Dave Chappelle opened up about protestors at his comedy shows as he continuously faces backlash over jokes some have labeled “transphobic” during an episode of his new podcast.
“The Midnight Miracle” features Chappelle along with co-hosts Talib Kweli and Yasiin Bey. The comedian released the second episode on Tuesday, when he spoke specifically about the First Avenue club in Minneapolis canceling his show in July due to backlash. The owners canceled “hours” before he was set to take the stage.
“I guess apparently they had made a pledge to the public at large that they would make their club a safe space for all people, and that they would ban anything they deemed transphobic,” Chappelle explained on the episode. “This is a wild stance for an artistic venue to take, especially one that’s historically a punk rock venue.”
The controversy surrounding Chappelle first began after he released his stand-up show “The Closer” on Netflix in 2021. The comedian made jokes regarding transgenderism that led to roughly 30 Netflix employees walking out of the Los Angeles office in protest.
The controversy around “The Closer” also contributed to the cancelation at First Avenue.
After his show was called off in July, Chappelle was able to move it to the Varsity Theater. However, fans of the comedian were met with large groups of protestors.
“These were grown people of various genders and gender identities,” Chappelle recalled. “They threw eggs. They threw eggs at the people who were lined up to see the show.”
“One lady was so mad with the protesters, she picked up a police barricade,” Chappelle continued. “You ever seen one? They look like a bike rack. This b—- picked that barricade up by herself and threw it at the crowd. I gotta tell you, it’s an amazing feat of strength for a woman.”
Chappelle, who gained fame for his comedy with “Chappelle’s Show” in 2003, noted that despite the protesting, none of his fans committed any acts of violence.
“When I walked on stage, it was a huge ovation because suddenly going to see a comedy show was this huge act of defiance,” Chappelle remembered. “I don’t think anyone had any malicious intent. In fact, one of the things that these people, the trans and their surrogates, always say is that my jokes are somehow gonna be the root cause of some impending violence that they feel like is inevitable for my jokes.”
He continued, “But I gotta tell you, as abrasive as they were, the way they were protesting, throwing eggs at people, throwing barricades, cussing and screaming, nobody beat ‘em up. In fact, the people in the crowd would just say, ‘We love you. Like what are you talking about?'”
Chappelle himself was a victim of violence during a show at the Hollywood Bowl in May 2022. A member of the audience jumped onstage and tackled Chappelle. Isaiah Lee, the suspect, was carrying a replica gun with a knife blade inside when he attacked the comedian, police told Fox News Digital.
He was swiftly taken away by security and other individuals, who repeatedly hit the man just off-stage, videos appeared to show.
Immediately following the attack, Chappelle remained on stage and thanked security, before joking about the incident and describing the person who attacked him as a “trans man.”
In the podcast episode, Chappelle went on to accuse the people who take issue with his jokes of “deliberately” obscuring what they believe is the intent of his work in order to make a point that his work does not merit.
“Now I have a belief that the gay community is not monolithic, and I think that in regards to me, that there’s probably a variety of opinions throughout that,” Chappelle said. “But there’s a thing they do where they deliberately obscure what I think they believe is the intent of my work to make a moment of it that I don’t know that the work necessarily merits. You know what I mean?”
He later said, “I’m not even mad that they take issue with my work. Good, fine. Who cares? What I take issue with is the idea that because they don’t like it, I’m not allowed to say it.”
Chappelle further explained his idea that the people who take issue with his jokes are attempting to remove the “nuance” from all speech in American culture.
“Art is a nuanced endeavor,” he said. “I have a belief that they are trying to take the nuance out of speech in American culture, that they’re making people speak as if they’re either on the right or the left. Everything seems absolute, and any opinion I respect is way more nuanced than these binary choices they keep putting in front of us. I don’t see the world in red or blue. It’s just people I agree with on some things and not other things. It’s just what it is.”
“And I think art is the best place to talk it out. In fact, may be the last place. Trying to silence a person like me, I don’t think it has anything to do with being loved,” Chapelle concluded. “They want to be feared. ‘If you say this, then we will punish you. We’ll come to First Avenue and f— your show up and we’ll come to the Varsity Theater and f— your show up.’ And they just don’t get to do that.”