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Anthony Anderson Shares His Feelings About Dave Chappelle Controversy Following Alma Mater Honor Change

Dave Chappelle and Anthony Anderson
(Image credit: Netflix/NBC)

It’s fair to say that Dave Chappelle has become somewhat of a polarizing figure in Hollywood these days. He’s long been noted for his edgier style of humor but, more recently, the comedian has stirred up controversy for telling jokes that many have perceived as being transphobic. Amid the backlash, Chappelle was set to have a theater named after him at his high school alma mater though, after a testy Q&A at the school, he shut down the idea and suggested a new one. Following this, fellow comedian Anthony Anderson shared his feelings on the name change.

During his formative years, Dave Chappelle attended the Duke Ellington School for the Arts in his native Washington, D.C. During the naming ceremony this week, Chappelle addressed the criticism he’s faced over the jokes featured in his latest Netflix special, The Closer. He then went on to say that the place should be named the Theater for Artistic Freedom and Expression. When TMZ subsequently caught up with Anthony Anderson after the event, the black-ish alum shared positive thoughts and commended the decision: 

I think it’s a classy move not only for Dave but for anyone to go back… It’s a selfless move not have a theater named after himself, but to give it a little bit more meaning for the community and for the people who speak their truth.

Dave Chappelle’s The Closer hit streaming back in October and, shortly after its release, celebrities and LGBTQ+ organizations like GLAAD spoke out in opposition of it. Netflix head honcho Ted Sarandos addressed the situation at the time, saying that he did not believe that the special “crosses that (hate speech) line” and cited that the comic was entitled to his “artistic freedom.” The exec himself became embroidered in further controversy after internal emails explaining why the special would not be removed were leaked to the public. Sarandos later apologized for how things were handled. 

Since then, the Chappelle Show creator has been a significant topic of discussion among comedy aficionados. Some on social media argue that he crossed a line with his jokes, while others believe that he was expressing his freedoms as an artist. During the same interview with TMZ, Anthony Anderson was asked whether he viewed the comic as a pioneer of free speech, and the actor dropped more honest sentiments:

He is. But my champions of free speech go back to Dr. Martin Luther King and people like that. I’m a friend and a fan of Dave Chappelle’s, and I love what he’s doing. And a lot of people may not agree with some of the things that he says, but that’s their opinion.

The former Law and Order star isn’t the only comedy staple to comment on the controversial comic’s current status. Jerrod Carmichael shared some strong thoughts on the entertainer and the state of stand-up. Carmichael, who recently came out as gayl, chastised the A Star is Born alum and some of his contemporaries for trying to “create a boogeyman to sell tickets,” with said boogeyman being cancel culture, in this case. Carmichael also questioned why a comedy vet of his status would want to “die on the hill” on which he's telling “childish jokes.” 

It’s becoming harder to deny the strong feelings people have about some of Dave Chappelle’s material. In May, he was attacked on stage during a performance at the Hollywood Bowl. After receiving several misdemeanor charges, his attacker, who identifies as bisexual, explained that he found the comic’s LGBTQ+ jokes to be “triggering.” Amid this  and Chappelle’s suggestion for Duke Ellington’s new theater, it’s possible that other stars like Anthony Anderson will weigh in. Exactly what they’ll have to say remains to be seen.

Erik Swann
Erik Swann

Covering superheroes, sci-fi, comedy, and almost anything else in film and TV. I eat more pizza than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.