Dave Chappelle is considered a comedy genius and a “legend in his own time” by many fans of the genre. As such, he believes that his platform comes with an added duty to rile up the masses. “Comedians have a responsibility to speak recklessly,” he says in a 30-second teaser for his newest Netflix special, The Closer. “Sometimes, the funniest thing to say is mean. Remember, I’m not saying it to be mean: I’m saying it because it’s funny.”
However, when it comes to Chappelle’s jokes about the queer community, the National Black Justice Coalition isn’t laughing. “It is deeply disappointing that Netflix allowed Dave Chappelle’s lazy and hostile transphobia and homophobia to air on its platform,” NBJC executive director David Johns said in a statement to Deadline.
Johns continued to suggest that the streaming service cancel Chappelle: “With 2021 on track to be the deadliest year on record for transgender people in the United States — the majority of whom are Black transgender people — Netflix should know better. Perpetuating transphobia perpetuates violence. Netflix should immediately pull The Closer from its platform and directly apologize to the transgender community.”
In The Closer, Chappelle noted how rapper DaBaby built his street cred for killing someone (who happened to be another Black man) yet found himself in the public crosshairs for remarks about the gay community and HIV. He later said in the special, though, “I’m team TERF! (trans-exclusionary radical feminist)…” and that he would no longer poke fun at the queer community “until we are both sure that we are laughing together. I’m telling you, it’s done. I’m done talking about it.”
This is not the first time Chappelle has found himself in the hot seat for jokes about the LGBTQ+ community. In his 2019 Netflix special Sticks and Stones, the comedian asked why the N-word was fair play but not “f-ggot,” compared being transgender to being “Chinese but born in this n-gger body,” and alluded to the unspoken rule that he’s clearly flouted but tripped up Kevin Hart: “No matter what you do in your artistic expression, you are never, ever allowed to upset the Alphabet People.”
But the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (better known as GLAAD) is upset and agrees with the NBJC that Chappelle’s bit is less about humor than it has become about attacking anyone who isn’t heterosexual or cisgender. “Dave Chappelle’s brand has become synonymous with ridiculing trans people and other marginalized communities,” the organization tweeted. “Negative reviews and viewers loudly condemning his latest special is a message to the industry that audiences don’t support platforming anti-LGBTQ diatribes. We agree.”