Thanks to Will Smith, one of the most dangerous jobs in the country just might be telling jokes in front of a live audience. The front row, as I wrote after the Oscars last month, is over.
What happened to Dave Chappelle just proved me right.
The legendary comic was wrapping up a set during the “Netflix Is a Joke Festival” at the Hollywood Bowl on Tuesday night when, seemingly out of nowhere, a man rushed him on stage and tackled him.
As I wrote after Smith slapped Chris Rock for all the world to see and totally got away with it, it’s now open season on comedians. When they’re up on stage telling jokes, comedians have to be edgy—that’s their job—and that necessarily means they’ll offend someone. Theirs is the time-honored role of court jester, making us laugh at ourselves and each other. In the not so distant past, their freedom of speech was recognized and respected. Don Rickles made a career of lampooning everyone, and everyone laughed with him.
But the always-aggrieved, ever-angry Left has chipped away at the freedom to think, speak, and even joke, while making it more and more mainstream to get violent and riot when they don’t get their way. They also made sure there are fewer cops around to stop them.
The woke Left leads the charge to destroy civil society. The rise of campus speech codes, then the totalitarian trans movement—which simultaneously believes men can get pregnant, women can’t be defined, but men can’t have opinions on abortion—also believes they’re above and beyond any criticism, and have the right to attack you for questioning them. Chappelle has been the lone comic brave enough to take on all of that, and he’s faced multiple campaigns to cancel him. Now he’s been physically attacked, as many of us predicted.
Chappelle came out of the Hollywood Bowl incident apparently unharmed. In an incredible coincidence, Chris Rock was there Tuesday night. After the assault was over, and the assailant had “gotten his ass kicked by about 10 people” according to witnesses, Rock quipped “Was that Will Smith?”
The audience roared with laughter.
Good on Rock, but this is no joke. The man who attacked Chappelle was reportedly armed with a fake gun and a real knife. If not for the quick response from security personnel, Chappelle could have been gravely injured or killed.
Smith should have been charged with assault for his attack on Rock—an attack millions of people around the world witnessed live. But Smith has rich liberal privilege. That’s the privilege people should be talking about. Rich liberals can say and do anything they want to the rest of us. Smith proved that when he assaulted Rock and then not only wasn’t escorted out of the Oscars, he went on to win an award, give a speech, and party on through the night. He later resigned from the Academy—his choice—and was banned for a decade. But he has faced no legal consequences.
The slap in effect declared open season on comics everywhere, comics who don’t play in the tony palaces of the Oscars but who work their material just a few feet away from audiences in small, out-of-the way venues in towns and cities all over the country—audiences that may just be on edge and looking for a reason to play victim and get “triggered.” They don’t have security details like the one Chappelle has had to beef up as threats against him have escalated. They don’t have audiences waiting and ready to take their side.
After Smith’s slap, every comedian out there feels like they’re next. The next edgy joke they tell could be the one that results in physical violence against them.
Blurring the lines between rhetoric and actual violence has been a core strategy on the Left for years. What are “microaggressions” and suggestions that even “silence is violence” other than a blurring of what were once clear lines in behavior? Their aim has been to criminalize speech they disagree with, while making it acceptable to engage in physical violence whenever they want.
Well here we are. Violence is violence, and comics will face the real possibility of becoming victims of it every time they tell a joke.