Dave Chappelle is causing a controversy with his latest Netflix special, Sticks & Stones, which includes decidedly inflammatory takes on subjects ranging from cancel culture to LGBT rights. The veteran comic even finds some time to defend Philly native Kevin Hart.
“This is the worst time ever to be a celebrity,” Chappelle says early on in the special, later adding that it is currently “celebrity hunting season,” and “they even got poor Kevin Hart.”
Hart infamously courted his own controversy last year after a series of homophobic tweets and stand-up bits resurfaced following news that the comic would host the 2019 Oscars. In one tweet, Hart wrote that he would break his daughter’s doll house over his son’s head if he found the child playing with it. In another clip from his 2010 comedy special, Seriously Funny, Hart laments that one of his “biggest fears is [his] son growing up and being gay.”
Hart initially refused to apologize for the statements as requested by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and stepped down from as Oscars host. He later made an apology on his Sirius XM radio show, saying “Kevin Hart apologizes for his remarks that hurt members of the LGBTQ community,” and appeared on the Ellen DeGeneres Show discussing the situation. The ceremony went on without a host.
In Sticks & Stones, Chappelle says that Hart is “as close to perfect as anybody I’ve ever seen,” but is “precisely four tweets shy” of being faultless. However, Chappelle notes, Hart was “clearly” joking in his tweets.
“Think about it,” Chappelle says. “You would have to buy [him] a dollhouse to break it over his head in the first place. Does that sound right? Is anybody going to do that?”
Chappelle then uses the Hart bit to discuss an “unwritten and unspoken rule of show business,” which is that “you are never, ever allowed to upset the alphabet people,” meaning the LGBT community. Hart, Chappelle adds, “had to learn [that] the hard way.”
However, for whatever backlash Hart faced over his comments, the controversy didn’t seem to effect his bottom line. The Philly native recently was named Forbes’ highest-earning comedian for this year, having pulled in $59 million between June 2018 and June 2019.
In addition to Hart, Chappelle also uses the special to speak up for maligned celebrities including Louis CK and Michael Jackson, as well as to mock the transgender community, which expressed outrage over the material in his previous Netflix specials, The Age of Spin and Equanimity and the Bird. At one point, Chappelle notes that transgender people “hate my f- guts, and I don’t blame them” because “I can’t stop writing jokes” about them.
The release has since gotten a few scathing reviews, including one from Vice that is titled, in part, “You Can Definitely Skip Dave Chappelle’s New Netflix Special.”
“His approach comes off like a defiant rejection of change at any cost,” Vice writes in their review. “As he keeps going down this path, drawing attention to the worst aspects of his important career, the biggest cost will be tarnishing his own legacy.”