I was a country kid so I grew up on ABC. If you are of the same era, you know what I mean. Pretty much sun up and sun down screenings of shows imported from the UK.
Many of the shows from the 1970s and 1980s still stand up or maybe it’s nostalgia. Fawlty Towers, The Good Life, Yes Minister, To The Manor Born told me a lot about England but mostly they made me laugh. They were comedies set in a far away place with little resemblance to home. They didnt make me feel blacker or invisible. I watched them because they were funny and sometimes they were funny even when they were sad. They did something to my insides.
I remember when it began to jar a little amongst cultural gatekeepers, the frissons of resentment that somehow we weren’t proud of local content. I cant think of any shows of comedic note that were produced in Australia around that time. Seriously. I can’t.
Then and now I’ve never watched a tv show because I thought I had to. I don’t think I am the only one.
The latest Dave Chappelle Netflix special to land on our screens is fresh air in a stuffy room. It is the very best of what a comedian should be. I wont spoil it because of its many pleasures is to settle in and just let it envelop you.
But yo, some may say, he has been doing this for a while. I know, but I am late to the David Chappelle party. I spent a lot of years where I just didn’t have time to watch tv, not when there were so many books that I wanted to read. And Richard Pryor was so good I could watch him repeatedly.
I get that something happened. Dave got pissed off and walked away. He stayed away. And now twelve years later he is back.
Dave Chappelle makes it look so easy. Seemingly random jokes. He checks himself. He pauses. He laughs at his own jokes. But there is someone one very intelligent behind it all. He pulls you in, he softens you up, he takes a jab or two and it’s all so well put together you cant see the stitching. His performance is superb and for me a hundred times over because he is black. He teaches me things I just didn’t get about America until I picked up on the nuances in his work. He is laugh out loud funny. He is fearless and he is cunning.
He makes me wonder about where Donald Glover goes from here. Atlanta was the standout comedy for me of 2017. Donald wrote it, developed it and stared in in. And yes, there may be a country mile between these blokes. If it wasn’t for their work who would know that there are differences and divides amongst black America?
Dave Chappelle is that rare artist whose generosity humbles us all. I am glad to hear he is making millions out of his work.
RATING: All 4 Dave Chappelle specials - 5 stars. Worth the Netflix subscription alone.
And while you are there, reacquaint yourself with Richard Pryor. And if you don't know him, check out Bill Burr.
And Atlanta is still up on SBS.