Superlatives such as the best and worst opening night in history and train crashes have been used to describe Dave Chappelle’s recent trek through Los Angeles to promote his new Netflix special, but now we have one more: the best education stunt of the decade.
Last week, the comedian flew from Atlanta to Los Angeles and, after being pelted with bottles, arrived at his old high school, Martin Luther King Jr. High, in Compton, where he would perform his standup. For most comics, a visit to their old stomping ground would be a sentimental affair. Not for Chappelle, though.
He was attempting to draw attention to a trend he said is rampant in schools today. Many schools are creating groups of black students “with the standard stereotypical ‘C’ or ‘D’”, including “the ones that were going to college, the ones that had already completed math, physics or a double major in math, biology or chemistry,” he said in an interview. “You name it, because it’s probably happening somewhere.”
The comedian said his school held shows more than once a week, every week. The classes were generally big classes: assemblies, theater, choir. It was frequently the highlight of the year, he said.
The district was almost completely black, though Chappelle said it was so small that his class had at least three white students (as opposed to just one white student in his current neighbourhood). Still, Chappelle said, “the scene was right there. Like we were living in a black version of Seinfeld or The Cosby Show”.
With the benefits of MTV’s Real World, YouTube footage of black community leaders and a movie called It’s Showtime at the Apollo, Chappelle said his high school was “about as close to a black inner-city experience that a white kid could get”.