Dave Chappelle’s Masterclass in Stand-up

Dave Chappelle's 16 minute monologue on Saturday Night Live was a masterclass in stand-up comedy, and The Illuminerdi breaks down why.
saturday night live - dave chappelle

The United States was treated to a masterclass in comedy on Saturday Night Live this week, brought to us by Professor David Chappelle. Too many will say I’m just sucking Dave’s d*ck because he’s Dave, but the question you gotta ask yourself is why he is “Dave.” Why is that even a phrase? It’s because he is that good.

Chappelle took the stage for an epic, most likely record-breaking 16-and-a-half-minute monologue last night on Saturday Night Live, and he did it at a time where we as a country were ready to laugh. Ready to celebrate, ready to simply enjoy the fact that we can revel in the collective sigh of relief that a tumultuous election was over.

Saturday Night Live Gets Real With Dave Chappelle

So without further ado, let’s break it down. We start off with his storytelling skills when he mentions his great-grandfather, who was a freed slave that became a juggernaut within the religious scene, along with a laundry list of his achievements. That’s the set up. He relates himself to that analogue and establishes himself as his grandfather’s contemporary simply by mentioning that Netflix and HBO are streaming “Chappelle’s Show,” which is quite possibly the best sketch show to exist in the last 20 years. That’s the turn.

RELATED: Johnny Depp Forced To Resign From Fantastic Beasts 3 By Warner Bros

Then he acknowledges the fault in his constellation by saying he’s not getting paid for any of it and reminds us that slavery still exists, but just in a different form by saying his great-grandfather would have shared his insight by saying: “This N*gga has been bought and sold more than I have.” That’s the punchline, and we’re only 2 minutes in.

dave chappelle on saturday night live

Let’s fast forward to the magic of losing an audience and bringing them back…TWICE. In the first moment, he telegraphs his loss of the audience. He specifically says “you are not ready”. Now, some saw it as a lesson in being taught about how Black people have been ready to wear masks and have been doing so. Everytime we go out and greet the world with a smile instead of tears, anger, and fear of an unstable present and a destructive future at the hands of our oppressors. As Chappelle put it, “come get these n*gga lessons.”

But Chappelle was also saying this to stab at the audience with a double-edged sword. Piercing not only the audience with a self-reflective statement that incites self-evaluation and thought, but also letting the comedically enlightened know that “here comes the lull”. He gives the lull with a quick comment on Trump by saying, “There’s bad people on both sides,” referring to Trump’s comment about the tiki torch bearing neo-Nazis from Charlottesville and turning it back on him.

And when the lull happens, he self-admittedly shakes his head in disappointment and says, “Alright, just trying it out.” Then he instantly wakes them back up with a line about Trump calling the virus the “Kung-flu” and laments on the fact that it’s racist, insensitive, and very, very, very… funny, and wishes he said it first. 

I did say twice, so let’s look at the other one that happens 2 mins after the previously mentioned first time. He breaks down his observation of Trump guessing at cure tactics for “The Rona” and, just like any good comic, he finds the funny in the somewhat mundane and diverts the attention of the clearly asinine mutterings of an orange idiot but rather one of the world’s leading virologists, who was sitting next to “The Head Cheeto.”

Watch him throw the dumbest ideas at the wall hoping they’d stick, like the shining UV light in the body and the all-too-famous suggestion injecting bleach directly into one’s body. All the while, nodding and giving validity to the imbecile before Chappelle quickly turns the joke into validating the income disparity between the sexes, instantly splitting the audience. You could hear the moans and boos. And in the same breath, he won them back by saying “did I trigger you” and holding the mirror back up at them and speaking directly to Lorne Michaels, showrunner and creator of Saturday Night Live. “I’m sorry, Lorne. I thought this was a comedy show. It’s like a woke meeting in here.”

By doing this, he validates his previously divisive comment and holds up the mirror a little higher for those in the back to see themselves, reminding them where they were, who they came to see, and what they came to do. Which is to laugh, all the while letting his comment from earlier have several meanings: “You’re not ready” for the comedy, for the thought-provoking insight, for the observational commentary of where we are and where we should be, and for the reminder of why we aren’t there.

*For an honorable mention on this subject, let’s address the Trump COVID and Freddie Mercury AIDS correlation joke. “Trump getting the Coronavirus is like when Freddy Mercury got AIDS”. *INSTANT GROANS* “Nobody was like… well how did he get it.” *INSTANT LAUGHTER* ‘Nuff said.

Let’s fast forward to the end. I know I skipped over so much in this piss-poor dissection of what most will say is the perfect stand-up monologue set in Saturday Night Live history, but what can I say. I’m lazy and the only people reading this are fellow comedy nerds or people that know more than me and are picking this op-ed apart just to comment on my almost fanatical sycophantic appreciation of Dave’s genius. Like I said at the beginning “I’m just sucking Dave’s d*ck because he’s Dave”.

In the end, Chappelle gives us a moral. A lesson to be learned, a unifying bit of insight. He reminds us that for the first time in the history of America, the life expectancy of white people is dropping. Due to heroine, suicide, and depression. He says that to all those that feel that anguish, anger and pain because they think no one cares. He reminds them, he understands. And when he says that, he’s speaking as the monolithic Black representative. He says we need to find a way to live our lives after everything that has transpired in the last four years. We have to find a way to forgive each other. We gotta find a way to find joy in our existence in spite of that feeling.

And he puts the cherry atop this moral sundae by saying “if you can’t… come get these n*gga lessons”. Singlehandedly saying that we are all one and we can all learn and lean on each other. And if you find yourself lacking, your neighbor may have your solution but, you’ve gotta be willing to humble yourself and learn. Chappelle showed up to SNL to teach us. He taught us that it’s okay to laugh again, and it’s okay to laugh at ourselves, it’s okay to turn tragedy into comedy. After all tragedy + time = comedy. Thank you all for coming to my TED talk.

Share your thoughts on Dave Chappelle’s Saturday Night Live monologue in the comments below.


Daniel Jerome

Daniel Jerome

Freelance Journalist Content Producer, Onscreen Talent, Moderator, Host, and Resident Blovian (Black-Whovian) for the Illuminerdi. Carefully written fact-checked essay in the streets, and irresponsibly unmoderated comments section in the sheets. Tweet it, repeat it, you can delete it; don't give a flub, 'cause we will all see it.