In May 2005, Time Magazine was the first to report that Dave Chappelle left his show in part due to one controversial sketch. In July 2006, friend and co-writer Neal Brennan also told Maxim magazine that Chappelle walked out after a crew member laughed condescendingly at this sketch. The sketch that made Chappelle say 'enough' will be aired Sunday night on the premiere of the second episode of Chappelle's Show: The Lost Episodes... but you can see it right now for what it is.
This video joins the sketch shortly after it has started (the end of this video has the beginning). Dave has just been asked by a stewardess on a flight if he would like to have the chicken or fish for dinner. Suddenly the 'black pixie' appears in front of Dave, tempting and chiding him to play into the stereotype of ordering the fried chicken. The pixie is a singing, dancing Chappelle painted in black face and wearing a vaudeville-esque suit.
The black pixie again shows up alongside the Ying Yang Twins on MTV Cribs, saying "I never thought I'd say this, but even I'm embarrassed."
The show continues with a cocaine snorting 'Hispanic pixie' that tempts a Hispanic guy into buying leopard skin seat covers for his car, an 'Asian pixie' that plays on a man's inability to pronounce the name Lala, and a 'white pixie' that advises his counterpart on how to talk to his black friends.
The Time magazine article sheds light on Chappelle's own thoughts on the matter:
The third season hit a big speed bump in November 2004. He was taping a sketch about magic pixies that embody stereotypes about the races. The black pixie--played by Chappelle--wears blackface and tries to convince blacks to act in stereotypical ways. Chappelle thought the sketch was funny, the kind of thing his friends would laugh at. But at the taping, one spectator, a white man, laughed particularly loud and long. His laughter struck Chappelle as wrong, and he wondered if the new season of his show had gone from sending up stereotypes to merely reinforcing them. "When he laughed, it made me uncomfortable," says Chappelle. "As a matter of fact, that was the last thing I shot before I told myself I gotta take f_____— time out after this. Because my head almost exploded."
After a commercial break, the interim hosts of Chappelle's Show explain Dave's thoughts on the sketch, and as a result, their reluctance to air it, so they ask the audience for their thoughts. Responses were both positive and negative, with one young woman saying she felt the sketch was derogatory and played off the bad stereotypes of blacks and Hispanics, but played on the 'good' stereotypes of white people. More responses continue here.
So now, I pose the question to you, when are jokes like this acceptable and when are they not? When the person making them is the same race as the butt of the joke... when it's thought provoking and makes people talk? Or are some things just always unacceptable because of those that take it to heart?
Related: Me interviewing Chappelle in March.