Dave Chappelle Addresses Kobe Bryant’s Death, Defends LeBron James in New Standup Set

Jesse Pantuosco
June 12, 2020 - 3:31 pm

After a three-month hiatus from performing, comedian Dave Chappelle finally returned to the stage last weekend, taking the microphone for a half-hour set in Beavercreek, Ohio, not far from his home in nearby Yellow Springs. The entirety of Chappelle’s performance (which definitely falls under the umbrella of NSFW), named “8:46” to signify the amount of time Derek Chauvin knelt on George Floyd’s neck before suffocating him, was uploaded to Netflix’s YouTube page Friday morning.

The comedy veteran spent much of his act—which was really more of a monologue—addressing recent events including the protests inspired by Floyd’s horrific death in Minneapolis last month. Chappelle was awarded a third consecutive Grammy for Best Comedy Album earlier this year but didn’t attend the ceremony in January, citing the death of Kobe Bryant, who was killed in a helicopter crash hours before his award was presented. “That’s why I didn’t show up at the Grammys. Because Kobe died,” said an emotional Chappelle, who followed his remarks with a somber pause.

The 46-year-old noted that Kobe’s Nos. 8 and 24, both hanging from the Staples Center rafters in Los Angeles, are the same numbers as his birthday, August 24 (which coincidentally falls one day after Bryant’s own birthday). “I loved Kobe Bryant,” said Chappelle, recalling the 18-time All-Star’s final game as a Laker, a 60-point masterpiece to beat the Utah Jazz on April 13, 2016. “I cried like a baby.”

Chappelle’s material also addressed current Laker LeBron James, specifically referencing his feud with Fox News commentator Laura Ingraham, who previously told the NBA superstar to “shut up and dribble” rather than share his opinions on race and politics. “I’ll tell you something about LeBron. This [guy] was on the cover of Sports Illustrated when he was 17 years old and exceeded every expectation they had of him,” said Chappelle. “He didn’t let anyone down. Came back to Ohio, won us a championship and then was like, ‘I’m gonna’ move to L.A.’ And everyone in Ohio was like, ‘We understand.’”

The longtime comic has never shied away from talking about race. In addition to George Floyd, Chappelle also touched on Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner, who were killed in similar fashion years earlier. Chappelle was reluctant to see footage of Floyd’s death, waiting a week before finally watching the video. “Why would anyone care what their favorite comedian thinks after they saw a police officer kneel on a man’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds?,” Chappelle asked a largely silent audience on Saturday. “I can’t get that number out of my head because it was my time of birth on my birth certificate. I was born at 8:46 in the morning and they killed this [guy] in eight minutes and 46 minutes.”

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