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Dave Chappelle Claims Going to See His Comedy Shows Is “Huge Act of Defiance”

He also said his critics did not want to be loved: "They want to be feared"

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dave chappelle comedy shows act of defiance n-word transhpobe
Dave Chappelle (Netflix)

    Dave Chappelle spoke at length about the backlash to his transphobic comments on the second episode of his podcast The Midnight Miracle, comparing being called a transphobe to being called the n-word and claiming that going to see his comedy shows is a “huge act of defiance.”

    Speaking with co-hosts Talib Kweli and Yasiin Bey, Chappelle recounted an incident last July when the venue First Avenue in Minneapolis canceled his planned comedy show following an uproar over transphobic jokes in his Netflix special, The Closer.

    “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 said (via Variety). “This is a wild stance for an artistic venue to take, especially one that’s historically a punk rock venue.”

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    Chappelle’s show was rescheduled for Minneapolis’ Varsity Theater, which was then picketed by protesters. Of the crowd that he previously called a “transgender hit squad,” he said on the podcast, “These were grown people of various genders and gender identities. 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 added. “You ever seen one? They look like a bike rack. This bitch picked that barricade up by herself and and threw it at the crowd. I gotta tell you, it’s an amazing feat of strength for a woman.”

    The 49-year-old comedian also raved about the reception he received from the crowd that night. “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 said. “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. But I gotta tell you, as abrasive as they were, the way they were protesting, throwing eggs at people, throwing barricades, cussing and screaming, [none of my fans] beat ‘em up. In fact, the people in the crowd would just say, ‘We love you. Like what are you talking about?’”

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    Chappelle also sought common ground with some members of the LGBTQ community. “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,” he said, before returning to his critics. “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?”

    “I’m not even mad that they take issue with my work,” he continued. “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.”

    “Art is a nuanced endeavor,” he added. “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.”

    “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 fuck your show up and we’ll come to the Varsity Theater and fuck your show up.’ And they just don’t get to do that.”

    Chappelle is currently touring with Chris Rock.

    Editor’s note: This article has been updated to omit errors in the transcription reported by Variety.

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