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Dave Chappelle drops new special 8:46 in response to the killing of George Floyd

‘I don’t mean to get heavy, but ... we’ve got to say something’

Matt Patches is an executive editor at Polygon. He has over 15 years of experience reporting on movies and TV, and reviewing pop culture.

There are only a few laughs in the first 10 minutes of Dave Chappelle’s 8:46. In his new special, recorded on June 6 for a (facemask-wearing) crowd in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and dropped for free on Netflix’s comedy YouTube page late on Thursday, the comedian vents rage built up after the killing of George Floyd and countless other Black lives lost to police action. The comedy special takes its name from the amount of time policeman Derek Chauvin held his knee on Floyd’s neck.

“For some reason, all these fucking police had their hands in their pockets,” he says, reflecting on the video that exposed law enforcement action, or lack thereof. “Who are you talking to? What are you signifying? That you can kneel on a man’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds and feel like you wouldn’t get the wrath of god? That’s what is happening right now. It’s not for a single cop. It’s for all of it. Fucking all of it.”

After a long break from the limelight, Chappelle returned in the mid-2010s as a searing cultural critic. His stand-up specials have been both lauded for their comedic commentary and lambasted for archaic views. He’s questioned Michael Jackson’s accusers and made anti-trans remarks, but also eviscerated his fellow Gen Xers’ habits while also being aware that he himself is behind the times and attempting to grow. According to one report, 8:46 features some homophobic material targeted at CNN anchor Don Lemon that was edited out of the final version, but exposed by Netflix’s now-non-existent closed captions. When Chappelle gets on stage, he speaks without a filter, for better or worse. The comedian is aware of the minefield, but as he says in 8:46, it’s also what keeps him coming back to stage after every spurt of backlash.

“The only reason people want to hear from people like me because you trust me,” Chappelle says in the special. “You don’t expect me to be perfect, but I don’t lie to you. But every institution that we trust lies to us.”

In the notes for the special, Chappelle writes, “Normally I wouldn’t show you something so unrefined, I hope you understand.” What follows after a brief recounting of Floyd’s death is basically the polar opposite of something “refined” like Jerry Seinfeld’s recent Netflix special 23 Hours to Kill. 8:46 is a raw, spoken-from-the-gut monologue that bellows like it’s shouted from a mountaintop. Chappelle dips into the history of police brutality and Black protest, and points fingers at the moral failure of a country that supposedly loves guns and standing up for people. He reflects on losing Kobe Bryant earlier this year and goes on a tear against conservative commentator Candace Owens, who has openly questioned why George Floyd has become a hero in recent days.

“We didn’t choose him, you did,” Chappelle says in retort to Owens’ claims. “They killed him. And that wasn’t right. So he’s the guy.”

Watch the entirety of 8:46 in the video above.

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