He at least claims as much, in the opening of his new special Equanimity, released alongside a fourth and final Netflix special The Bird Revelation on New Year's Eve. This boast of his comedic talent is partially a tongue-in-cheek set up for a bit on his ability to write jokes backwards, but may also be some plain old self-congratulation. After all, putting out four highly praised comedy specials within a year's time is no mean feat, and is made all the more impressive by his self-imposed exile from Hollywood lasting over a decade.
Comedy fans have been understandably thrilled by Chappelle's triumphant return to the limelight, and this pair of Netflix specials has been received by many as both brilliant and thought-provoking. Never one to shy away from controversy, Chappelle delves into sex abuse, racial inequality, prostitution and politics with an astuteness that has matured into a more somber tone since his Comedy Central days.
Equanimity is the more polished and arguably the funnier of the two, filmed at the Warner Theatre in Washington, D.C. Here Chappelle shows his mastery of the larger theater crowd, with tales of his upbringing, family, and Trump election. In contrast, The Bird Revelation has a deeply intimate feel that allows Chappelle's more philosophical reflections to hit home in the smaller comedy club setting of Los Angeles, and the feeling is downright conspiratorial as he relates his fall from Hollywood's grace to a book about a pimp's frightening control of his Bottom Bitch.
Both specials are a perfect showcase of the storytelling craft that Chapelle has perfected. His ability to relate these stories, be they a light-hearted anecdote about his teenage son, or an examination of a tragic Civil Right's event, is completely captivating. There are times when a hush falls over the audience, as they hang on his words, at some points to be set up for a laugh but at others to simply let the weight of each point to sink in.
Not everyone has been thrilled by Chappelle's new material, however, specifically in regard to his comments regarding the transgender community and what some are calling a defense of Louis C.K. He has been called trans-phobic and misogynist, and some critics have asserted that he is “out of touch” with the insensitivity of his remarks. It is true that his jokes are less than politically correct, and some are indeed problematic, but then this is nothing new for Dave Chappelle. This is his preference, in fact, and part of his intention in what he is trying to achieve. In the larger context of his work, Chappelle in fact takes a definitive stance against transphobia and sex abuse, though he may not be as sensitive as some would like. You don't have to agree with each point to understand that he is creating a dialogue that is, at least in much of his material, as thought-provoking as it is relevant.
All in all, the pair of specials are a perfect send-off for the awkwardness of 2017, and are hopefully part of a more introspective consciousness as we enter the new year.