Equanimity is not only the better one of the two, it is also the core of a Chappelle hour. He never goes over the top on anything. Of course, there are no sacred cows - if you've ever seen Chappelle, even in an interview, you know that he's an equal opportunity observational comedian. But even when his punchlines land, he delivers with them a composure that makes you wonder if anyone else can speak about Emmet Till or the transgender community and make it funny.
Ah, yes, the transgender community. Chappelle caught a lot of flack for his previous work where he insinuated that he thought it funny that there are people who feel born in a body that isn't theirs. Of course, this is not funny. Oviaas. But the way in which he addresses how he had to interrogate himself and his feelings regarding making other people feel bad for being who they are is pretty funny. Especially because he admits: “As a policy, I never feel bad about anything I say up here.”
Both these shows - Equanimity - and The Bird Revelation shows Chappelle at his most introspective. The common thread in both is what has been almost as big a deal as his stand-up: when he walked away from his TV series, the Chappelle Show, and millions of dollars while his career was at its height.
People labelled him crazy, they said he was on crack, they said he moved to Mzansi. All of these were things Chappelle denied but he never told us exactly why he left Hollywood while he was doing so well. In this special, he tells us. Sort of.
Equanimity is filmed at Warner Theatre in Washington DC, which is where Chappelle started. Shortly after he gets on stage, he remarks: “And after this shit, it's time to make America wait again. I've done too well... You don't walk away from the table, that's how ni99as get Kevin Harted.”
What Chappelle is basically saying is that there are certain people who aren't allowed to become too big and be doing some good in the world at the same time. Hollywood doesn't want you to be woke. In the same way it thinks it made you, it can set out to break you. Just ask Kevin Hart.
Anyway, the two specials are polar opposites. In the first he is literally standing up in a well-lit theatre. He smokes a vape and he is more polished. In the second, it's an intimate, almost dimly-lit club setting where he smokes cigarettes and sounds like he's work-shopping material.
It's here that he gets into the most trouble for saying some of CK Louis’ accusers had a “brittle spirit” because they let this debacle stop them from fulfilling their purpose. It's uncomfortable to watch - even after he attempts to rationalise his thoughts. Even after he name-drops Desmond Tutu, Dibs and how Hollywood needs its own Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
But the most interesting part of that set is when he attempts to explain why he left Hollywood - by using Iceberg Slim’s book, Pimp as a reference point. It's bitter-sweet because now we have an idea of what drove Chappelle away but it's a bitter thing because the story is absolutely horrid.
Chappelle uses the state of the world right now to make us look at ourselves but more interestingly he uses it to look at himself and lets us watch.
Equanimity and The Bird Revelation are on Netflix.