On the Limits Of Edgelord Comedy

by Omar Baig

Dave Chappelle grapples with the intractability of gender norms in The Closer: his most recent and final stand-up special for Netflix. Early into the set, Chappelle recounts the one-sided fight he had at a nightclub with a lesbian woman. When she interrupts his conversation with a female fan, Dave assumes they’re a jealous boyfriend. He deescalates the situation, however, once he realizes they are actually a jealous girlfriend; yet his unintentional misgendering only antagonizes her more. She reacts by squaring up in “a perfect southpaw stance” and throws the first punch. Chappelle reflexively dodges, then reacts in kind, by knocking “the toxic masculinity” out of her.

This, ladies and gentle-folx, is Edgelord comedy at its spiciest. Now, was it okay for Dave to misgender this woman, even unintentionally? No. Did Chappelle have to respond by, “softly and sweetly,” telling her: “Bitch, I’m about to slap the shit out of you!” Also, no. Yet was he justified in “tenderizing those titties like chicken cutlets,” in self-defense, once she threw that first punch? In my opinion, yes. This anecdote illustrates that toxic masculinity, like public acts of jealousy or public aggression, is not only limited to men. It also features two of The Closer’s recurring motifs: (1) Dave’s respect of others as reciprocal to their respect for his personal boundaries (i.e., irrespective of sexual or gender identity); or (2) by all the ways that performing informs his personal, social, and creative interactions. Read more »

Seinfeld on his Craft, Or: Comedy as a Path to Metaphysical Grace

by Bill Benzon

Music as a prelude to Jerry Seinfeld

I started trumpet lessons when I was ten years old or so. After about two years or so my lessons were drawn from Jean-Baptiste Arban’s Complete Conservatory Method for Trumpet, which dates from the middle of the 19th century and is the central method book in ‘legit’ trumpet pedagogy. Near the end, before a series of virtuoso solos, I read words which, in retrospect, are at the center of my interest in Jerry Seinfeld’s observations on his craft. Arban observed:

There are things which appear clear enough when uttered viva voce but which cannot be committed to paper without engendering confusion and obscurity, or without appearing puerile.

There are other things of so elevated and subtle a nature that neither speech nor writing can clearly explain them. They are felt, they are conceived, but they are not to be explained; and yet these things constitute the elevated style, the grande ecole, which it is my ambition to institute for the cornet, even as they already exist for singing and the various kinds of instruments.

What, you may ask, does this grande ecole have to do with standup comedy? Everything and nothing.

Cool your jets. Read more »