Dave’s not here, man.

The Public Service Announcement I chose featured a young Dave Chappelle in 1991. The spot begins with Chappelle’s character telling another young man about his attraction to a young girl.The two young gentlemen speak in a vernacular indicative of their familiarity with one another. The main character is suggesting his belief that the girl they speak of will engage in intimacy with him that may lead to copulation. His friend states that the girl is an IV drug user, and that the protagonist may be exposing himself to AIDS. The protagonist reveals his naïveté concerning the (at that time) untreatable, deadly illness, and conveys a youthful machismo and disregard. He goes so far as to support his attitude by way of crude existentialism, and claims the girl is attractive enough to be worth death by disease.

The ad cuts away to Chappelle “rapping” over a vocalized beat. The “beat-boxing” is really good and the supporting vocal is excellent. There is a male in the middle of the musical trio who sings in a high register, and is imparting to the viewer that he should “cover his Jimmy,” a clandestine message in a strong Jamaican accent. Chappelle’s lyrics are sharp and clever; the rapping holds up well. The ad then goes on to feature people from the School for the Deaf working with the AIDS quilt.

The thrust of the commercial is in the beginning segment, and the utilized rhetorical element is that of logos. The characters lead the viewer to make logical conclusions based on provided facts, and by dismantling some perceptions that were prevalent at the time.

Gary Musisko


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