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Don’t Hate Dave Chappelle for Skipping Flint Water Benefit, Bombing in Detroit [OPINION]

Comedy Central
Comedy Central

Dave Chappelle’s just-released Netflix special brought forth a confession that he had skipped performing at a Flint water crisis benefit for a last-minute seat at The Oscars, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Dave Chappelle hasn’t released a stand-up special in over 12 years. He basically vanished at the top of his game, leaving us all hopelessly devoid of his unique brand of humor. In recent years, Chappelle has started popping up again. A TV appearance here, stand-up tour there, but nothing that matched (or even came close to) the exposure of the high-profile work he was doing prior to walking away from it all.

Luckily for us fans, Netflix wanted desperately to get into the Dave Chappelle business. The streaming giant is reportedly paying him $20 million per stand-up special, of which he has agreed to release three. This week, two of those three hit Netflix, both of which were already recorded prior to the deal. That meant there was some outdated topical humor, which slightly dulled the edges of an otherwise funny set.

However, the special did bring forth the admission that Chappelle had dropped out of performing at last year’s Justice for Flint benefit last-minute, to instead attend the Academy Awards. This was the same year that Chris Rock hosted, and the #OscarsSoWhite controversy was in full swing, which actually played a role in the benefit’s timing. It was sort of the anti-Oscars.

During the new ‘The Age of Spin’ special, Chappelle talked about how he was heading for the airport to come to Flint, when he got a last-minute call from Chris Rock, who offered him a ticket to the Oscars. He justified his decision to skip the benefit, hilariously saying:

“Come on, man. What am I gonna do about that water? What am I, a f***ing superhero? I need to have fun! I need to live too! I didn’t f*** that water up. Stevie Wonder was there, they didn’t need me. I’m sorry everybody! I’ve never been to the Oscars. You’ve seen the movies I make.”

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It was actually one of the highlights of the special for me, not just because it was hilariously delivered (it was though), but because it echoed a sentiment I’ve had for some time about people’s entitled opinions of celebs “not doing enough” for Flint. You can read about that more in detail in this article I wrote last year (click here to see that), but the gist is “don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.”

The responses to Dave’s benefit snub have been more reasonable than those of the “they can afford to give more” people who were making us all look bad when the crisis first popped off. There is still a measure of Chappelle-hating going on in Flint though, which is ridiculous.

Let me say this as plainly as possible — Dave Chappelle doesn’t owe Flint anything. Never has, and likely never will. Actually, I applaud him for his honesty and empathy. Prior to his punchline about the event, he spoke very sincerely about the situation, which is more than enough.

In the early minutes of that same special, Chappelle also opened up about his notorious 2015 show in Detroit, where he was repeatedly booed and widely accused of being drunk. Dave owned up to bombing that night, but set the record straight, saying:

“If you saw it, I wasn’t drunk. I had smoked some reefer with some rappers. I don’t know if you know anything about hanging out with rappers, but their weed is very strong. Stronger than I was accustomed to.”

He also laughed off the Detroiters who chanted for a refund that night, saying he gets “paid for the attempt,” like “Evil Knievel.” Again, he’s right. Not every show is going to be great. Would I be upset if I attended that show? Probably, but it’s not a deal breaker. Stuff happens. I understand. I’ve had bad days at work too, but I still expect a paycheck at the end of the week.

It’s refreshing to see a celebrity screw up or be selfish, own it, and keep moving forward. There’s none of the usual, “I’ll go to rehab. I’m so sorry,” BS with Chappelle. He’s not going to pretend to change who he is because he had a misstep — he’s going to continue to being fearless, unapologetic, and hilarious… in other words — being Dave. That’s who he is, and that’s why we love him in the first place.

So, in summation — don’t hate Dave for being Dave. Just be glad he’s back. Now if you’ll excuse me, all this talk about water reminded me that I need to go put some in Buck Nasty’s mama’s dish.

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