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Are Kenyans ready for Chappelle humour? [Pulse Editor's Opinion]

Are Kenyans ready for Chappelle comedy? Can American comedians find a vein for their style of humour in the Kenyan context?

An undated photo of American comedian and actor, Dave Chappelle

When - in May 2005 - Dave Chappelle walked away from a $50 million deal (about Ksh6.6 billion), his next stop was South Africa.

As he explained later, he needed time for personal reflection as well as time to connect with his family and friends who live on the continent.

Nineteen years later, Chappelle is expected to perform in his first show in Kenya at the Louis Leakey Auditorium in Nairobi on May 29.

When news broke that tickets to the show had sold out in minutes, there seemed to be an immediate need for a disclaimer on who would understand the unique brand of Chappelle comedy.

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A person commenting on Facebook stated: "Hii ni show ya watu wanaelewa jokes zimefika shule, sio jokes za kina kimondio, mtumishi na mchungaji."

Which begs the question, are Kenyans ready for Chappelle comedy? More so, can American comedians find a vein for their "elite" humour in the Kenyan context?

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The short answer is simply yes.

Kenyans understand American humour, if the proliferation of American network television through the late 90s into the early 2000s is anything to go by.

In today's age of streaming, Kenyans access Chappelle's specials on Netflix, on demand. And Kenyans make up for at least 3.9% of the supposed 1.8 million African Netflix subscribers.

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Perhaps by design, whatever is publicly available of Chappelle speaking about Africa has been objective.

In an appearance on Naomi Campbell's podcast in 2021, Chappelle was asked where he'd like his life to go, having travelled around the world and performed on some of the biggest stages.

He responded: "Stevie Wonder said in the press recently that he wanted to move to Ghana... He said, 'I'm moving to Ghana so I can be valued and respected more'... and you've got to think as a black American, who amongst us is more valued and respected than Stevie Wonder?

"And to see him decide to make such a move, I wanted to go because I do look at Stevie as the soul of American culture, and if the soul leaves the body, then..." Chappelle stated at the time.

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The most convincing evidence that Kenyans are ready for Dave Chappelle is how fast the tickets sold out.

When he performed for the first time in South Africa, the reception was just as resounding.

For those not convinced that Kenyans are actual Chappelle fans, or that majority would find his humour accessible, I'd suggest taking some time to listen to Eric Lu Savali, writer, director, curator & standup comic at the Punchline Comedy Club.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Pulse as its publisher.

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Email: news@pulselive.co.ke

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