Last night (June 20), the Duke Ellington School of the Arts held a theater dedication ceremony in honor of Dave Chappelle, as the auditorium was intended to be renamed in his honor. Somewhat surprisingly, the decorated comedian took to the stage and announced that said venue would instead be named the Theater for Artistic Freedom and Expression.
The reason for the change is largely because of controversy surrounding Chappelle in the wake of recent stand-up specials on Netflix — specifically The Closer, which saw him speaking candidly about his opinions on the LGBTQIA+ community. The release of that special generated enough vitriol to cause an employee walkout at Netflix, with many of Chappelle‘s detractors accusing him of “punching down” in regards to the transgendered community.
“No matter what they say about ‘The Closer,’ it is still [one of the] most watched specials on Netflix,” he reportedly said during the ceremony. “The more you say I can’t say something, the more urgent it is for me to say it. It has nothing to do with what you are saying I can’t say. It has everything to do with my freedom of artistic expression.”
Dave Chappelle: "I saw in the newspaper that a man who was dressed in women’s clothing threw a pie at the Mona Lisa and tried to deface it. And it made me laugh and I thought, it’s like The Closer.”
— Josh Rogin (@joshrogin) June 21, 2022
As previously reported by REVOLT, Chappelle was met with polarizing response during a surprise trip that he made to the Washington, D.C. institution back in November. According to various reports, several students criticized Chappelle during his visit, calling him a “bigot” and stating that his “comedy kills.” One particular student was quoted as saying, “I’m 16 and I think you’re childish; you handled it like a child.”
“The idea that my name will be turned into an instrument of someone else’s perceived oppression is untenable to me.”