The Mark Twain Award: Dave Chappelle (2020)

Synopsis: A look at comedian Dave Chappelle's life, influences and career as he accepts the Mark Twain Award for American Humor. Viewer Discretion Advised.

Dave Chappelle on Stage

As a longtime fan of Dave Chappelle, I must say I was mildly surprised to learn that PBS was airing a program featuring him. His comedic style is known for pushing boundaries, specifically on sensitive social issues like race and class, and in my mind, his didn’t immediately fit into the mold of a PBS program.

But, the way Chappelle uses humor to push boundaries has made an undeniable impact on American and World culture. He has honed his comedic craft to be able to deliver important messages while at the same time being highly entertaining and he is more than deserving of the Mark Twain Award. He challenges his audience to consider situations in ways they likely hadn’t previously done, albeit in ways that are often scandalous and abrasive. He uses his impressive intelligence to be hilarious in unexpected and refreshing ways. No subject is taboo to him (at least to my knowledge) and he could make a sailor blush, but there is usually a thought-provoking message at the heart of his jokes.

The editing on this special was so well done. This program looks at Chappelle’s entire career, his family, his friends, and the events in his life that have brought him to today. While I had been a follower of Chappelle’s career, this intimate look at his life shined a new and fascinating light on the comedian. It was interesting, covered areas far beyond his stand up and acting career, and I would have watched three more hours worth.

While viewer discretion is definitely advised, I would recommend this program to anyone with an interest in Dave Chappelle, comedy, or social issues.