Chappelle’s ‘Dreamer’ Review – No Retreat, No Surrender

Comic GOAT punches down and all around in meandering Netflix special

How many comedians start their stand-up hours by quoting Henry David Thoreau?

We expect something like that from Dave Chappelle. Thoughtful. Different. Provocative.


Yet what many will remember most about “The Dreamer,” his latest Netflix special, is how eager he is to taunt his angriest critics.

DAVE CHAPPELLE: The Dreamer | Official Trailer | Netflix

Yes, Chappelle “goes there” more than a few times, even bragging about how he loves to “punch down.” The indifferent special feels like his way of saying, “nanny-nanny poo-poo … I can still say what I want and Netflix won’t do doo-doo.”

That’s wonderful, on paper. He shouldn’t be canceled for jokes.

No one should.

When you push the envelope the jokes should be the best of the best, and that hardly describes “The Dreamer.”


The show, taped at the Lincoln Theatre in D.C., opens with Chappelle recalling how he struggled to fill the seats in the very theater he’s performing at 24 years ago. His first big joke targets the trans community.

Here we go … or not.

“I’m not f***ing with those people any more. It’s not worth the trouble … maybe three or four times a night,” he says, a fair estimate given what follows.

He spent more time provoking another community.

“Tonight, I’m doing all handicapped jokes. They’re not as organized as the gays,” he cracks before telling a story tied to former GOP congressman Madison Cawthorn, who uses a wheelchair following a car accident.

He moves on to strip clubs, thoughts on the Chris Rock/Will Smith “slap” incident and his own attack at the Hollywood Bowl last year.

Chappelle couldn’t have better material on both fronts, and his storytelling prowess ensures some solid chuckles ensue.

Nothing felt like vintage Chappelle, though, and his observations hardly challenged the audience or home viewers.

At the 38-minute mark, he retreats to snag a cigarette and tells a long, rambling story tied into the special’s title, “The Dreamer.”

The saga begins with an early career disappointment. An HBO showcase went south thanks to noise bleeding into the theater. He eventually had to stare down an old man and his gangster stooges who he thought were responsible for the interruption.

Again, no one weaves a tale like Chappelle, and his body language sells it.

Like “The Closer,” “The Dreamer” wraps with an attempt at something profound. It’s partially successful, even sweet at times. It’s still not vintage Chappelle.

You wait and wait, for something more from Chappelle throughout “The Dreamer,” insights no one else can match. Audiences won’t always agree with his views … they may even rage against them. They’re still original, probing and worth a closer inspection.

He’s at his best when forcing us to re-examine our opinions, even if we end up clinging to them.

The special too often sounds like a placeholder, a way to stay in the public eye and celebrate his victory over Cancel Culture.

He stood up to the “woke mind virus” and emerged even stronger.

At its worst, “The Dreamer” is Chappelle flaunting his ability to be a thorn in the Thought Police’s side. We expect more from the man many dub the comedy GOAT.


  1. As always Dave Chappelle proves his point. That is the lgbtq community takes themselves waaaaay to seriously. They are hypocrites. For years they laughed when he talked abouut Native Americans crack babies standing on corners, Michael Jackson & R Kelly molestng kids, They dont care when he mocks his wife & Asian people. No calls for cancellation when he mocked mormons & quakers. The last lgtbq community center for sone reason tthink that they are sonehow above being mocked. They are so special tbeg should be untouchable. And you critituques feed i to it every sngle time. It getting old & no longer works (as if it ever did). They laughed just as loud when Chapelle joked about the violence perpretrated him from against hris Rock & Dave Chappelle himself. The Lgbtq community want equality, well here it is. Dave was almost stabbed by a guy who idwntified himself as a member of that community Not a single word from the lgbtq community

    1. As always, Dave Chappelle and his puerile fans who are still mired in the adolescence of “Chappelle’s Show” prove everyone else’s point. His material is stale and old, and, as the reviewer points out quite succinctly, really doesn’t break ground or challenge the viewer. No one said jokes cannot be told about LGBTQ+ people — his “jokes,” however, are laughless; they are more of a reaffirming of what his audience believes and wants to hear, and apparently that includes punching down with lazy punchlines and thumbing his nose at critics all while failing to create something clever or novel. Making fun of the difficulties marginalized communities face CAN be funny when written well. The problem is, Dave does not understand why his “jokes” come off as more mean-spirited and offensive for the sake of being offensive because he’s simply stating what he believes and what he wants his audience to believe.

      The special as a whole is mediocre; there were some moments where I could see flashes of past greatness, especially in his storytelling, but by and large it’s stale, contrived, and really just his latest attempt to stay relevant by provoking controversy. For a guy who considers himself a “thinker,” he sure has lost the plot — comedy specials are primarily supposed to be FUNNY, and I’m really not sure he even was going for that here.

      1. The negativity and ignorance by this predominantly current liberal/easily offended Gen Z community astounds me. Chapelle has nothing left to prove. The man is uproariously funny; even when he isn’t even trying. What overly sensitive Gen Z will never appreciate is the comic art of real professional style humor; where half the ride is to be offended and yet still synthesize and process it as a joke.

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