Ever notice how the best days of your life are the most spontaneous? When you randomly decide to have a barbie and invite everyone over? Or when you hang out with a bunch of friends going wherever the fancy takes you?
So it is with what Dave Chappelle calls “the best single day of my career” – when he decided to throw a block party for a Brooklyn neighbourhood. Dave Chappelle’s Block Party, the documentary of the whole event, is like running through a sprinkler on a hot day – refreshing, spontaneous and full of fun.
The film begins in Ohio, Chappelle’s home state, where he hands out “golden tickets” inviting people to the party. Right away we start meeting some of the hilarious (and totally real) characters with which the film is crammed. The middle-aged white lady who runs the store down the road, who has no idea what to pack for a block party (“I knew I should have brought a thong”); the two young Chappelle fans who talk about running into their idol; and, best of all, the Ohio Central State University marching band, who get invited to open the party. Their reaction when they’re told they can go is one of the highlights of the movie.
The action cuts between Ohio and the party preparations in Brooklyn itself. Chappelle decides to hold the party in Bedford-Stuyvesant, one of the area’s poorest neighbourhoods, and the characters keep coming – like the elderly couple who live in a derelict building next door to the party site, who you can’t help liking even though theyre so completely bizarre (they invite Chappelle to come “rest his loins” at their place any time he wants).
A lot of the laughs come from poking fun at racial stereotypes. After queuing for hours to get on a bus to the party, the camera spies a group of black people eating fried chicken. “Were not being stereotypical”, they laugh, “this is the only food we could find”. Chappelle drives down a well-to-do Brooklyn street with a loudspeaker inviting “The Huxtables” to come and party. He cracks a joke about trying to find a Mexican in the crowd. It’s all good-natured, promoting togetherness without being po-faced and PC about it all.
You feel like you’ve had your money’s worth even before the party begins. But then you get acts like Mos Def, Kanye West, and, for the first time in seven years, The Fugees. There’s music. There’s comedy. There are moments of life-affirming joy. You really can’t lose.
Dave Chappelle’s Block Party doesn’t make you wish you’d been there – it’s better than that. It makes you feel like you were there, that you were part of something huge and full of laughs, and that, somehow, life is better as a result. Guaranteed to put a smile on your face.