Saying the name Dave Chappelle makes some people burst into laughter. That’s how funny this man is. Reading the name Dave Chappelle brings a kool-aid smile to most people’s faces.
His standup acts are experiences and his two-season shows are masterpieces. So when I read aloud the assignment, “Dave Chappelle’s Block Party” as a movie to review for the paper, the actions that followed in the newsroom are not suitable for print.
Being a huge fan, I was recovering from a Chappelle dependency addiction. Chappelle’s hiatus from the spotlight was difficult to deal with. I watched the DVDs of his shows for my daily fix, though I was still satisfied. (How many times can one watch “The Black White Supremacist” and Charlie Murphy’s story of playing basketball with Prince for the laughter to fade?) If that wasn’t enough, other comics never stood a chance to fill my Chappelle void; they were always compared to him. I found myself saying, “Yeah, they’re funny, but not as hilarious as Dave.” Pathetic right? The reports that he had stopped production of the third season of the highly acclaimed Comedy Central’s “Chappelle Show” and may never return to the standup comedy again, were saddening.
The movie “Dave Chappelle’s Block Party” was a hearty fix. It spotlights the talented comedian with fresh freestyle standup material and brings together his favorite politically motivated hip-hop artists, in a once in a lifetime concert set in a neighborhood of Bedstuy, Brooklyn. I was high again.
The movie is about a block party concert Dave Chappelle presents on Sept. 18, 2004. It flashes between scenes of the actual event and the preparation for it days before. The backstage footage of him rehearsing with the band could be in itself a hilarious short film. Like a modern day Willy Wonka, Dave Chappelle gives out tickets to the free show to his neighbors in rural Ohio, that would otherwise never have had a chance to attend. He provides transportation and hotel accomodations for several Ohioans, including a college marching band that helped start the concert.
Chappelle’s somewhat controversial standup material mirrors the points of view of his favorite hip-hop artists. Both having the weight of responsibility that comes with fame over their heads, Chappelle and the music artists have many similarities. They struggle as celebrities with the role of cultural representatives in a positive light. They try hard to not let success make them forget about their roots and give back to their communities. They both use their talents to express different messages than the ones usually not heard on mainstream radio or television.
Other similarities the comedian and musicians have in common, as pointed out by Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson, the drummer for The Roots, is that the majority of their audiences do not look like them.
Chappelle commented that comedians have a secret desire to be musicians while musicians think they’re funny. This combination of music and comedy is flawless.
Bringing together all walks of life for this experience and having it recorded is incredible. The different characters make the film memorable. From the current residents of the neighborhood, like the eclectic couple celebrating almost 50 years of marriage, to the day care center that supported the filming and film crews, the sense of community and a family atmosphere is really strong. The Brooklyn neighborhood is also home to some of the artists who performed and to hip hop legends like the Notorious B.I.G.
The day-long celebration of music, comedy, history and community is heart warming. The performances by Kanye West, Erykah Badu The Roots Mos Def, Common, Dead Prez, Jill Scott among others and surprise guests (Hint: Ooh La la la) are unforgettable.
Yohanna Figueroa can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.