Dave Chapelle talks George Floyd, police violence, and more in ‘8:46’ special

Dave Chappelle
Courtesy of Netflix

Comedian Dave Chappelle in all his brash, truth-telling glory, dropped the surprise special “8:46” on Netflix’s YouTube comedy channel late Thursday night. While sprinkled with jokes, the free, roughly 30-minute monologue reflected the times as it tackled sober and painful topics from the police murder of George Floyd to U.S. slavery.

The title of the special, “8:46,” refers to the amount of time former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin was seen on video pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck until he became unresponsive. Chappelle poignantly explained how the image of Floyd calling for his deceased mother and pleading for his life is seared into his and the nation’s wounded psyche. He also touched on the many other incidents of unarmed Black people being killed at the hands of the police and White vigilantes.

Setting the darker mood of the set, the show, shot in Yellow Springs, Ohio, opened with images of socially distanced outdoor seating arrangements and masked audience members getting their temperatures checked prior to the show. “This is weird and less than ideal circumstances to do a show,” said the comedian when he took the stage.

Chappelle opened with giving the young people a shout out, calling them “excellent drivers” as he takes a backseat to the protests. This dovetailed into him taking CNN Tonight’s Don Lemon to task for questioning why more celebrities weren’t leading the marches.

“So I’m supposed to step into the streets and talk over the work these people are doing as a celebrity?” said Chappelle. “Do we give a f*** what Ja Rule thinks? Does it matter about a celebrity? No! This is the streets talking for themselves!” Lemon took the criticism in stride saying he actually agrees with Chappelle for the most part.

Chappelle also took on NRA, as well as Candace Owens, a Black right-wing media personality who brought up Floyd’s troubled past to criticize the Black community for making him a “martyr.” We didn’t choose [Floyd]— you did,” Chappelle shot back. “They killed him and that wasn’t right, so he’s the guy! We’re not desperate for heroes in the Black community. Any n***a that survives this nightmare is my…hero,” he said.

Owens replied to Chappelle’s criticism on Twitter by saying that, unlike people on the “left,” she has a sense of humor and can take a joke. Although Chappelle couched his comments in humor, the basis of his sharp rebuke—that Floyd’s humanity is worthy of justice regardless of his past—was not a joke.

Chappelle also talked about his personal family history, including his great-grandfather, William D. Chappelle, a famed educator and bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina.

 “These streets will speak for themselves whether I am alive or dead,” Chappelle told the cheering audience in closing. “I trust you guys; I love you guys. We’ll keep this space opened. This is the last stronghold for civil discourse. After this sh**, it’s just rat-a-tat-rattly- tat-tat-tat,” said Chappelle, referring to the sound of gunfire in the streets.

Watch the full “8:46” special here.