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Dave Chappelle’s New Jokes About School Shootings Are Backed By Research

The comedian doesn't always shine in his new Netflix special, but he does get this issue right.

Dave Chapelle is making jokes about school shooting drills. And, guess what? He’s 100 percent right. In his new Netflix comedy special — Sticks and Stones — the famously controversial comedian tackles a lot of big issues, and though he doesn’t quite get everything right, he nails it with how parents honestly feel about school shootings and the world of horrific drills we all now live in.

About halfway through the special at the 27-minute mark, Chappelle pivots from some not-so great bits to one that is very poignant.

He asks his son how school is going and he responds: “We didn’t have school today, technically,” and goes on to explain that instead of classes, there was an active shooting drill.

This is where Chappelle gets it right. Explaining that he didn’t realize that school shooting drills were a thing. “I had to tell my sons the truth. I didn’t want to tell them that shit. ‘Son, listen to me,’” Chappelle says. “‘Fuck that drill. If somebody comes to your school and wants to shoot it up… you probably gonna get shot… I’m just being real.” He makes a joke about how he’s famous being the reason that his son would get shot, but he also, almost casually, adds: “Just stay low and run in a zigzag pattern, and don’t try to save anybody, son, Do you understand me?’” While it’s a joke, it echoes the same thing that a school shooting victim in Colorado was told by his dad: “Whatever you do, don’t be a hero.” The victim, Kendrick Castillo, was a hero. He rushed the shooter and died for it.

The crowd roars in laughter, and while Chappelle’s delivery is funny, it’s not actually that funny. “Why would you have kids rehearse for some shit they have no control over? All you’re doing is training these kids to worry.”

Here’s where is “joke” is actually just a solid point backed by numbers. Research shows that active shooting drills do little more for children than traumatize them. In early 2019, Indiana teachers who were doing an active shooter training with the County Sheriff’s office, were shot with plastic pellets, one teacher reported being hit in the back four times. What does getting shot by plastic pellets do to prepare teachers to lock down their classrooms and hide out of sight of a shooter?

And then he adds: “When you’re doing these drills, well, aren’t you training the shooter, too?” He’s also not wrong. Many, if not most, school shooters are former students or current students of the school they are shooting up. They are murdering their classmates in halls that they know while students are trying to train for a protocol that the shooter trained right alongside them for. So what are we doing for our kids? 

This isn’t to say Dave Chappelle’s new Netflix special, is perfect. At one point, he defends Michael Jackson’s honor posthumously, dismisses the harm that Louis C.K. caused the female comedians he harassed by masturbating in front of them, and, takes jabs at the LGBTQIA+ community, saying derisively “No matter what you do… you are never allowed to upset the alphabet people.” He then proceeds to tell jokes that would, indeed, insult and offend trans people.

So, is the new Dave Chappelle Netflix special funny? Maybe not. But when he’s hitting the issue of school shootings and the drills around them, if Chapelle fails to be actually funny, at least he’s being honest.

“If you’re a parent, this shit is terrifying. This shit is real scary.” That much is true. The question is what we’ll do to fix it. But, Chappelle knows what many have already realized: traumatizing kids with active shooter drills can’t be the answer.