Our reviews of The Best Of Chappelle's Show (published June 27th, 2007), Chappelle's Show: Season Two (published June 1st, 2005), Chappelle's Show: The Lost Episodes (Uncensored) (published August 7th, 2006), and Chappelle's Show: The Series Collection (published November 21st, 2007) are also available.
Still Dave. Still outrageous.
Comedian Dave Chappelle, whom you may remember from his role as Reggie the comic heckler in The Nutty Professor, has had his share of unsold pilots and failed series. In 2003, Comedy Central signed him to appear in his own weekly sketch comedy program. Simply titled Chappelle's Show, the series took off in the ratings and as of this writing, is currently in its second season.
Despite the tagline Uncensored!, that is not quite the case. Several of the musical performances have been omitted, leaving some episodes running only 16 or 17 minutes in length. The normal running time would be closer to 22 minutes. No explanation is given, but my guess would be the various studios involved couldn't agree on rights issues. Anyway, the Uncensored! caption comes from the fact that, unlike the versions that run on Comedy Central, the foul language (the notorious f-word and its variations being particularly popular on this program) and visual gags are left intact. Yes, in this set, you'll see such sights as Dave being born (the set-up and payoff are sidesplitting), the old "Penis in the Popcorn" bit and Arnold Schwarzenegger's favorite feature of the female anatomy suddenly popping out unexpectedly.
So, okay, the show is raunchy. But is it any good? I am here to report that the answer is yes. Dave Chappelle has long been one of the most promising comedians out there, since his Star Search days and his early film work, such as Robin Hood: Men in Tights. While Chappelle and his writers have loaded each program with laugh-out-loud gags and situations, they also provide food for thought. Some will accuse Chappelle of using racial tension and stereotypes as fodder for gags, but he is making satirical jabs at common misconceptions. Look at The Mad Real World in the sixth episode, for example. While it is awash in the typical stereotypes launched at black Americans, look deeper at what Chappelle is trying to do. He is not endorsing these behaviors, but through the use of comedy, he is robbing them of potential harm in the future. It's brilliant satire.
All 12 shows from the first season are spread out over two discs. On a scale of zero to five stars:
• Episode 1: Frontline profiles Clayton Bigsby, the
prominent white supremacist who happens to be a blind black man.
• Episode 2: Crackhead Tyrone Biggums visits a local school for
"Drug Awareness Week."
• Episode 3: Dave shows a bountifully endowed girl the error of
her wish to become flat-bosomed in It's A Wonderful Chest.
• Episode 4: What will happen when reparations for long ago
slavery are given out?
• Episode 5: What are the Great Moments in Hook-Up
• Episode 6: Dave decides to write and direct his life story
after seeing Antwone Fisher. He
also takes a jab at MTV's The Real World.
• Episode 7: Dave takes a look at how Hollywood tends to alter
real-life situations for the screen.
• Episode 8: Tyrone Biggums returns, this time mistaking an
intervention for a free crack giveaway.
• Episode 9: Dave's vacation in Japan takes a turn for the weird
when he becomes Blackzilla.
• Episode 10: The History Channel profiles the great lost war of
American History: the 1982 Chicago Gang Wars.
• Episode 11: Dave purchases a digital video camera that can read
the inner thoughts of anyone it's pointed toward.
• Episode 12: Trading Spaces is recast as a show for
Comedy Central, now working with Paramount, has presented Chappelle's Show in an excellent manner. The full frame video transfer is one of their best to date, with the only significant problem being some minor grain in night scenes. Colors are nicely sharp and bright. Transitions between filmed and live material match seamlessly.
Audio is just as terrific. The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sounds exactly as it should: loud and clearly audible. You will not need to fiddle with the knobs on your sound system. In fact, you may have to lower the volume after a while.
The included extras begin with five commentary tracks featuring Dave Chappelle and co-creator Neal Brennan. While these are interesting and funny to listen to, the total commentary only amounts to a little over 70 minutes of material. I really wished Chappelle and Brennan had recorded tracks for all 12 episodes.
Twenty-nine minutes of deleted/extended scenes and bloopers amount to a mixed bag. Some of this stuff is undeniably funny, such as bonus scenes involving Damon Dash and the Wu-Tang Clan. Others tend to drag on far too long for my taste—you can see why these never made it to air. Overall, this feature is worth seeing once.
Ask a Black Dude with Paul Mooney is comprised of twenty minutes of extra footage considered too risky for the air. Mooney, a comedian who formerly wrote for Richard Pryor, really isn't all that funny and he tends to be a bit too cantankerous for his own good. You can skip these.
With a retail price of $26.99, this first season of Chappelle's Show will make a great gift or purchase for Chappelle fans. Others might want to rent this set or check out the reruns on Comedy Central. Chances are you will become hooked.
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• Five Episode Audio Commentaries Featuring Dave Chappelle and Series Co-Creator Neal Brennan
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