Sticks & Stones, the latest comedy special from Dave Chappelle, has been heavily scrutinized by journalists but praised by Netflix subscribers. Ever since the Harvey Weinstein scandal, numerous high-profile comedians have been the focus of major controversies. A once-popular comic like Louis C.K. was essentially “cancelled” in pop culture after numerous allegations of sexual misconduct, though he continues to perform at clubs.
More recently, in January 2018, Master of None star Aziz Ansari was also accused of sexual misconduct, though the public reacted much differently to the news, with many believing that his alleged questionable dating behavior didn’t necessarily constitute a cultural cancellation. As for Chappelle, he’s managed to avoid major controversies, but his comedy is indeed rooted in provoking the audience, if only to make them question their unwavering beliefs about specific societal issues. That's why Sticks & Stones currently has 27% Tomatometer score via journalist reviews, but an average of 99% with audiences, implying that Chappelle hits the bullseye, at least in terms of entertainment.
The amount of official critic reviews is the driving force behind Sticks & Stones' divided scores. Whereas over 34,000 people have rated Chappelle’s latest special, only 15 critics account for the low Tomatometer score. Plus, since 2017, Netflix has released five Chappelle comedy specials, all of which feature his raw and provocative approach. And therein lies the foundation for the wildly different critic and audience scores for Sticks & Stones. Chappelle’s views and stand-up style don’t align with politically correct culture in 2019.
Chappelle’s harshest critics may indeed have valid points about how stand up comedians should address sensitive topics in 2019 - noting that Chappelle's special feels more like him unloading his frustration on the audience than a true comedy special - but the comedian’s entire premise is based on the concept that he should be allowed to speak the truth while telling jokes. It's a concept that Chappelle shares with many of his fellow comedians, especially those who've had their own Netflix specials, such as Ansari.
For those who are immediately offended by brutally honest commentaries on race, sexuality (such as Chappelle calling the LGBTQ community the "alphabet people"), and various taboo issues, then Sticks & Stones will indeed be a difficult watch. But for comedy consumers watching at home, they can laugh and/or complain in the privacy of their own homes. If the Sticks & Stones experience feels worthwhile and enlightening, then Chappelle’s Netflix special will receive a positive rating from Netflix subscribers. According to Rotten Tomatoes, streamers appear to be more than pleased with the comedy investment.