Over the past decade, Dave Chappelle has performed consistently, yet under the spotlight honing his once-in-a-generation point of view. The release of his two new concert films, Deep in the Heart of Texas” and “The Age of Spin, provide empirical proof that not only is Chappelle the best comedian of his generation but he one of the best storyteller joining the likes of Richard Pryor and George Carlin.
Both specials, two of his reported shows from his three-concert $60 million deal with Netflix, show that despite two different shows and material in front of totally different audiences Chappelle’s perspective remains sharp. The more recent of two, The Age of Spin, finds Chappelle regaling an eager audience with stories of meeting O.J. Simpson, insights on Bill Cosby and humorous musing on race as well as the experience of simply being Dave Chappelle.
It has often been said that what separates the great comedians from the pack is their sense of perspective and experience, as well as their joke composition. While Kevin Hart has become one of stand-up comedy’s most profitable performers, Hart has largely succeeded by being apolitical and focuses much of his comedic gaze onto himself and his family. Superstar Chris Rock is most comfortable discussing race and politics in a frenetic style pacing across the stage like a caged panther dispensing witty and funny anecdotes designed to make audiences think and laugh.
While this crew supports each other and occasionally works on material together on the road, both Rock and Hart acknowledge that Chappelle is currently the Top Dog and in The Age of Spin, recorded at the Hollywood Palladium in 2016, he quickly shows why. Wearing a military shirt with his name on the chest plate and “C” on his arm, Chappelle is stripped down and comfortable planting comic seeds throughout his set that blossom into laugh-out-loud payoffs later in the show.
One such gem is his bit about blowing off a charity benefit to attend the Oscars . . . and the hilarious encounter at the after party. Without divulging much more, it is this perspective and comic timing, honed over 30 years in the business, that has garnered Chappelle so much respect and reverence not only from fans but his comic colleagues.
In the second special, Deep in the Heart of Texas, taped at the Austin City Limits in 2015, Chappelle muses about the tough time for the Blacks, as well as using the Ray Rice elevator incident to explore issues around relationships. While Chappelle seems more relaxed, structured and carefree in The Age of Spin, his tone is more personal and conversational in “Deep in the Heart of Texas.” While much of the material is somewhat dated to his credit, Chappelle’s views on the scourge of Ebola, the conflicts of Paula Deen and musing on his comic idol, Bill Cosby still manage soar.
While Deep in the Heart of Texas is solid, the true gem is The Age of Spin, which rivals his 2000 special, Killin Them Softly as Chappelle’s strongest recorded performance. Joining the ranks of such rarefied air such as Richard Pryor Live In Concert 1979, Eddie Murphy: Delirious, George Carlin: You Are All Diseased and Chris Rock’s landmark, Bring the Pain. Chappelle has punched his ticket to comic immortality and it is wonderful to see a master at the top of his game at ease with his craft.
The Age of Spin
Deep in the Heart of Texas