Dave Chappelle is accused of ‘hitting’ in the movie The Closer. How can comedy rise from here?

Dave Chappelleis the latest Netflix special asks fans and comedians questions about what rules should be applied to the art of comedy.

“The Closer,” the sixth stand-up special in Chappell’s deal with Netflix, sparked responses with its transphobic commentary, Netflix employees should leave in protest when co-executive director Ted Sarandos doubled his defense. Chappelle later responded to feedback on his special with a clip from a recent shoot.

“I want everyone in this audience to know that even though the media is presenting this, that I’m against this community, that’s not it,” Chappelle said in an Instagram post posted Monday. “Don’t blame the LBGTQ community (sic) for any of this (swearing). It has nothing to do with them. It’s about corporate interest and what I can say and what I can’t.”

‘You won’t call me’ :: Dave Chappelle on working with the trans community; says a fired Netflix employee

Netflix’s recent special Dave Chappelle was considered a “hit” on the trans community, but what does this discourse mean for the future of comedy?

The discourse of what a comedian can and cannot say has been going on for weeks. Among the topics that are much discussed on social media: Did Chappelle “hit” in a trans community? Which comedians should we give platforms to? And is comedy protected by freedom of speech? As the conversation continues, the comedians assess how the genre is evolving from that point.

Here’s why: Netflix’s support for Dave Chappell sets a dangerous precedent

“Times are changing, people are changing, society is moving in a certain direction. … It seems to me that there is this misunderstood idea of ​​freedom of speech as it is related to comedy,” says Jake Kroeger, founder. Comedy Bureau, an organization focused on “advancing the art form of comedy” in Los Angeles. “You can say what you want … but people can also feel and express their feelings about your comedy freely, and that’s how it goes.”

What does ‘punching up’ or ‘punching down’ mean in comedy?

Critics of The Closer say Chappelle “hit” the trance community because, as a black comedian, he attacked a marginalized group that doesn’t belong to him. Denzel Belin, sketch comedian and writer from Minneapolis, describes the terms “punching up” and “punching down” as a social hierarchy.

“Punch up” in comedy is when a comedian jokes about a group that has a “more advantage in life,” while “punching down” means that a comedian jokes about groups that have less of an advantage in life from their perspective, he says. Belin.

Chappelle admitted that his jokes refer to the marginalized LGBTQ community – “gays are minorities,” he said – but only “until they have to be white again.” He ignored black members of the LGBTQ community by deleting them from his jokes and saying they were black before they became queer.

‘What do we want? Responsibility! ‘: Netflix employees are protesting a special Chappella

Comedians have faced the consequences of beatings in the past. Shane Gillis was fired from “Saturday Night Live” shortly after it was announced that he would join the cast in 2019. The white comedian, who still plays comedy shows, was released from the show after his humiliating comments about Asians reappeared online.

More: ‘SNL’ fired Shane Gillis for racist comments four days after he was hired

Silicon Valley actor Jimmy O. Yang he joked about the Asian community where he pretends to have an Asian accent and talks about stereotypes, but because of his jokes he has not been the target of criticism because he is part of the marginalized Asian community he is targeting.

Paulina Pinsky, who teaches a special comedy writing course for high school students at Columbia University, she says “punching up” is a lesson she emphasizes to future comedians in her class.

“I prefer to arm every student with,‘ Punch up and don’t ball down, ’” Pinsky says. “If you start from ‘don’t hurt’ and respect other people, then the comedy will definitely be stronger.”

He adds, “These rules exist because not all comedians. What you think is funny may not be funny to everyone else.”

How can comedy change during ‘The Closer’?

Kroeger says newer comedians are educating themselves as they “stand on the shoulders of giants” of today’s big names like Chappelle.

“What comics are learning now is that there are rules for comedy and they are important to some extent.” Kroeger says. “But you can break them and if you’re creating your followers, your space, that’s valid (and legitimate).”

With a growing number of comedians appearing on social media and podcasts, Kroeger adds that “in comedy, you can hear voices from so many different angles.”

But Belin says there is still “not enough representation” on larger platforms.

More: Netflix film, TV report highlights diversity’s victories and defeats: ‘I almost fell off the chair’

Chappelle, who still plays comedies, announced on Monday that he will host screenings of his new documentary “Untitled” across the country in November. The comedian said that after the “Closer” controversy, he was taken away for screening a documentary at film festivals.

“When we just turn on these same comedians, we really put a lot of emphasis on what they have to say,” Belin says.

He adds that there are “so many different voices and views on the community,” but when we focus on one voice, “prevailing stereotypes continue to flourish.”

Kroeger agrees, saying representation in comedy has room to grow.

“The needle moves forward, but it moves so slowly,” he says.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Controversial special Dava Chappelle: How is comedy progressing?

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