Why Dave Chappelle’s ‘SNL’ monologue just wasn’t funny


Dave Chappelle had the “SNL” audience — mostly — eating out of the palm of his hand Saturday night with his opening monologue.

But in a bid to skewer our preconceptions on anti-Semitism, all he did was feed into the most common, most boring, ill-educated tropes and give them a platform on network TV. Watching it, I did a Tina Fey-style eye roll.

Yes, Dave, everyone knows the Jews run Hollywood, oh ha bloody ha. Let me just reach for my Depends, you made me laugh so hard.

Yes, Dave, everyone knows the Jews take off multiple holidays that you can’t even pronounce — “sha-na-na,” anyone?

Yes, Dave, everyone knows the Jews run the media and, let’s face it, the entire economy. While we’re at it, I’ll let you in on a secret: We run the White House, too! And let me just introduce you to my cousin, Mr. Rothschild.

Chappelle went on to say: “I’ve been to Hollywood and — no one get mad at me — I’m just telling you what I saw … It’s a lot of Jews. Like a lot.” 

Amid slight titters from the crowd, he added: “But that doesn’t mean anything! You know what I mean? Because there are a lot of black people in Ferguson, Missouri, it doesn’t mean we run the place.”

In his opening monologue, Chappelle focused on Kanye West’s recent antisemitic comments, which cost him his deal with Adidas.
In his opening monologue, Chappelle focused on Kanye West’s recent anti-Semitic comments, which cost him his deal with Adidas.
Corbis via Getty Images

The most troubling part of his monologue came when he brought up Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving: “Kanye got in so much trouble that Kyrie got in trouble. This is where I draw the line. I know the Jewish people have been through terrible things all over the world, but you can’t blame that on black Americans.” 

The line was met with crickets, until a single audience member whooped.

“Thanks, the one person that said ‘woo,’” Chappelle said.

Chappelle also made light of the fact that Kyrie Irving posted a link to an antisemitic film.
Chappelle also made light of the fact that Kyrie Irving posted a link to an anti-Semitic film.
Getty Images

Can we all just remember that Irving was not blasted because he’s a black American? He was called out because he posted a link to an anti-Semitic film. For which he apologized somewhat late in the game.

And this is where we get to the point — artfully and often raised by British writer David Baddiel in his book “Jews Don’t Count.”

Chapelle said it’s not crazy to think “The Jews” run Hollywood, it’s only crazy to say it out loud. It’s also totally wrong — and offensive.
Chapelle said it’s not crazy to think “the Jews” run Hollywood, it’s only crazy to say it out loud. It’s also totally wrong — and offensive.
Will Heath/NBC via Getty Images

Because people think we have power, money and entitlement, it’s fine to mock “The Jews,” even under the guise of making fun of the tropes of anti-Semitism. But there are just 7.6 million Jews in America — out of a total population of 330 million — and we can’t all have millions in the bank or monopolize an entire industry.

Still, Chappelle said, the “delusion that Jews run show business” is “not a crazy thing to think,” but “it’s a crazy thing to say out loud.”

He also said of Kanye, “It’s a big deal, he had broken the show business rules. You know, the rules of perception. If they’re black, then it’s a gang. If they’re Italian, it’s a mob. If they’re Jewish, it’s a coincidence and you should never speak about it.”

Chappelle, who hosted “SNL” with musical guest Black Star, was praised for his monologue — but his jokes will help fuel the flames of antisemitism.
Chappelle, who hosted “SNL” with musical guest Black Star, was praised for his monologue — but his jokes will help fuel the flames of anti-Semitism.
Rosalind O’Connor/NBC via Getty Imgages

Chappelle has made millions from his cutting barbs on being black, he’s renowned for being one of our sharpest comics. Following Saturday night’s show, helmed by longtime executive producer Lorne Michaels — who is Jewish — Chappelle’s fans were quick to praise him for his biting commentary.

But it takes one cursory Google search to find the recent uptick in anti-Semitic attacks across the world, and jokes like Chappelle’s only help fuel the fire.

Yes, comedy is supposed to be provocative. And this is by no means a call to banish Chappelle into the hinterlands of social media purgatory. Please spare us the cancellation police.

All I’m saying is, as a Jew, I can safely tell you, Dave — you just weren’t funny. 





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