The comedian’s two Netflix specials are loaded with brilliant storytelling, but suffer when they lose hold of his unique point of view.
Almost exactly halfway through Deep in the Heart of Texas, the second of his two comedy specials released on Netflix last week, Dave Chappelle does something unusual: He sits down. The live-wire comic perches on a stool in the center of the stage, plops his feet onto a speaker, and asks the crowd if anyone has a cigarette. He delivers the rest of the show like that, occasionally springing to his feet to drive home a punchline, then resting back on his stool to chat with his rapt audience. It gives the show a spontaneous, conversational feel, as if he’s telling stories the instant he thinks of them.
Of course, every move in a stand-up show is a calculated one, and Chappelle is a veteran of the form, using a looser approach to sell a shaggier, more anecdotal form of his comedy. It makes for an interesting contrast to his other Netflix special, The Age of Spin, a more composed, finely tuned set with an overarching structure (based around four brief encounters with O.J. Simpson over the course of his career). But though they’re wildly different shows, the strengths and weaknesses of Chappelle’s comedy comeback are consistent in each.