Why I Don’t Think Dave Chapelle’s Monologue on Kanye West Was Antisemitic

In case you missed it, in his monologue for Saturday Night Live, comedian Dave Chappelle dealt with Kanye West’s rants:

Many, like Back to the Future actress Lea Thompson, were highly offended by it.

I might surprise many of you in saying that I was not.

Here’s why.

Chappelle is being an equal opportunity offender, with Kanye as his main target. I disagree with others, like The Daily Mail, who claim Chappelle is defending him. He isn’t; if anything, he is painting Kanye as unwell. And he is not denying the antisemitism of Kanye’s statements at all – he even seems to be comparing him to a Nazi when speaking about Adidas (“the student has surpassed the teacher”).

True, Chapelle does state that there are a lot of Jews in Hollywood (which is undeniably true and not in itself antisemitic), and he does poke fun at the fact you shouldn’t be speaking about it. But unlike Kanye, he is not generalizing about Jews nor suggesting there is some conspiracy involving us. He even calls the idea that we run show business a “delusion.” He seems to reject the idea that admitting there are many Jews in Hollywood means they run it when he says “I’ve been to Hollywood, and this is just what I saw: It’s a lot of Jews, like a lot. But THAT DOESN”T MEAN ANYTHING, you know what I mean? There’s a lot of Black people in Ferguson, Missouri, but that doesn’t mean we run the place.”

Chappelle also seems to be poking fun at the punishments handed out against Kyrie Irving, stating that the Blacks are not responsible for the Jews’ shabby treatment over the years. At the same time, he goes ahead and makes fun of Kyrie’s antisemitism, implying he is a Holocaust denier.

Chappelle’s comments about growing up around Jews (“Shanana”, Run DMC) are hilarious and seemingly done with affection, not hatred. So I see this routine as being peak Chappelle, tackling thorny subjects in an uncomfortable but hilarious way, while potentially offending all sides.

I say all of this fully aware that Chappelle crossed the line last year with his Space Jews routine. The difference there was what he was saying was patently untrue and plain nasty.

Is David Chappelle an antisemite? I opined last year that he could be, on the basis of the Space Jews routine and some troubling associations. So granted, I could judge this latest routine more unfavorably than I have. But judging it on its merits, I just don’t see it as designed to spread hate towards Jews. I see it as poking fun at certain things to do with the Jewish representation in show business, without crossing the line into antisemitism. And mostly, I see it as poking fun at Kanye and Kyrie, who did cross the line.

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David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media

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