A new special by comedian Dave Chappelle, titled 8:46 for the amount of time a Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on George Floyd’s neck before Floyd died of asphyxiation, arrived unannounced on the “Netflix is a Joke” YouTube channel Thursday—and it’s no joke.
Filmed June 6 on an outdoor stage in Beavercreek, Ohio, before a socially distanced audience wearing Chappelle-branded masks, the 27-minute performance is more a raw, impassioned monologue on racism, injustice, and the importance of protest than a comedy set.
As the show begins, Chappelle says, “I want to give a shout out to all the young people who had the courage to go out and do all this amazing work protesting, I’m very proud of you. You kids are excellent drivers and I’m comfortable in the backseat of the car. So carry on, young ones.”
Chappelle then tells the audience, “It’s hard to figure out what to say about George Floyd, so I’m not gonna say it yet.” He also warns, “I’m gonna get heavy, but we gotta say something.”
Discussing the video of George Floyd’s death, Chappelle says, “He called for his mother. He called for his dead mother. I’ve only seen that once in my life. My father, on his deathbed, called for his grandmother. When I watched that tape, I understood that this man knew he was gonna die.”
He continues, “For some reason that I still don’t understand, all these fucking police had their hands in their pockets. Who are you talking to? What are you signifying that you can kneel on a man’s neck for eight minutes and forty-six seconds and feel like you wouldn’t get the wrath of God? That’s what is happening right now. It’s not for a single cop, it’s for all of it. Fucking all of it.”
Chappelle then takes fire at talking heads, starting with, “Don Lemon, that hotbed of reality,” because the CNN host complained that too few black celebrities were speaking out about George Floyd.
“I was screaming at the TV, ‘I dare you to say me,’” Chappelle said. “Has anyone listened to me do comedy? Have I not ever said anything about these things before?
Chappelle then asked the crowd, “Do you want to see a celebrity now? Do we give a fuck what Ja Rule thinks. Does it matter about celebrity now? No. This is the streets talking for themselves, they don’t need me right now.”
Lemon responded on CNN Friday, saying, “Well, Dave Chappelle is my favorite comedian, and I do care what Dave Chappelle thinks,” but added, “I actually agree with Dave Chappelle. And I think the young people out in the streets don’t really care what we have to say. They think the part of the world that we created and what we did, we didn’t move fast enough and weren’t strong enough.”
Chappelle also took on conservative pundit Candace Owens for posting a video in which she depicts George Floyd as a criminal and wonders why he is being treated as a “martyr for black America.”
“She’s the worst,” Chappelle said. “I can’t think of a worse way to make money. She’s the most articulate idiot I’ve ever seen in my fucking life.” Owens took the opportunity to hype herself up, tweeting that Chappelle’s dig only proved how powerful she is.
Many others, meanwhile, took to Twitter to endorse 8:46, which had over 6.2 million views by Friday afternoon. Stephen King simply said, “Watch.” Former Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade thanked Chappelle, while fellow comedian Sarah Silverman called the special “required viewing.”
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