Comedy legend Dave Chappelle has released a surprise Netflix special entitled 8:46 dedicated to the death of George Floyd and the reaction in America.
Dressed in black and speaking to a socially distant crowd wearing face masks in Yellow Springs, Ohio, Chappelle said of the gig held amid the COVID-19 lockdown: “Like it or not, it’s history.”
He hailed young people who had taken to the streets to protest in the wake of George Floyd’s death for their “amazing work” in a “f***ing weird time.”
Chappelle described smoking a joint and watching Apocalypse Now in the early 1990s when an earthquake struck in Los Angeles and said he was certain that “I very possibly might die” in what he guessed lasted around 35 seconds.
“This man kneeled on a man’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds. Can you imagine that?”
“This kid thought he was going to die, he knew he was going to die. He called for his mother. He called for his dead mother.”
“People watched it. People filmed it and for some reason that I still don’t understand, these police had their hands in their pockets,” he said.
He compared the protests and reaction to the “wrath of God” and said “it’s not for a single cop.”
“[It’s for] f***ing all of it. I don’t mean to get heavy but we got to say something.”
Taking cues from a notebook on stage at times, Chappelle said he didn’t watch the video of Floyd’s alleged murder initially because he knew he couldn’t “unsee” it. But following calls for celebrities to speak up, he said protests showed the “streets talking for themselves.”
“They don’t need me right now … but don’t think my silence is complicit,” he said.
Chappelle listed some of the other black people who have died recently at the hands of police including Eric Garner and Michael Brown, and called out media commentators and author Candice Owen, who has highlighted Floyd’s rap sheet as “the most articulate idiot I’ve ever seen.”
While Chappelle is renowned for his searing take on topics from the transgender community to the MeToo movement and child sex abuse, he admitted at one point “this is not funny at all.”
“I’ve got some p***y jokes too I could do,” he quipped, before summing up the set by saying he trusted his audience and we need to keep the stage open for debate.
“David Chappelle understands what the f*** he is seeing and these streets will speak for themselves whether I am alive or dead,” he said.
“I trust you guys. I love you guys. We’ll keep this space open. This is the last stronghold for civil discourse. After this sh*t it’s just rat a tat tat.”
Fans hailed the set as “historic” and “part of the conversation”.
“I really love this man and what he has to say” said one.
Others described being “moved to tears” by his description of real events in the show.
CNN’s Don Lemon said in response to being called out by Chappelle in the show that he welcomed the criticism and it was “great he’s using his platform to talk about this.”
“Dave Chappelle is my favourite comedian and I do care what Dave Chappelle says … I’m actually honoured to be memorialised in a Dave Chappelle special” he said on CNN.
“The young people out there in the streets don’t really care what we have to say,” he said about the media establishment.
“But I do think that is not a moment for modesty, it’s a moment that we should all be using our platform to do whatever we can … to show these young people that we support them.”