How Dare You Laugh!
Dave Chappelle, a clever comedian of the social satire bent, though not quite to my taste, began his (according to news reporting) “controversial” appearance as guest host on Saturday Night Live last weekend with an inordinately long opening monologue — the only part of the episode that I have seen, or would care to see — in which he touched on several topical items of the day, including pop music celebrity Kanye West’s weird remarks about “the Jews.” In the context of his routine, he made fun of the prevalence of Jews in Hollywood, and, even more “controversially,” of the way we have all been trained to regard “the Jews” (Chappelle’s joke about the forbiddenness of that specific phrase being one of the highlights of the monologue) as inherently beyond question, reproach, or, most sinful of all, suspicion as to “their” apparent influence in certain areas of modern culture and politics.
Though “the Jews” were hardly the exclusive or primary target of his slick, tightly constructed fifteen-minute stand-up routine — aside from Kanye West, he also commented wittily and/or insightfully on Donald Trump’s popularity, the White House documents found at Mar-a-Lago, the war in Ukraine, white voters — he concluded with the cleverest ambiguity in a routine built on ambiguities, an oblique comment on his own “controversial” status in this moment of phoney wokeness and cancel culture pseudo-sensitivity:
It shouldn’t be this scary to talk, about anything. It’s making my job incredibly difficult and to be honest with you I’m getting sick of talking to a crowd like this. I love you to death, and I thank you for your support, and I hope they don’t take anything away from me…whoever they are.
Naturally, right on cue, the Anti-Defamation League leapt at this ripest of opportunities to defame yet another innocent human being merely for daring to talk about “the Jews” in a way that even hints at the possibility that anyone might entertain the thought that any Jew individually, or any group of Jews collectively, might ever have done, said, or thought anything to his or their own advantage in such a way as to skew anything in his or their own favor — even for daring to hint at the possibility of such a possibility of entertaining such a thought as a joke. Immediately, the ADL, a league of public defamers, shamers, and smear merchants, the original cancel culture mavens avant la lettre, branded Chappelle an antisemite, and demanded an apology, not only from the comedian himself, but from the producers of Saturday Night Live for daring to permit Chappelle to appear on their show, and from NBC for airing the show.
Cancel culture with its intolerance of alternative opinions, wokeness with its fake sensitivity, and all such claimants against speech which have no purpose other than to limit free thought and open discussion of topics that certain groups prefer to outlaw for their own benefit (as they see it), are tyrannical irrationality unleashed, and the people who espouse, promote, or defend such claimants are joining in the thuggery, regardless of the alleged “cause” or the “oh-my-god” pretenses of the mock-sensitive groups or individuals in question. These spiritual tyrants, placing themselves beyond question, beyond humor, beyond reproach, as they pretend to represent this or that public good, or this or that cultural group, in truth represent nothing but their own power lust, their own petty self-interest, and their own disrespect for human life and above all the human mind. These holier than thou judges of all things, and their ilk, however, should not be cancelled in turn. Rather, they should be allowed and encouraged to speak, but never allowed to influence public opinion or policy. That is, they should be encouraged to speak loudly and proudly, merely so the rest of us may continue to laugh at them all that much harder, or to ignore them all that much more completely. Let that be their comeuppance and their torment: Make them obsolete, as they are continually threatening to do to the rest of us.
Anyway, back in the days when making a joke about Jews was treated…well, exactly as it is today, SNL had a regular cast member who happened to be an even cleverer, and braver, stand-up comedian than Chappelle. So let’s end with that.