It’s officially vote-casting time, and tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang is calling in the big guns. The Democratic candidate with the unorthodox plan for a universal basic income of $1,000 a month for every American adult has released an ad with one of his most high profile endorsers: Dave Chappelle. The stripped-down video begins with a gag in which Chappelle introduces himself as Chris Tucker, with Yang following suit by saying that he’s Jackie Chan, before Chappelle gives up the ghost: “I’m just kidding,” he says. “I’m Dave Chappelle and this is the guy I want to be president, Andrew Yang.” The rest of the ad features a quick shoutout for Yang’s UBI program and a call for supporters to caucus for Yang in Monday’s election in Iowa.
Yang has surprised many pundits with the enduring strength of his support; he’s stayed in the race and remained competitive longer than some sitting senators, governors, and mayors. That has a lot to do with the simplicity and appeal of his central campaign promise — giving $12,000 a year to every American over 18 years of age “forever,” as he notes in the ad. It’s a premise designed to appeal to everyday working people who aren’t necessarily politics junkies with deeply held positions on the social safety net, tax policy, and so on. And so far, it appears to be working.
The presence of Chappelle in the ad underscores Yang’s attempts at bypassing more traditional policies and modes of campaigning. This has been the general trajectory of his campaign — appeals to young men who, like Chappelle, aren’t necessarily into political correctness. Notably, one of the first big moments in Yang’s campaign came when he appeared on Joe Rogan’s podcast, which is known for its appeal to disaffected and heavily online young men. Chappelle fits neatly into that taste matrix.
Chappelle hasn’t just cut ads; he’s also been a devoted surrogate for the dark horse candidate. He recently phone-banked for Yang in South Carolina, another influential voting state whose residents will hit the polls Feb. 29. “My name is Dave Chappelle. I’m a world-famous comedian,” he told one person who picked up, according to The New Yorker. “But, today, I’m just rolling some phone calls and trying to garner support. We got a big primary coming up.”
Chappelle isn’t the only big name supporting Yang. The long-shot candidate has also earned an endorsement from rapper-actor Donald Glover, who joined Yang’s campaign in December as a “creative consultant.” The endorsements Yang is attracting— beloved celebrities, as opposed to fellow politicians — underscores the unorthodox route he’s attempting to take toward the nomination. Over the next few weeks, we’ll get the chance to see if any of it is working.