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Dave Chappelle: Trump is “a bad DJ at a good party”

Constance Grady is a senior correspondent on the Culture team for Vox, where since 2016 she has covered books, publishing, gender, celebrity analysis, and theater.

Last November, Dave Chappelle was the host of Saturday Night Live on the weekend after the election and immediately made headlines. His 11-minute monologue veered from jokes to personal reflections to the history of black people in the White House, and concluded with this: “I’m wishing Donald Trump luck. And I’m going to give him a chance. And we, the historically disenfranchised, demand that he give us one too.”

At the time, “let’s give him a chance” was a particularly weighted phrase. For many on the left, it seemed that those on the right were using it as a cudgel to try to shame them into not being so angry about the election results. In some circles, it even became a meme to pass around a quote from a prewar German citizen opining that Germany should give the National Socialists a chance.

So Chappelle’s call to give Trump a chance was not particularly well received, a fact of which he’s very aware (he apologized for it in May). But when he appeared on The Late Show Wednesday night, host Stephen Colbert asked him to revisit the idea. “Now that we’re seven, eight months in,” Colbert asked, “how do you feel about the chances that [Trump’s] been given?”

“It’s not like I wanted to give him a chance that night,” Chappelle pointed out. But he does see a small silver lining in Trump’s presidency: It’s gotten people so angry that they’re learning a lot. “I don’t know that I’ve ever heard in popular discourse people discussing ethics this much. I didn’t even know how ethics were necessarily supposed to work at that level of the government.”

He also suggested that white Americans, in particular, are learning. “I feel like a lot of white Americans got to see what an election night feels like for many black Americans, every cycle,” he said: the shock and despair of seeing someone who seems devoted to turning back progress elected to the chief executive office.

But Chappelle remains hopeful. He sees Trump’s presidency as part of a cycle, a backlash to Barack Obama’s presidency that will eventually circle back around. “This is how traction works. I think it speaks to how effective Obama’s presidency was. Donald Trump’s the other foot: good foot, bad foot, good foot, bad foot.”

So although Chappelle is clearly not a Trump fan, he’s hopeful that Trump has progressive Americans so angry that, in the end, “He’s going to make a more informed and better voter.”

And in the meantime, Chappelle believes that America will endure. Trump, he says, “is like a bad DJ at a good party.”