Opinion: Dave Chappelle’s comedy and the invisible Jewish people | Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle

Opinion: Dave Chappelle’s comedy and the invisible Jewish people 


The Internet and media are glowing with anger. It’s the kind of anger that can precede a career-dismantling “cancellation” in our current culture.  

Regardless of whether the current target, comedian Dave Chappelle, deserves that, I do, as a Jew, find it disturbing that there’s a digital mob roaming around and meting out justice. We Jews do better with respect for law and civility, not mobs. 

Yes, of course, we must have tolerance, respect and love for people who are trans. Even Dave Chappelle says he feels that way in his new Netflix special, “The Closer.” The problem is that he also shows he doesn’t feel that way. 

Some of the things he said about people who are trans were charged and cruel. This paragraph is where I left a space to insert an example from “The Closer,” but, yeah, I’m not doing that.  

I suppose Dave Chappelle’s formula is to say something borderline insulting, or just insulting, and then follow up with something sweet or understanding. I suppose that’s how he tries to get away with producing hoots and hollers at the expense of others, by working to clean it up afterwards – except for when it comes to the Jewish people. No clean-up is needed for attacks against us, apparently. 

In fact, it sometimes seems we are invisible to the world when it comes to slights and attacks. It’s disturbing, but also just so … strange. 

Opinion writer Roxanne Gay tells New York Times readers the Chappelle audience was “surrounded by a joyless tirade of incoherent and seething rage, misogyny, homophobia and transphobia.” The words “Jew” and “antisemitism” never appear in her Oct. 13, 2021, piece, “Dave Chappelle’s brittle ego.” 

CNN reported on Oct. 21, 2021, that “Netflix has stood by the special, even after it was criticized as transphobic by some LGBTQ+ advocates, artists and even Netflix’s own employees.” The article, “Netflix made a mess of the Dave Chappelle controversy. It’s a crisis of Netflix’s own making,” mentions nothing about outrage over the treatment of the Jewish people. 

These examples are the tip of the iceberg. Now, I bring you the Titanic.  

In the “The Closer,” Chappelle says he has a movie idea involving aliens: “In my movie idea, we find out that these aliens are originally from Earth, that they’re from an ancient civilization that achieved interstellar travel and left the Earth thousands of years ago.” 

He continues: “Some other planet they go to, and things go terrible for them on the other planet, so they come back to Earth, and decide that they want to claim the Earth for their very own. It’s a pretty good plotline, huh? I call it ‘Space Jews.’”  

During a time of rising antisemitism and increased antisemitic attacks, directed at a people who faced genocide less than a century ago, jokes about Jews claiming the Earth should be unacceptable.  

Rob Golub is editor of the Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle.