Dave Chappelle: The Closer. c. Mathieu Bitton

Dave Chappelle Moves on From Transphobia to Flirting With Anti-Semitism in New SNL Monologue

Oh boy. Dave Chappelle hosted SNL for the third time Saturday night. A controversial decision by the program and NBC considering the uproar around Chappelle’s transphobic jokes in multiple recent comedy specials (most recently “The Closer” on Netflix.) Many people argued that Chappelle should stop being given platforms for his hateful rhetoric and it has been rumored that several writers for SNL boycotted this episode and refused to write sketches for it (though Chappelle claims all writers were present when pitching him sketch ideas). 

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However, it appears that (for now) Chappelle has moved on from making trans people the butt of his jokes in favor of flirting with… anti-semitism. Yup, you read that right. Chappelle found himself unable to resist talking about the recent backlash that Kanye and Kyrie Irving faced for sharing anti-semitic and hateful rhetoric and spent the majority of his 16 minute opening monologue making jokes about the controversy. You can watch the entire speech (if you really want to) here:


Chappelle opens the monologue with a jokingly bland read statement declaring that he abhors anti-semitism in all its forms and that he stands with his jewish brothers and sisters. But then proceeds to indulge in “jokes” that rely on the age old trope of “Jewish conspiracies” that run both Hollywood and the world. However, he’s very careful to always cage the tropes in phrases like “I could see how someone could think” or “I could see how someone could connect these lines” and following up the barb with a punchline that sometimes undercuts the anti-semitism but sometimes does not. He states that he was shocked by Kanye’s infamous tweet (about going “death con 3” on the Jewish people) but then he goes on to make a joke comparing Jewish people in Hollywood to gangs or the Italian mob. 

This flirtatious toe-dipping creates a plausible deniability scenario in which he can always deny deny deny. The jokes are always set up as a back and forth between saying that people who believe the anti-semitic tropes are wrong and saying “but they do have a point though.” He’s adamant in defending Kyrie Irving (while admittedly also making a joke that Kyrie doesn’t believe the Holocaust happened) and dismissing Kyrie’s actions as potentially harmless. For him, Kyrie was just caught up in the Kanye backlash. Kyrie only shared a link to a video, he didn’t explicitly condone it. 

What Chappelle doesn’t admit to though is that the video Kyrie shared, Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America, is anti-semitic propaganda. The point of the misinformation-disguised-as-documentary film is to teach about the “international Jewish conspiracy” whose goal is to oppress Black people. It is full of Holocaust denial, made up quotes attributed to Hitler, claims of Jewish people controlling the media, and Jewish satanic worship. The film is based on a book by Robert Dalton Jr (a “Black Hebrew Israelite”) who also directed the film. Both the film and book can be purchased on Amazon and when Kyrie Irving shared the link, the book became a No. 1 best seller on the site. That is the impact that a major celebrity such as Irving can have by simply sharing a link with no context. 

These are downsides that Chappelle refuses to consider. As intelligent, funny, and insightful as he often was (and frankly still is) he becomes stubborn and intractable when he is told a topic is off limits. As a comedian, he rankles at the thought that his speech might not actually be free. And so when he is told that it’s not cool to make fun of trans people, or when he sees Kanye and Kyrie face financial repercussions for their anti-semitic remarks, all he hears is “you’re not allowed to say this” or “these people are above critique.” And much like a toddler being told he can’t have a piece of candy or say a bad word, it only makes him want it more.

And when Chappelle is aiming his laser-sharp wit at politicians or white America, this willingness to cross the line and push boundaries is not only hilarious but also socially groundbreaking. Attacking the powers that be is always a net positive. The problem is that Chappelle has swung this “laser” so far around that now he is aiming it away from the system that oppresses us and at some of the groups being oppressed. 

When he dons his mantle of “Free Speech at all costs” he isn’t thinking about who that speech is hurting and who it is helping. When he makes the claim that Black people can’t be accused of anti-semitism because “Black americans didn’t cause the Holocaust” he forgets that that same logic is used by white people when they claim “well I wasn’t around in the 1800s, I didn’t own any slaves!”  When he claims that trans people are too soft and sheltered and that’s why they can’t handle jokes he is conveniently ignoring that the trans community faces the highest rate of physical violence. That the murder of trans people doubled from 2017 to 2021. That in 73% of trans homicide cases in 2021, the victims were Black trans women. That when he makes these jokes at their expense, he is only affirming the status quo. He is only helping ultra-conservative MAGA politicians who are currently pushing through an alarming rate of anti-trans legislation. He is only affirming the anti-semitic beliefs of loons like Marjorie Taylor Greene and her base.

Maybe, just maybe, it is time for him to admit that his jokes have consequences. For both himself and others.

(Image: Netflix)

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Brittany Knupper
Brittany is a lifelong Californian (it's a big state, she can't find her way out!) who currently resides in sunny Los Angeles with her gigantic, vaguely cat-shaped companion Gus. If you stumble upon her she might begin proselytizing about Survivor, but give her an iced coffee and she will calm down.