Jimmy Fallon’s return to the studio still had guests appearing remotely, but picking Dave Chappelle to get things started was certainly a good move. The stand-up appeared on the Tonight Show on Wednesday and detailed what brought him back to the stage over the summer with his surprise Netflix special 8:46.
Chappelle spoke to Fallon about a number of different projects, including a new podcast he’s actually pressing on vinyl. He also brought his own audience to the show, sitting behind him while he talked to Fallon. But his most insightful comments came when he detailed the “gut-wrenching” process of recording 8:46 amid a summer of racial protests and, as Chappelle put it, “the George Floyd of it all.”
His comments came about 50 seconds into the video above, where Chappelle detailed why he put on outdoor shows and used that footage to make 8:46, named for the length of time Derek Chauvin kneeled on George Floyd’s neck before he later died.
“A lot of it started when the protests started, the George Floyd of it all,” Chappelle said. “And boy, I really miss having a microphone in my hand when something like that tragic happens.”
Chappelle explained that the first night of his 15 weeks of shows was the footage used in 8:46. But while the reaction it got online was enormous, getting everything together was described as a “gut-wrenching” process.
“It was a weird process,” Chappelle said. “I didn’t expect that I would put anything out, but it became a thing where I wouldn’t feel right telling jokes until I addressed that because people listen to me different,” he said. “That was one of those moments where I understood that and we let it rip. It was gut-wrenching putting it out, to be honest. I was real nervous about it, but I’m glad that I did.”
The result of those shows and that video has become a lightning rod of discussion in the latest wave of the Civil Rights movement in America. So while Chappelle may not have been certain the special would resonate, it certainly struck a nerve with many.