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Why is Dave Chappelle’s malice so winning? [Slate Magazine]

A challenge, though, when watching Chappelle’s Show, is to resist the temptation to grant it—because Chappelle is black, and because he deals in harsh racial caricatures, and because you’re laughing your ass off, and because you want to believe you’re a progressive person—a political significance that it doesn’t have. New York Press film critic Armond White, for example, credits Chappelle’s Show with “subverting racism, sexism, and the clichés you might call blackism.” But Chappelle doesn’t “subvert” these things—he exploits them. That is, he takes eager advantage of an obvious double standard: White comedians have either to avoid race or treat it with exquisite caution, but black comedians like Chappelle are able to extract laughs from America’s racial hang-ups, not necessarily from a solemn underlying commitment to racial justice, but often with an unfettered and indiscriminate comic malice. I’m not complaining, though. At least somebody gets to do it.


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