funny, but the writing is so good, and the characterizations so right on, that the audience is somehow given permission to laugh. Another skit asks the question "Is it possible that sixties television animals such as Mr. Ed, Rin Tin Tin, and Flipper were all violently racist?" The evidence is presented: the famous footage of a German Shepherd attacking an African American civil rights demonstrator, a white horse at a Klan rally, and a fake dolphin at an inner-city pool.
Aired Wednesdays at 10:30 p.m. on Comedy Central, Chappelle's Show is doubtlessly filling the mailbags with complaints. But the fact remains: Chappelle's humor relates to the real world and issues occurring in it, without glorifying or holding anything back. How will a town such as Ann Arbor — liberal, politically correct, and populated with "yuppies" — accept Dave Chappelle's sinful but truthful style of comedy?
We'll soon find out. Dave Chappelle performs two shows at the Michigan Theater on Saturday, April 5.
[Originally published in April, 2003.]