Netflix released a standup special by Dave Chappelle on the 7th of July, 2022. Titled ‘What’s in a Name?’. The show consists of a 40-minute long speech by Chappelle, addressing the retaliation he had faced for transphobic comments in his previous standup(s). The speech was released by Netflix without any prior announcements. The location of the incident was the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, D.C. Dave Chappelle’s alma mater. It took place, during a planned ceremony to rename the school’s theater after him.
Dave Chappelle is an American stand-up comedian and actor with a global fan following. Known for his satirical comedy sketches, Chappelle became a household name post the massive success of his show (Chappelle’s show). He quit the show mid-production in its third season. He later made a comeback to the limelight with standup specials and has been performing as a solo artist ever since.
The Dave Chappelle controversy
The decision to rename the theater of Dave Chappelle’s alma mater to his name was highly criticized by students. Owing to the comedian’s remark on the transgender community (particularly trans women) in his 2021 standup special ‘Closer.’ Dave Chappelle went on to have a competitive Q&A session with students of Duke Ellington in November post the release of his special. Where the students complained and criticized Chappelle for being insensitive to the LGBTQ community. Dave Chappelle also received a backlash on Twitter regarding the same.
Yes we know where transphobes stand, thanks
— Nicolas Demers (@npdemers) July 8, 2022
I’m only really keeping my account because they have the queer af Dead End Paranormal Park. I’ll be fucking pissed if they cancel that. pic.twitter.com/Qt0fXD5lMJ
— Tea 🫖 ☕️ (@lavndr_macaron) July 8, 2022
It's almost like it was an example of terrible management doubling down
— Jarlent (@MitchellAHorton) July 8, 2022
cancel and pirate it. venmo the cast and crew if you must.
— eve s (@egbs42) July 8, 2022
The comedian, during his speech at the ceremony, announced having decided against renaming the theater to his name, owing to the controversy. Duke Ellington School eventually named the space ‘Theater for Artistic Freedom and Expression.’ The 40-minute-long special on Netflix (What’s in a name) features him announcing the theater’s new name. The comedian goes on to describe his years at the school. However, 30 minutes into the session he addresses the Q&A session he previously took part in and defends himself saying the people who object to ‘The Closer’ failed to look at standup’s “artistic nuance.”
The comedian’s defense
In his speech, Dave Chappelle says, “All the kids were screaming and yelling. I remember, I said to the kids, I go, ‘Well, OK, well what do you guys think I did wrong?’ And a line formed. These kids said everything about gender, and this and that and the other, but they didn’t say anything about art,” Chappelle mentions. “And this is my biggest gripe with this whole controversy with ‘The Closer’: That you cannot report on an artist’s work and remove artistic nuance from his words. It would be like if you were reading a newspaper and they say, ‘Man Shot in the Face by a Six-Foot Rabbit Expected to Survive,’ you’d be like, ‘Oh my god,’ and they never tell you it’s a Bugs Bunny cartoon.”
Whether the special is an ‘artistic nuance’ or a ‘personal prejudice’ remains unclear. Regardless, Dave Chappelle continues to make headlines.