Dave Chappelle: Political Artists ‘Are Very Relevant and Necessary’ During ‘Emotionally-Charged Time’

By Sameer Rao Jul 21, 2015

Despite a prolonged absence from mainstream media and television since falling out with Comedy Central during taping for the third "Chappelle’s Show" season nearly a decade ago, Dave Chappelle has lost none of his legendary caustic power. 

The heralded comedian, who is having somewhat of a comeback in the past few years thanks to several high-profile stand-up performances, was honored this weekend at the Art For Life benefit in Long Island with an award from Russell Simmons’s Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation. During his remarks, Chappelle commented on a variety of topics pertaining to his role as a politically-relevant comedian in the contemporary race relations climate. 

The event raised money for arts education, and Chappelle spoke reverentially about the importance of his education at Washington, D.C.’s Duke Ellington School of the Arts. In addition, he also addressed the importance of the times in which he made his return, saying that artists have a responsibility to be activists:

"This is a very surprisingly emotionally charged time, so people like me, I think, are very relevant and necessary in sorting through all this information and emotional content…And when we are at our best, hopefully we are doing a great service to many people…

"The biggest enemy of an artist is apathy. A kid gets killed by the police and I buy a T-shirt and before I can wear that one, there’s another kid (killed) and I’m running out of closet space.

Chappelle, who left on acrimonious terms with Comedy Central, took a swipe at current Comedy Central hitmakers Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele of "Key & Peele" (whose sketch show, which addresses race and discrimination in many bits, receives frequent comparisons to "Chappelle’s Show") by saying, "I can say honestly that I’m happy, that I can sit at home on a Tuesday night and watch Key and Peele do my show and it doesn’t hurt me."

Chappelle was honored at the event alongside auctioneers Michaela and Simon de Pury, artist Wangechi Mutu, and filmmaker Ava DuVernay. 

(H/t Associated Press