Rotten Tomatoes: Dave Chappelle's new comedy special is either terrible or really great

Whenever a film or TV show touches on politics you can often see a pretty significant divide between the ranks of mostly left-leaning critics and audiences. Naturally, which way the split goes depends on whether the film or TV show is perceived as being favorable or hostile to progressive tastes. For instance, remember the Ghostbusters reboot in 2016? On Rotten Tomatoes, 74 percent of critics gave the film a positive review, but audience reviewers pegged the film at 50 percent. I saw it and 50 percent seems very generous to me. It was not remotely funny.


The critic-audience review is even further split on the new Dave Chappelle comedy special Sticks and Stones. Just 33% of critics liked it while 99 percent of audiences approved. Here’s a sample of a negative review from one of the critics (Slate):

A final segment on Jussie Smollett might qualify for the least objectionable portion of the special, given the Empire actor’s status as a universal laughingstock. But even then, Chappelle’s decision to call him “Juicy Smolier” (the surname pronounced in the French style) carries an unmistakable ring of homophobia.

Got it? Everything is problematic and also “That’s not funny!”

Meanwhile, here’s a sample from the audience which has contributed more than 16,000 positive responses:

  • “Dave is just a legend. I couldn’t stop laughing.”
  • “It seems like it has been forever since I watched a standup comedian that made jokes like Carlin or Hicks or Murphy that were edgy and funny!! Another please!”
  • “Absolute epic!! Ie seen it about three times now on Netflix and the wife and I love it!! He nailed it and said everything everyone else is too scared to say! People need to learn to take a joke!”
  • “Amazing performance that brings us back to a time when we were allowed to laugh and also disagree without internet mobs of hate.”
  • “A legendary comedian taking comedy where it should always go, that area between uncomfortable and educational, while being completely hysterical!”
  • “If you loved George Carlin, Chappelle is his successor.”

It goes on like that for pages and pages.

Honestly, the 33 percent rating from critics is probably too high. Rotten Tomatoes doesn’t include a lot of scathing reviews at sites like The Root, Complex, Vulture, and even the Atlantic. If you were to add just those four to the nine reviews currently listed, the critics rating would drop to 23 percent.

The point of all of this isn’t that Rotten Tomatoes is bad. RT is just revealing something that was already true, i.e. media bias isn’t limited to political news. The left is also willing to prop up poorly-made entertainment so long as it flatters their favorite narratives. Alternatively, the same reviewers will dutifully trash anything that challenges those narratives.

Fortunately, a lot of people have learned by now to ignore the self-appointed progressive gatekeepers and make up their own minds. Hopefully, that will always be the case, but there’s no mistaking the left’s everpresent desire to silence and condemn anyone they disagree with. Dave Chappelle is a top comic with a long history of making people laugh so the backlash was limited to bad reviews this time. But if he puts out another special poking fun at left-wing verities, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get the full “cancel Chappelle” treatment.

I watched Sticks and Stones last week. I should confess that while I watch some standup occasionally it’s not my favorite genre of entertainment. But I thought the special was mostly funny and did make me crack up a few times. I liked it better than his previous Netflix special.


There was a bit about abortion that I thought was a really clever piece of social commentary. Dave gets all the pro-choice people in the audience on his side by basically taking up for a woman’s right to choose. But then he introduces a twist. I’m not sure anyone listening to this, on either side of the issue, feels completely at ease or satisfied and that’s clearly the point.

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