Baltimore is the center of comedic attention yet again.

Dave Chappelle’s Netflix special “The Dreamer” was released on New Year’s Eve and is currently sitting at No. 2 on the streaming platform’s Top 10 TV shows. In it, the comedian takes aim at Charm City.

As a Washington, D.C., native, Chappelle is probably more familiar with the city to the north than, say, a white comedian like Matt Rife from Columbus, Ohio — despite both of them filming their respective comedy specials in the District. And unlike Rife, while Chappelle’s joke was harsh, the material was original.

“You guys are from D.C. so you know … you know about Baltimore. We all know that through the years D.C. has been through some very, very tough times. Sadly, Baltimore is still in a very tough time,” Chappelle told the crowd. “Not everybody in the world can really understand the depth of Baltimore. Baltimore is so desperate that Tupac and his mother moved from Baltimore to Oakland for a better life,” referring to the hip-hop legend’s short time in the city before packing up for the West Coast.

“And Chris Rock went so hard in the paint. I can’t believe he did this, he shocked a Baltimore crowd. I didn’t even know that was possible,” Chappelle added. Chris Rock filmed a live stand-up special in Baltimore last year for Netflix, during which he publicly addressed for the first time Will Smith slapping him at the Oscars. (As columnist Leslie Gray Streeter pointed out, it was probably no coincidence that Rock chose to do the show in the city Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, called home for many years.)

“You know what he [Rock] said that got them?” Chappelle asked the D.C. audience. “He looked at the crowd — all Black, Baltimore Black. Even if you rich and Black in Baltimore, you know them n---as is traumatized about something. And Chris shocked them and this is what he said. He went to that crowd, — that crowd — he said: ‘I refuse to be a victim.’ The crowd said ‘Ah’. And I was backstage looking like ... ‘N---a, watch the tape.” The crowd laughed as Chappelle slowly shook his head.

Despite being the latest comedian to put Baltimore in the crosshairs, Chappelle’s jokes were more embraced by local viewers, though.

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Rife’s recent attempts to poke fun at Baltimore were met with more criticism than laughter. Rife joked about domestic violence, poked fun at locking car doors and called the city “ratchet.” Several viewers took to X (formerly Twitter) to discuss their displeasure with Rife mentioning domestic abuse in jest and his lack of a connection to the city.

Chappelle still isn’t off scot-free, though. He has come under fire (again) for his comments regarding the transgender community in this special. The comedian’s frequent jokes about transgender people over the years have been controversial, so much so that his 2021 Netflix special “The Closer” caused the streaming company’s employees to walk out and protest in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community.

At the rate that it’s going, we’re sure there will be more comedians who joke about our fair city in the coming months. Let’s just hope that the jokes follow the trend of Chappelle’s and are actually funny.

Taji Burris has covered the Baltimore music scene since 2015 for outlets such as The Working Title and The 4th Quarter, and now at the Baltimore Banner. 

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