Dave Chappelle is back. The acclaimed comedian debuted a pair of stand-up sets on Netflix this week, marking his first televised comedy specials in a dozen years.
Unlike the man himself, the legacy of Chappelle’s comedy never faded from the public eye. Countless impressionists have mimicked the entertainer’s signature catchphrases, and his observations on race, politics and pop culture still resonate after a decade full of rapid change. Many of the comedian’s best-known bits hail from his landmark sketch comedy show, Chappelle’s Show, which is still syndicated across a variety of networks despite its brief lifespan on Comedy Central in the early 2000s.
To mark Chappelle’s arrival on Netflix, here are five Chappelle’s Show skits that still hit home more than 12 years later. (Note: these clips contain strong language.)
If the Internet Were a Real Place
Back when this sketch debuted in 2004, the Internet hadn’t fully realized what it could be yet. Twitter, YouTube and Spotify didn’t exist, and web surfers were considering the switch from dial-up to DSL. Despite its early limitations, Chappelle captured the Wild West nature of the Internet and foreshadowed how much time we would spend in the digital world. “I just wanna get the score to the Knicks game,” Chappelle says, fighting off attention-grabbing efforts from virtual pornographers, pop-up ads and catfishers. Today’s Internet isn’t all that different, is it?
Celebrity Trial Jury Selection
Judging from the popularity of Making a Murderer, Serial and The People v. O.J. Simpson, America’s obsession with true crime hasn’t waned. Chappelle tapped into the same idea in 2004, when the trial of famed R&B singer R. Kelly dominated headlines. There’s a parallel to today’s sexual assault allegations against Bill Cosby, which are discussed at length in Chappelle’s new Netflix specials. In both the 2004 Chappelle’s Show episode and 2017’s stand-up, Chappelle laments the convictions of some innocent black Americans, and how those injustices give him pause as a black citizen when it comes to condemning high-profile black celebrities like Cosby. “Look, we’re talking about a justice system that had 500 people whose cases were overturned by DNA evidence,” Chappelle says in the above clip, while also citing the 1991 police beating of Rodney King. His delivery is humorous, so the live audience laughs—but the seriousness of those situations isn’t lost.
Charlie Murphy’s True Hollywood Stories — Prince
It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly a year since Prince died, but Chappelle’s celebrated skit depicting Prince’s “true” encounter with cast member Charlie Murphy is one of the many ways the icon lives on. And that was more than fine with Prince—fellow Chappelle’s Show cast member Donnell Rawlings told the Hollywood Reporter that Prince “thought [the sketch] was hilarious.” So did pretty much anyone else who saw the clip. In fact, it may have introduced a whole new generation to the legacy of Prince.”The world we live in now, people come and go … and I think it’s awesome that the millennials and younger people may have gotten reintroduced to Prince through a comedy sketch,” Rawlings added.
While George W. Bush is out of office, Chappelle’s portrayal of the commander-in-chief during the early aughts has a sort of Trumpian bravado that feels relevant. In the sketch, Chappelle’s version of Bush urges the press to fear nuclear weapons of mass destruction and decides to press forward with his agenda despite a lack of cooperation from the United Nations. President Chappelle also dismisses a White House reporter’s straightforward question with a similar level of indignation: “Damn, I knew I shouldn’t of called on this n—a!” snaps Chappelle, much to the delight of the live audience. “I shouldn’t have to call on you ’cause you’re always trying to distract motherf–kers with things like the war and skirt all the real issues.”
The Three Daves
“Take a look at the moments that made Dave the man he is today,” Comedy Central’s description of the sketch reads. The clip is a hilarious and poignant look at how Chappelle saw the evolution of himself over the years from 18 to 30. There is, it seems, a fourth Dave now—or perhaps even more. With the release of his Netflix specials, Chappelle is back in the spotlight—the very same spotlight that caused him to quit his show in the middle of filming its third season and seek refuge in South Africa after signing a $50 million deal with Comedy Central. Now that he’s back in the public eye Chappelle faces the same question of whether his sometimes polarizing discussions of race, class and sexuality are still welcome in mainstream comedy. The Netflix specials will offer the beginning of the answer.
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