New sketch show one of the year’s finest debuts

Paul Wong
Courtesy of Comedy Central
Have you ever watched Dave Chappelle … on weed?

While he is best known for his role as writer and star of the classic comedy, “Half-Baked,” Dave Chappelle has paid his dues on the comedy scene. With a resume that includes numerous stand-up appearances on Comedy Central and network late-night shows, as well as memorable supporting roles in “Robin Hood: Men in Tights” and “The Nutty Professor,” Chappelle is definitely qualified to take the reins of his own sketch comedy show. And he does just that in the aptly-titled “Chappelle’s Show,” a new series in which Chappelle acts as creator, executive producer and star.

Teaming up with Neal Brennan, Chappelle’s collaborator on “Half-Baked,” Chappelle brings his smart comedy to life in a variety of sketches that unabashedly tear American popular culture to shreds. The biting satire of “Chappelle’s Show” takes no prisoners, trampling over taboos with style and hilarity, making it more than deserving of a time slot following “South Park.”

The sketches are framed by stand-up segments featuring Chappelle, reminiscent of David Cross and Bob Odenkirk’s classic HBO series “Mr. Show.” Chappelle introduces each sketch in his own laid back style, sometimes even showing hilarious bloopers and outtakes. The combination of Chappelle’s street smart stand-up and cutting edge sketches are a perfect formula for the show.

Comedy Central has given Chappelle enough freedom to put “Chappelle’s Show” on par with even HBO’s comedy programming, hence the slogan, “It’s not HBO – it’s just regular ass TV!” While some language is, of course, beeped out, Chappelle does not water down his content for basic cable.

The first episode features such envelope-pushing sketches as a satire of a certain copy shop’s training video, featuring its many policies on giving poor service to its customers, to a long-awaited spoof of that annoying Mitsubishi commercial with the dancing pink beret girl. Most controversial, and best of all, is a sketch about a blind white supremacist named Clayton Bigsby, who is unaware of the fact that he is actually black.

In one scene, the racist Bigsby yells at three white teens blaring rap music in their convertible, calling them “niggers.” One of the white kids then turns to his buddies, asking, “Did he just call us niggers?” to which they respond with “Cool!” and an exchange of high fives.

Chappelle will continue to tackle racial and sexual issues with humor and flair in later episodes, with sketches ranging from social commentary on slavery reparations to a spoof called “It’s a Wonderful Chest,” in which Dave plays an angel who convinces a big-breasted woman that life with smaller boobs would be a terrible thing.

In addition to cutting-edge comedy, the series also features top musical acts such as Busta Rhymes, The Roots and other hip hop and R&B artists. What sets the performances on “Chappelle’s Show” apart from the average late night talk show is their setting. Artists will perform from scenic locales like rooftops and parks, rather than just the other side of the soundstage.

In many ways, “Chappelle’s Show” is a sketch comedy show unlike any before it. With its sharp, intelligent comedy and innovative presentation of musical guests, Dave Chappelle’s new show has the potential to be a major hit for Comedy Central. In fact, if the show can sustain the quality of its first episode, it might just be the best new show on the network since “South Park” debuted in 1997.

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