Dave Chappelle came out of isolation to bring a new stand-up comedy special into the world. Haven’t we heard this one before? The circumstances for Chappelle’s latest return, 87 days since his last performance, were a bit different. The new special, titled 8:46, was tapped on June 6 in front of a socially-distanced audience in his hometown of Yellow Springs, Ohio. Netflix released it for free on their comedy YouTube channel.
The title is a reference to the length of time that Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into the neck of George Floyd, killing him. Floyd’s death sparked ongoing national protests and calls for police reform. Chappelle at one point also claims that he was born at 8:46 a.m. per his birth certificate. A somber Chappelle used his 27 minutes on stage to address police brutality, and grapple with his emotions on the deaths of George Floyd and Kobe Bryant. “I don’t mean to get heavy,” Chappelle says at the beginning of the set, “but we gotta say something.”
Chappelle questions CNN anchor Don Lemon’s call for celebrities to speak out amidst the civil unrest in the country. “This is the streets talking for themselves, they don’t need me right now,” he said, adding a callback to one of his classic bits, “Do we give a fuck what Ja Rule thinks?
During the set, Chappelle took aim at Fox News host Laura Ingram for her “shut up and dribble” comments about LeBron James. He also had choice words for right wing political commentator Candace Owens, whose commentary on Floyd’s death recently led to her getting kicked off GoFundMe for hate speech, discrimination, and “spreading falsehoods about the black community,” according to the site. Owens, a black conservative and pro-Trump media personality, has been roundly criticized for inflammatory remarks on topics ranging from Hitler’s nationalism, to deriding the goals of Black Lives Matter, and downplaying the role of white supremacy in America. “I can’t think of a worse way to make money,” he said of Owens. “She’s the most articulate idiot I’ve ever seen in my fucking life.”
The special marks the sixth tapped set for Chappelle on Netflix since he reached a deal with the streamer back in 2016. Chappelle’s 2019 special, Sticks and Stones, won him a Grammy, but he received online backlash and criticism for “punching down” with jokes on PC culture, gay and transgender activists, and the #MeToo movement. None of those topics were addressed in 8:46.
The tapping gave audiences a glimpse of what to expect when live events like comedy shows return as the nation slowly begins to re-open from the COVID-19 pandemic. The special includes shots of chairs set up six feet apart, temperature checks before entering the venue, and audience members wearing masks, some emblazoned with Chappelle’s signature ‘C’ logo. At several points, Chappelle asks the audience if this is “weird,” while noting that the set made history: “This is like the first concert in North American since all this shit happened, so like it or not, it’s history. It’s going to be in the books.”