Comedians sure have a lot of hubris, don’t they?
After watching Dave Chappelle invite Twitter CEO Elon Musk onstage during a recent show, only for Musk to be pelted with boos, I couldn’t help but think I’d seen such a thing before. That is, a comedian so self-assured of their own celeb status that they (tragically) thought they could rehabilitate the image of a loathed figure.
Chappelle tried multiple times to calm the crowd — reprimanding them, mocking them — to no effect. The boos won out, and Chappelle was, in that moment, shown the limitations of his celebrity, the uselessness of his co-sign.
It evoked memories.
*Begin dream sequence*
The year is 2006, and Jerry Seinfeld, appearing on the "Late Show With David Letterman," has bizarrely invited a friend to teleconference into his interview to offer a seeming apology.
That friend was fellow comedian and former “Seinfeld” co-star Michael Richards (aka Kramer), and he was apologizing for having called a guest at a recent comedy show the N-word in a racist tirade.
Except it seems that many members of the audience may not even be aware this incident occurred. And Seinfeld’s introduction, along with Richards’ tortured delivery, almost makes the moment seem like a comedy bit. So much so, in fact, that audience members laugh, prompting Seinfeld to snap at them: “Stop laughing. It’s not funny.”
But the moment was absolutely funny. Hilariously awkward, to say the least.
“I’m hearing your audience laugh, you know, and I’m not even sure that this is where I should be addressing the situation,” Richards said.
If only Chappelle and Musk had been imbued with such wisdom.
I think the moments are very similar. These were two comedians who pride themselves on having a cool command over their audiences, both oblivious to the predictable backlash that backslapping bigots would cause.
Fame, it appears, can be quite isolating.
The moral of the story? Don’t overestimate the power of your popularity. And don’t be so eager to wield it in defense of deplorable people.