Dave Chappelle Explains What Bothers Him About People Protesting His Comedy

While Dave Chappelle has always sought to push boundaries when it comes to his brand of comedy, he’s found himself on the receiving end of significant backlash for much of his material as of late. The comic has specifically been chastised for jokes made at the expense of the LGBTQ+ community, particularly transgender individuals. As a result, many have opted to protest many of his recent shows. Chappelle himself is aware of the response to his sentiments and is now opening up about what specifically bothers him about people’s decision to deride his work. 

The 49-year-old comic recently opened up about a situation that occurred when he held a show at the Varsity Theatre in Minneapolis last summer. The rescheduled event was met with backlash, as protestors surrounded the venue. Chappelle also recalled during an episode of his podcast, The Midnight Miracle (via DailyMail.com), that some individuals threw eggs at those who were standing in line for the show and said that one person threw a police barricade into the crowd. The comedian recalled that ultimately, the performance wasn’t cancelled and that when he arrived on stage, he got a major ovation, because “suddenly going to see a comedy show was this huge act of defiance.”

The man who created Chappelle’s Show years ago went on to say that he does not believe that any of the protesters acted with “malicious intent” and also said that he’s not “mad” that people critique his work. However, what he argues is that he should be allowed to keep sharing his thoughts despite the fact that many take issue with them: 

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. 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 that they keep putting in front of us. I don't see the world in red or blue.

The star also questioned the notion of the public trying to “silence” an entertainer like himself and stated his belief that such methods have nothing to do with “love.” He, instead, argues that it all pertains to fear: 

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.

These arguments are part of a larger discussion regarding a person’s (or more specifically, an entertainer’s) right to free speech. Like him, a number of stars also contend that there’s no longer room for nuance in today’s society. However, some might counter that argument by saying that one’s right to say something doesn’t necessarily shield them from criticism. It’s a complex conversation – and one that’s likely to persist into the foreseeable future.

One of the most significant instances  in which Dave Chappelle truly drew the ire of LGBTQ+ activists was when one of his Netflix specials, The Closer, was released in 2021. In the aftermath, many called for the streamer to pull the production, arguing that the content could be viewed as hate speech. However, company co-CEO Ted Sarandos confirmed that it wouldn’t do such, as he argued that the special didn’t cross that line and that “artistic freedom is obviously a very different standard of speech.” This decision was also made known in a criticized internal email that leaked, leading Sarandos to apologize for how the situation was handled.

Since then, Dave Chappelle has seen pushback in other ways, with a man even attacking him on stage during a performance at the Hollywood Bowl in May 2022. When explaining why he tackled Chappelle, the man – who was given multiple misdemeanor charges, explained that he identifies as bisexual and claimed that the comic’s words were “triggering” to him. More recently, Chappelle hasn’t changed his stances on the topics he’s discussed, and his recent comments suggest that he plans to stand firm. But on the other side of that equation, it’s very likely that protesters will continue to object to his work.

Erik Swann
Senior Content Producer

Erik Swann is a Senior Content Producer at CinemaBlend. He began working with the publication in 2020 when he was hired as Weekend Editor. Today, he continues to write, edit and handle social media responsibilities over the weekend. On weekdays, he also writes TV and movie-related news and helps out with editing and social media as needed. He graduated from the University of Maryland, where he received a degree in Broadcast Journalism. After shifting into multi-platform journalism, he started working as a freelance writer and editor before joining CB. Covers superheroes, sci-fi, comedy, and almost anything else in film and TV. He eats more pizza than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.