Date of Award

2012

Advisor(s)

Julie Kim

Second Advisor

Oneka LaBennett

Abstract

From the years 2003- 2006, perhaps no one played a bigger a role on the American comedy scene than did Dave Chappelle. From the first episode of his critically acclaimed Chappelle’s Show, in which he depicted Clayton Bigsby, a black, blind white supremacist, to his controversial exit from the show early into season three, Chappelle served as a lightning rod for attention both positive and negative. In this thesis, I argue that in his comedy portrayed on Chappelle’s Show, Dave Chappelle portrays an image of essentialized Blackness through the lens of the “urban Black American experience” as being that of authentic blackness. By looking at the history of Black comedians and then deconstructing several of Chappelle’s sketches, I look to place Chappelle in the spectrum of academic race theorists, most notably alongside Paul Gilroy, Stuart Hall and Frantz Fanon. I end the essay with a reflection on why this analysis matters, as media portrayals affect our conceptions of what is and is not authentic, and the role of the comedian-as-orator serves as a medium for social change.