The critics’ reviews of comedian Dave Chappelle’s latest Netflix standup special “Sticks & Stones” are rolling into review site Rotten Tomatoes, and they’re exactly what you’d expect in the Year of the Wokescolds. But while the critics gnash their teeth over Chappelle’s unapologetic and purposefully offensive hour special, the general audience cheers.
As of Wednesday morning, “Sticks & Stones” showed a 38% score from critics, with a near-perfect 99% audience score.
In the special, nothing is off-limits for Chappelle, hitting on so-called “cancel culture,” abortion, guns, race, the #MeToo movement, Jussie Smollett, Michael Jackson accusers, R. Kelly, Louis C.K., and LGBTQ activism.
“Like dropping in on a rascally uncle who doesn’t know, or doesn’t care, how much he’s disappointing you,” whined Slate’s Inkoo Kang in response to the special.
While “Uncle Dave” was once cool, argued Kang, his jokes in 2019 make you “wince.”
“The soundness of their logic is as intact as ever, but they’re seldom informed by facts or new perspectives,” she wrote. “Each visit reminds you that your face is technically capable of laughing and cringing at the same time—but it certainly doesn’t feel good to do so. Despite it all, Uncle Dave insists it’s not that his viewpoints have gotten stale: Everyone’s just gotten so much more sensitive.”
Alison Herman at The Ringer said, “Sticks and Stones is designed to generate inflammatory coverage … It’s a symbiotic cycle with no end in sight, and it’s become the last thing a beloved provocateur should ever want to be: predictable.”
Entertainment Voice’s Alci Rengifo said there were “few jokes that truly hit hard and stand out.”
“Sticks & Stones is terrible,” Paste Magazine’s Garrett Martin said, “and [Dave] Chappelle can only blame himself for that.”
Martin harshly critiques Chappelle’s opening riff on “cancel culture” as the comedian’s own personal venting session:
Among the long list of people Dave Chappelle doesn’t give a f*** about are the people who paid between $70 and $90 (before fees and charges) to see him live. The multimillionaire starts off his latest special on the largest streaming platform by belittling everybody who’s ever criticized any celebrity for insulting or offending people, using the audience at Atlanta’s Tabernacle as a stand-in for all of society. There’s not a joke or any kind of humor behind it—it’s just him venting about people being held accountable for their own words and actions. I guess it’s a brave way to start off a show, if you equate bravery with just acting like an a**hole.
The scores for Chappelle’s special underscore the disconnect between the media and the general public. This was also sharply exposed with media-beloved so-called comedian Hannah Gadsby (her schtick is to literally not be funny — figure that out!), who scored a perfect 100% from the critics with her “Nanette” special on Rotten Tomatoes. Her audience score? A miserable 54%.
This same pattern can be seen with “woke” movies, too. “Captain Marvel,” with its feminist superhero, tanked with audience scores following the premiere, though the feminist flick did well with critics: