On the most recent episode of “Saturday Night Live,” Dave Chappelle made headlines for his opening monologue — not for any jokes about the trans community, as the comedian has put in his stand-up, but instead for his commentary on the recent wave of antisemitic rhetoric from prominent figures like Kanye West and Kyrie Irving. While several prominent figures have criticized Chappelle’s monologue, he has a defender in fellow comedian and friend Jon Stewart.
“Dave said something in the ‘SNL’ monologue that I thought was constructive, which he says, ‘It shouldn’t be this hard to talk about things,’” Stewart said during an appearance on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” Tuesday night. “I’m called antisemitic because I’m against Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. I’m called other things from other people based on other opinions that I have, but those shut down debate… Whether it be comedy or discussion or anything else, if we don’t have the wherewithal to meet each other with what’s reality then how do we move forward?”
Although Chappelle spent the majority of his airtime mocking both Irving and West for their statements about the Jewish community, he also spent the monologue jokingly debunking several antisemitic lines of thinking. For example, while talking about the perception that Jewish people “run” Hollywood, he said: “I’ve been to Hollywood and this is just what I saw: It’s a lot of Jews, like a lot. But that doesn’t mean anything. There’s a lot of Black people in Ferguson, Missouri, but that doesn’t mean we run the place.”
These jokes prompted criticism from Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, who said that the monologue was “normalizing” antisemitism. Stewart, however, didn’t see it that way and challenged that assertion during his interview with Colbert.
“‘He normalized antisemitism with the monologue.’ I don’t know if you’ve been on comment sections on most news articles, but it’s pretty normal,” Stewart said. “It’s incredibly normal. But the one thing I will say is I don’t believe that censorship and penalties are the way to end antisemitism or to gain understanding. I don’t believe in that. It’s the wrong way for us to approach it.”
Chappelle and Stewart have been collaborators and friends for years after starring in the 1998 comedy film “Half Baked.” The two have toured together several times, and Stewart previously defended Chappelle after the controversy over perceived transphobic jokes in the Netflix comedy special “The Closer,” saying that “his intentions are never hurtful.”
During his appearance on the “Late Show,” Stewart also spoke about Irving and West’s controversies. While he didn’t defend their remarks, he criticized the way their controversies have been handled, saying that suspending Irving for sharing an antisemitic film on social media is not the way to resolve the issue.
“This is a grown-ass man. The idea that you would say to him, ‘We’re going to put you in a timeout. You have to sit in the corner and stare at the wall until you no longer believe that the Jews control the international banking system?’,” Stewart said. “Penalizing somebody for having a thought — I don’t think is the way to change their minds or gain understanding.”
Watch Stewart’s appearance on “The Late Show” below.