Dave Chappelle released the second episode of his “The Midnight Miracle” podcast with co-hosts Talib Kweli and Yasiin Bey and confronted the backlash that has surrounded him for years regarding jokes that many perceive as being anti-trans. Last July, Minneapolis’ First Avenue club cancelled a Chappelle comedy show due to the backlash. The venue apologized to the community for booking Chappelle and vowed to keep the club a “safe space.”
“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 on the podcast. “This is a wild stance for an artistic venue to take, especially one that’s historically a punk rock venue.”
Chappelle ended up playing Minneapolis at a different venue, the Varsity Theater, which attracted large groups of protesters.
“These were grown people of various genders and gender identities,” Chappelle said. “They threw eggs. They threw eggs at the [fans] who were lined up to see the show.”
“One lady was so mad with the protesters, she picked up a police barricade,” Chappelle continued. “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 protesters did not get the Varsity Theater show canceled, and Chappelle said he was greeted with a standing ovation by his fans when his performance started.
“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?'”
Backlash against Chappelle intensified in 2021 after Netflix released his stand-up special “The Closer,” which included controversial jokes about transgender people. The special led to a Netflix employee walkout and protest at the time.
“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,” Chappelle said. “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?”
Chappelle summed up the crux of his argument by saying: “I’m not even mad that they take issue with my work. 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 continued. “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.”
“The Midnight Miracle” podcast is now available to stream on Luminary. Chappelle is currently touring with Chris Rock.