Comedian Dave Chappelle was among the first laugh masters to return to in-person shows last year as the country continued to grapple with coronavirus pandemic lockdowns.
Using a cornfield in Ohio, Chappelle did a total of 54 shows in a matter of weeks last summer. One of those shows was his June 12 27-minute special “8:46,” which addressed the Minnesota police killing of George Floyd and other police aggressions. While speaking with “The Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon on May 12, Chappelle opened up about his reason to speak on the current social climate.
“A lot of it started when the protests started, the George Floyd of it all, and boy, I really missed having a microphone in my hand when something that tragic happens,” the “Chappelle’s Show” creator told Fallon.
While his audience may have been expecting gut-busting jones, what they heard was raw storytelling that did nothing to sugarcoat the realities of tensions and between the Black community and police.
“I didn’t expect that I would put anything out, but it became a thing where I wouldn’t feel right telling jokes until I addressed that [Floyd’s death] because people listen to me different,” Chappelle explained to the “Tonight Show” audience. “It was gut-wrenching putting it out. To be honest, I was real nervous about it, but I’m glad that I did.”
The special was titled “8:46” to reflect the amount of time a bystander’s cellphone camera recorded now-former Minneapolis Officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck as the Black man lay chest down and handcuffed on the ground. (At Chauvin’s trial this year other video evidence emerged that showed he actually actually held that kneeling position for nearly 10 minutes.) The infamous cellphone recording of the fatal incident unfolding fueled nationwide protests and endless calls for justice.
During the near half-hour set, Chappelle questioned, “What are you signifying? That you can kneel on a man’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds and feel like you wouldn’t get the wrath of God?”
He continued, “It’s not for a single cop, it’s for all of it. F—–g all of it. I don’t mean to get heavy, but we gotta say something.”
The special and Chappelle were met with praise from fans on social.
“There are some comedians we listen to when we need a break from reality, but the best comedians are the ones who are able to help us cope with it.”
“We do not have a better champion than that brother, Dave.”
“It should go without saying, but Dave Chappelle’s 846 is a myst watch.”