Dave Chappelle, it's so good to see you on back on TV.
The veteran comedian shares two of his never-before-aired performances -- from 2015 at Austin City Limits and 2016 in the Hollywood Palladium -- on Netflix Tuesday. And though Chappelle jokes onstage about how Kevin Hart has stolen his limelight during a 12-year hiatus, he proves that he still has that clever, singular point of view that made his Comedy Central show and tours a success.
In the dozen years since he left Chappelle's Show, the entertainer spent time in South Africa, got hit with a banana peel onstage ("It was premeditated, I could tell," he says, "It was brown."), been booed offstage (a results of smoking "reefer with some rappers"), done a few residencies, played at a couple of comedy festivals and, just last November, hosted Saturday Night Live. He jokes in his special filmed in 2015, "I haven’t been working in 10 years. I had to watch Key and Peele do my show every night."
Chappelle covers much of that in his Netflix shows, and much more: Ebola, sports scandals, Making a Murderer ("If it was about a black dude, it would be called Duh"), homosexuality, genitals, racism, Care Bears and O.J. Simpson all figure into his sets.
But never is Chappelle's take on current events more poignant than when he's discussing Bill Cosby.
Chappelle brings up Cosby in both of his one-hour shows. First, the embattled entertainer is mentioned in a bit about Paula Deen, the chef who was dropped by Food Network, because she used a racial epithet years ago: "That (expletive) came back 30 years later, like a Cosby rape," Chappelle quips. Chappelle references Cosby again in a spiel about the '60s: "While all of this was going on, Bill Cosby raped 54 women. He’s like the Stephen Curry of rapes."
Ultimately, though, Chappelle treats Cosby's criminal sexual-assault charges as much more than a punchline.
"I'm a 42-year-old black comedian. Obviously, Bill Cosby was a hero to me," Chappelle says sincerely in his second special, before detailing how Cosby changed the way black characters were portrayed on TV.
"I didn't wanna believe" the allegations, Chappelle says. It would be like "if you heard chocolate ice cream, itself, raped 54 people."
In a running gag, Chappelle likens Cosby to an invented movie superhero --- one who must violate a few women in order to access evil-fighting superpowers that protect many.
"The point is he rapes, but he saves," says Chappelle. "That's the dilemma for the audience."
Dave Chappelle: Deep in the Heart of Texas and Dave Chappelle: The Age of Spin premiere on the streaming service March 21, with a funny opening voiceover from Morgan Freeman. And good news: You can expect another comedy special from Chappelle soon -- he's currently on the road preparing for a third Netflix show.
(© 2017 USA TODAY)