Chris Rock and Kevin Hart began their evening at Madison Square Garden with a rather puzzling bang. In the midst of a slew of controversies, Dave Chappelle was the surprise opener for the co-headlining gig Saturday night (July 23rd), which ended with Hart gifting Rock a gold chain-wearing goat.
“Had to sneak my way in here,” Chappelle, donning a Nirvana In Utero t-shirt, said after walking onstage to Radiohead’s Karma Police. “Despite what you may have read about in the news, I’m OK and I appreciate the support.”
Chappelle’s 22-minute set comes just days after Minneapolis venue First Avenue canceled his show there due to backlash regarding his unyielding habit of transphobic jokes. After being forced to move locations, the comedian evidently took no notes from the criticism: “I can see a transgender hit squad coming from a mile away,” he jeered.
As if ticking off a predictable to-do list, Chappelle brought up his distaste for cancel culture, Rock getting infamously slapped by Will Smith at this year’s Oscars, and being tackled onstage during his set at Netflix Is a Joke fest back in May. He quipped that he hoped his attacker, who identifies as a bisexual man, contracts monkeypox: “Not that he should die, but his ass should itch for four to six weeks.” The comedian also shouted out his fellow embattled entertainer Louis C.K., saying: “Louis, even if you get in trouble in the streets, you are my friend.”
Chappelle, Rock, and Hart all convened for the final 10 minutes of the night. Hart then said he had a present for Rock, which ended up being goat wearing gold chains — to represent that Hart thinks Rock is the “Greatest of All Time.”
“I’m not taking care of that shit!” Rock shouted, as Chappelle chimed in: “This is the worst night of this goat’s life.” Rock then added: “He’s just happy he’s not at a Jamaican restaurant!”
Of course, it wasn’t long before the goat decided to use the bathroom while onstage. “How’s your first night in show business?” Chappelle asked the animal, putting a microphone up to its mouth. “What are we gonna call him?” he then asked his fellow human performers. Hart’s answer: “Will Smith!”
Chappelle’s transphobia became especially evident following his 2021 Netflix special The Closer, in which he self-identified as a trans-exclusionary radical feminist (TERF) and defends fellow TERF J.K. Rowling. GLAAD, the National Black Justice Coalition, and members of the LGBTQ community all voiced their repugnance towards the jokes; openly gay comedian Jerrod Carmichael said the topic was “an old hill to die on.” Even still, The Closer nabbed an Emmy nomination.