If there’s one thing Dave Chappelle‘s doing besides telling jokes, is defending them.
Last November, the famed comedian found himself on stage at his alma mater, named the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington D.C.. He was attending the renaming ceremony where the school’s theater would be named after him– a gesture he later declined.
Aptly titled “What’s in a Name?” Chappelle launched into defending himself against all the backlash from the transgender jokes he told in his controversial 2021 special The Closer. Even prior to the speech he engaged with the student body during a Q&A session where the kids weren’t afraid to air out their gripes with him. Chappelle claims that despite disagreeing with his jokes about gender and sexuality, it still comes down to him expressing himself through his art.
“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 said during the 40-minute. “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.”
Chappelle went on to call the outspoken teens “instruments of oppression” and admitted that their criticism did negatively affect him.
“When I heard those talking points coming out of these children’s faces, that really, sincerely, hurt me. Because I know those kids didn’t come up with those words. I’ve heard those words before. The more you say I can’t say something, the more urgent it is for me to say it,” Chappelle said.
You can stream Chappelle’s latest special on Netflix.