Rhy Speaks: On The Playa Haters' Ball
I’m assuming that by now, most of us (specifically Black millennials) have seen every sketch of Chappelle’s Show. I’m also sure that asking 20 different people their favorite Chappelle sketch would provide 20 different answers. My personal pick is the fake Frontline profile of Clayton Bigsby: Black White supremacist. Airing as the final sketch of the series’ very first episode, it set the tone for the rest to come: an outrageous sketch meant to offend while making excellent and relevant points. I personally enjoy its continued political and social relevance 15 years later. How about you? Charlie Murphy’s True Hollywood Stories? The Racial Draft? The Niggar Family? Pick any sketch and I’m willing to say a valid argument exists as to why it could be the best.
Of course, I recognize my personal favorite does not always equal the indisputable best. Despite my adoration of Chappelle’s depiction of Bigsby, I am willing to argue that The Playa Haters’ Ball – the conclusion of season one’s ninth episode – is Chappelle’s Show’s greatest sketch and not considered or discussed as fervently as I think it should.
For the uninitiated, the sketch centers around an HBO documentary on the fifth-annual (or ninth-annual, depending whom you ask) International Playa Haters’ Ball: a convention of pimps and hos gathering to present awards to the year’s best pimps and player haters. Ice-T (!) opens with a monologue describing exactly what qualifies as hating. To actually have Ice-T playing himself in the sketch adds to its richness and authenticity. We are then told that this is a yearly occasion, designed to recognized only “the most prestigious verbal abusers on the planet.” The documentary next introduces us to various nominees and winners of years past – Mr. Roboto (from Korea), Beautiful, and Silky Johnson, whose arrival coincides with a proper start to the evening’s hate. With a pitch like this, the sketch is bound to be hilarious and comically ingenious. Let the hating commence. From there, the jokes come at rapid speed as these characters played by Dave Chappelle, Charlie Murphy, Patrice O’Neal, and Donnell Rawlings flame each other, let off the meanest yo momma jokes, and take aim at assorted public figures – including Osama bin Laden, in 2003 – during the gala’s Photo Flip competition. Literally anyone can catch the hate.
Eventually the formal ceremony begins, Ice-T emerging to present the award for the 2003 Playa Hater of the Year, and we learn simply being a presenter can garner crazy hate. Ten seconds into Ice-T’s introduction, Patrice O’Neal, umprompted, exclaims, “Man, you corny!” Not missing a beat, Ice-T counters, “The next nigga to say something while I’m talking is getting shot. Please believe that.” No jokes, no hate … you’re getting shot lmfao. I cannot confirm this belief, but that had to have been an unscripted exchange: it flows so naturally and is so funny that it has to be.
Nominees for the 2003 trophy include Buck Nasty (nominated for getting his best friend’s wife pregnant and tricking the best friend into raising the kid; responds angrily when his hos don’t clap for him), Pit Bull (nominated for calling the police on his drug-dealing neighbors out of jealousy), and the aforementioned Silky Johnson (nominated for calling in a bomb threat to the Special Olympics).
(Side note: As Ice-T prepares to announce the winner, in the background – completely unscripted – Beautiful shouts, “You look like a bootleg Ice-T!” to Ice-T. For me, this is the most hilarious part of the sketch. Who says that? To Ice T!)
Silky Johnson is announced the winner, but Beautiful can’t let Silky begin his acceptance speech before piling on some more hate: “Silky’s mink made out of 100% rat ass!” Silky, now officially the year’s biggest hater, hits back with a very funny and very inappropriate Little Richard joke, silencing Beautiful and cementing his place as Top Hater. As Silky closes his speech, he voices his hatred of everyone in attendance, wishing nothing but the worst for them all. Exiting to a final chorus of boos, Silky says he must go home and put some water in Buck Nasty’s momma’s dish, an incredulous Buck Nasty incapable of a response. End sketch.
The Playa Haters’ Ball is easily one of the best sketches in show history. I cannot understand how fans of Chappelle fail to discuss this sketch when talking about its most memorable moments. The skit’s humor is rooted in how natural it all feels, the chemistry between these friends and just naturally funny people fueling the bulk of it. Based on nothing but my personal speculation, the totality of that episode isn’t quite as memorable as others and that precludes it from consideration. Or even more simply, maybe people just don’t appreciate true comedians and pure Black comedy. Whatever the reason, this sketch deserves way more credit than it is currently given, and it is a shame that this genius moment of sketch comedy remains underrated.