“Sticks and Stones: All Edge With No Point” by Clare Zhang

Dave Chappelle doesn’t care what you think; the opening to Sticks and Stones makes that much clear. Perhaps this confidence is warranted, considering Chappelle simply does the same thing privileged groups have always done, to great success: punch down.

Faced with a new social climate, Chappelle covers everything from the #MeToo movement to transgender people. It’s too bad his new outlook is but a rehashing of close-minded ideas long thought overcome, whether it’s proudly claiming the language of misogynists for himself (“You could … shut the f*ck up!” he tells women fighting for equality — I’m sure no woman has ever heard that one before), or favoring a celebrity’s status over the crimes they’ve committed (“Even if he did do it … so what?”).

Chappelle’s comedy hinges on shock factor, wrapped slyly around the shoulders of his Everyman persona. His most powerful weapon is his mansplaining voice, which manages to convince you that whatever wild claim he just presented is actually common sense, before the moment passes and you remind yourself that his entire argument is built upon fallacy. “What if I was Chinese, but born in this n***** body?” he reasons, and he’s right in the wrong way, taking a potentially fascinating commentary on the societal boundaries of race and gender and instead assigning outdated stereotypes as intrinsic racial qualities.

Chappelle admits his mistakes but refuses to apologize, determined to paint himself as the victim of marginalized groups: “No matter what you do in your artistic expression,” he moans, “you are never, ever allowed to upset … the alphabet people.” He skirts the mention of the L.G.B.T.Q. community’s struggles, instead emphasizing his lazy caricatures of L.G.B.T.Q. people and mocking petty infighting in the community, undermining the gravity of the homophobia and transphobia they face from straight people.

Of all his bits, his comments on active shooter drills are some of the only ones that hit home. We get a brief flash of the classic Chappelle as he points out the absurdity of children with firearms and the rage of school shooters that stems from a place of privilege, even suggesting that the only thing that can overcome the government’s love of guns is their fear of African-Americans.

Chappelle has long been praised for these sorts of refreshing and straightforward takes on racial dynamics, but in an effort to maintain his brand, it seems he’s regressed to finding new, even more offensive ways to present antiquated ideas. Once you’ve seen someone fall a thousand times, it’s just not funny anymore. Ultimately, Chappelle sounds like any alt-right Twitter troll complaining about “P.C. culture,” mocking anyone that would try and dismantle oppressive social structures so he can excuse his own lazy humor.