Dave Chappelle: The Bird Revelation & The System

You can tell them anything if you just make it funny.

–Bo Burnham, Make Happy

The Introduction

Don’t explain the joke. That is the first rule of comedy, but this essay will break that rule by explaining what makes Dave Chappelle’s fourth Netflix special so great.

However, such explanation is fine because The Bird Revelation is not actually meant to be funny. Chappelle starts the special by explaining:

Sometimes the funniest thing you say is mean…I say a lot of mean things, but you guys gotta remember I’m not saying it to be mean. I’m saying it because it’s funny. And everything’s funny ’til it happens to you.

The Bird Revelation has numerous serious rants where the tension builds up, and the audience nervously waits for Dave to throw in a joke to break the gravity of what is being discussed. However although the previous special Equanimity is less serious and more outright funny, TBR still has plenty of laughs. The bit about OJ Simpson trying to kneel during the national anthem is especially memorable.

Yet while the topics discussed are funny to the audience, they are not humorous to Dave because he has experienced them. Jokes about dead babies and AIDS are not as easy to make or hear after you have personally had a miscarriage or an HIV diagnosis. Dark humor is better not when it aims to be controversial for controversy’s own sake but rather when it comes from personal experience. “Offensive” comedians like Anthony Jeselnik are talented and witty, but their work sometimes lacks a sense of authenticity. Continue reading Dave Chappelle: The Bird Revelation & The System

The End of Evangelion: When Motivation Fades

Self-help is a huge industry. People get motivated to turn around their lives through books, motivational speakers, and even YouTube clips. But if their advice and motivation is helpful, then why is there so much of it? If a single piece of media could help you reach your goal to lose weight, get rich, or just be happy, there would be no need for so many works on self-improvement.

The truth is change is never as easy as we expect it to be. And that is the core idea of The End of Evangelion.

Released in 1997, The End of Evangelion wraps up Hideaki Anno’s mecha anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion. The final two episodes of the original series are, to say the least, strange. Supposedly, the Gainax team ran out of money and had to wrap up the series with limited animation. The climactic and foreshadowed Human Instrumentality Project begins but rather than seeing what actually happens, the last two episodes dive into the psyches of the main characters, so the audience can see the mental battles they face. The End of Evangelion shows what actually happened in the narrative. Kind of. Therefore, both the film and the original two final episodes must be analyzed together. The movie is even broken up into two distinct parts to further strengthen this link. Continue reading The End of Evangelion: When Motivation Fades

Halt and Catch Fire: It Won’t Leave Us in the End So Totally Alone

Full spoilers for Halt and Catch Fire follow.

In the sixth episode of Halt and Catch Fire‘s final season, “A Connection is Made”, most of the gang goes out to shoot off model rockets for Haley’s birthday. The scene is a beautiful moment of fan service. After four seasons of rocky interpersonal relationships, seeing Joe, Cameron, and Gordon (plus Haley and Katey) experience a happy moment is treasured by the audience because they have seen these characters go through so much.

At that moment, a happy, conflict-free ending for the series was all I wanted. Joe and Cameron would live happily ever after. Gordon would have a great relationship with his daughters with his new romance beginning to blossom. Donna would return to the group. But with almost half a season still to go, things were inevitably going to fall apart.

Despite the obvious comparisons, Halt and Catch Fire‘s first season was not like Mad Men. That season was driven too much by the narrative of “build a revolutionary product and beat evil IBM” to let the show become a brooding character piece like Mad Men. We all thought this was an knockoff story of Apple Computer, Steve Jobs, and Steve Wozniak in the fictional form of Cardiff Electric, Joe MacMillan, and Gordon Clark. Continue reading Halt and Catch Fire: It Won’t Leave Us in the End So Totally Alone