As a Christian, what’s your gut feeling about Dave Chappelle? I’ll tell you mine: He’s coarse; he’s often offensive and irreverent. I’d seen him in the Nutty Professor, I’d seen the show, I’d seen his standup, and I simply didn’t like it. I certainly didn’t consider his poop jokes and weed humor to be serious social commentary worthy of deep thought. I’m black, and I thought his material was incredibly racist.
I thought he perpetuated a stereotype of African Americans that I was desperately trying to escape. And ironically, everyone telling me to check him out was white. When the Dave Chappelle tray went around, I politely passed. Then, quite coincidentally, I decided to download his interview with James Lipton on Inside the Actor’s Studio from iTunes. Now, I’m hijacking the hype from Dave Chappelle’s Block Party to convince you to check it out. It totally changed the way I see the man, and it puts the concert in a much needed perspective, providing for a richer overall Chappelle experience.
My problem with Dave was that he was too raunchy. It always seemed like the very things on which the bulk of his material was based on were the same things I had always tried to avoid. I don’t smoke weed, crack or cigarettes. I’m not a pimp. I don’t like R. Kelly, and I’ll admit it—I’d never even heard Rick James! Despite all that, there remained in my thick skull the inkling that I was being too hard on the man. It’s not the sort of thing that you’d think would bother a person, but it did; it bothered me that I didn’t like Dave Chappelle.
I don’t like fennel, and that doesn’t bother me a bit. Why couldn’t Chappelle be like that? As it turns out, Dave Chappelle is more important than fennel. It bothered me so much, and in light of the recent hubbub about the man, that I asked God to open my eyes and teach me a lesson. And God did.
God put Isaiah on my heart. You remember Isaiah. When God commanded Isaiah to preach His Word, Isaiah declined saying that he was a man of "unclean lips." God addressed the problem and used Isaiah anyway. Isaiah went on to proclaim one of the most touching and accurate prophecies about Jesus known today, and it was uttered by a man with formerly unclean lips. Forgive me if that seems like a sparse exegesis, but it was enough to get the ball rolling in my mind.
The implications are endless. I won’t pretend to be more pious than I am. If I ran across Isaiah before God touched his lips, I would have looked down my spiritual nose at him and a whole host of other Biblical misfits for that matter. Let’s get a little closer to home; who are our modern-day Isaiahs? How many people do I look down on now? I don’t have to limit my list to celebrities; what about people I pass in the street, or the supermarket, or the subway or the local livestock auction? These are all potential Isaiahs.
The result of my mind-change is that now I am capable of seeing beyond Dave Chappelle the comedian/actor, to a Dave Chappelle created in God’s own image with an eternal soul and a calling on his life.
Think about it. Pray about it. If you don’t like Dave Chappelle or Hollywood or 50 Cent or Eminem or some other loud-living, trashy, unclean personality, scroll back in your Bible and remember that the person you’re judging is just the kind of person God is fond of using to get the whole world’s attention.
Oh, the movie, right. It’s a fun documentary. It’s shot on film, which is a refreshing departure from other popular docs in recent McMemory. The concert is an intravenous shot of energy. It’s unclean. There’s real people. There’s praying. There’s cussing. There’s Muslims. There’s a cute explanation of “Christian courtship” by two cuddling members of a marching band. There’s a hip hop trio you might of heard of called The Fugees who do some rapping, there’s some guy named Kanye who sings about Jesus. The details escape me, but the skinny host is delightful.