Sammy Sofa wrote: To me, the good ones are going to push back, or figure out how to make it funny. The lesser ones are just going to complain (which, hey, plenty of people will find funny. It's just not my thing).
Is there a significant difference between "pushing back" and "complaining"?
To me, yeah. A good or great comedian knows how to work a room, whether that room is actually a horsefeathers hole in the wall bar, or whether the room is a changing world at large. Because that's just part pf the job; almost all comedians have to do that. Chappelle used to have to do that. He hasn't had to in a long time, and he's clearly made the decision to not really try to do so. He's one of the very, very few that can just coast, and from a business standpoint I'm not faulting that at all. The dude knows how to make money, and he's made his choice to do so this way, so, whatever. But that's not going to make him, as an entertainer, exempt from criticism that literally every other entertainer is also subjected to. And yeah, he realizes that, but his response is very clearly, "I recognize the horsefeathers I can say that gets negative attention, but really isn't very ballsy or thought-provoking at all, but it'll generate an simple response that I can easily just respond to so that the cycle continues as long as I want to keep doing these type of specials."
To the earlier complaint that I'm focusing on his routine now being a retread of his show: I keep pointing that out because I do think the culture and audience has changed.
Yes, that's how the world works. A comedian in 1953 had to deal with a completely different world in 1958. Everything is always changing. This is something anyone who is some kind of entertainer or artist has to deal with constantly. And yet...
I brought it up specifically for you before, but I think it applies to a lot of people. Dave hasn't changed as much as people's sensitivity to what is offensive or right. A lot of that is a good thing, but I think in the world of comedy, specifically stand up, it would behoove people to dial it back just a touch. You know, or don't, whatever. Its not like me repeatedly pointing out that Dave already did his whole routine on his show 15 years ago, and then assuming you can make a cognitive leap for why the reaction is so different now is going to do me any good. You'll just ignore that point and make up my argument for me. We will like what we like for whatever arbitrary reason and some of us will ask others to "own it" because they can't separate comedy from moral judgements. ...yeah, that is fun to do! I can see the appeal.
The idea of entertainers who don't change is usually looked at as a BAD THING. The SOP towards entertainment or pop culture isn't usually, "boy, I wish everything just stayed the same;" we're almost always looking for bands or filmmakers or TV showrunners or comedians to change and improve and grow (at least in terms of things we generally consider "great"). Yes, we almost want some kind of basic ongoing familiarity along the lines of what made us really like these things in the first place, but generally not changing is usually death in terms of acclaim or success or both. Good pop culture is supposed to be different than fast food pop culture. And a HUGE part of that is that the world and the audience is, indeed, always changing. So, personally, I think it's a really weird and weak excuse to look at a changing audience as the ones who are approaching this wrong, and the guy who you are arguing hasn't change much at all actually has it figured out. I mean, yeah, figured out in terms of making bank without really having to (relative to how great he was) work hard at it at all? Definitely. For a guy who walked away from fame and huge money and critical acclaim on the back of expressly stating he couldn't handle just parroting the same punchlines (or having them shouted at him), or getting the wrong kind of laughs from the wrong kind of people, it's almost weirdly admirable that he essentially said, "nah, horsefeathers all that"...and made it work. IMO, as a comedian the guy is basically just Seinfeld or Jeff Foxworthy at this point: you can't argue with the success, but what he does might as well just be coming off of an assembly line (generate mild outrage, then comment on/complain about/exacerbate mild outrage, and then repeat).
And personally, I still still disagree with the idea he hasn't changed, and I especially disagree with any arguments that try to say he was doing the same horsefeathers as now back on his sketch show. For one, his sketch show was clearly a collaborative effort with other key voices in the mix, so to act like it was essentially just a carbon copy warm up for who he is now is, IMO, completely disingenuous (especially since he himself walked away from it due to sketches he said he thought were "socially irresponsible"). And I disagree even with the idea that he's the same standup; these newer specials, he seems far more antagonistic and angry and tired, and, IMO, less interested in making an audience laugh so much as entertaining himself and venting. And, again, these things can work for plenty of people. But it doesn't for others, and I think the argument that the change is more on the rest of the world and not him doesn't ring true. Everything, him included, clearly changed a lot in the last 15 years. To me, this is a guy who went through some heavy horsefeathers for a long time after he got crazy famous, and still is. horsefeathers, honestly, if he was coming across as the same guy from his first two specials, I would be overjoyed, but I think this is just an angry, bitter, sad guy who still can't quite figure out what the horsefeathers his life became.