Kevin Hart Explains Why Dave Chappelle Attack Was 'Not Scary,' And Why It Should Send A Message

During what was arguably the biggest comedy event of the Netflix Is A Joke Festival, Dave Chappelle was tackled onstage by a seemingly random attacker who was soon arrested following some reportedly physical responses from Chappelle's security team and colleagues. Comparisons were immediately made to Will Smith jumping onstage to slap Chris Rock at this year’s Academy Awards, as many comedians and fans alike expressed horror and revulsion over what this means for the future of live performances. Someone who isn’t too horrified by the incident, however, is comedian Kevin Hart (who had his own Oscars mess some years back). Hart thinks it should serve as a cautionary tale for those who have similar motives in mind.

Kevin Hart stopped by Jimmy Kimmel Live on Thursday, May 5, to chat with guest host Mike Birbiglia, filling in for Jimmy Kimmel as he recovers from a positive COVID diagnosis. When Birbiglia, an established stand-up comic himself, expressed his opinion that the Chappelle situation was scary, Hart disagreed, saying:

Not scary, but all right. Somebody ran on stage and got they ass whooped. It’s not scary. It’s one of those things that needed to happen, though. . . . Somebody getting they ass whipped sends a message out to other people that were like, ‘You know, I was thinking about doing that, but after seeing that, I don’t really wanna do that.’

To be expected, Kevin Hart’s “eye for an eye” reaction earned quite a bit of applause and cheers from the crowd, as well as a stunned reaction from Mike Birbiglia. Of course, the guest host was speaking more to the idea that he was wary of spectators easily breaching security to make it onto the stage in the first place, while Hart was more focused on the aftermath, in which multiple people allegedly took shots at the attacker, who was later identified by authorities as 23-year-old Isaiah Lee. Photos of Lee being put into an ambulance were arguably most notable for depicting his gnarly arm injury, and Hart seems to believe that seeing such painful consequences will thwart anyone else who has ideas about storming the stage during a comedy act.

Not that Kevin Hart is just out there promoting violence for violence’s sake, but he acknowledged the idea that progress is sometimes only possible by backtracking and adjusting to a new path. And he’s also rather upset that the attack watered down such a historic moment for Dave Chappelle, who is now tied with Monty Python for the most Hollywood Bowl performances as a headliner. In his words: 

I think that the world that we’re in right now, there’s a lot of lines that have gotten blurred, and sometimes you gotta take a couple steps backwards to take some steps forward. And I think that moment that we just witnessed with Dave is fogging up a bigger moment. Dave just made history at the Hollywood Bowl, sold over 70,000 tickets.

Kevin Hart, whose production company was very recently given a financial boost to the tune of $100 million, addressed the fact that stand-up comedians have always been targets for hecklers in crowds, but that such things are usually done in good fun and without malice. Now, he thinks the relationship between performers and audience members is no longer so clear-cut, and he doesn’t really understand why someone would pay for a ticket to a show just to cause a scene rather than to sit back and laugh. 

As well, Kevin Hart gave Dave Chappelle props for continuing the show after the potentially dangerous interruption — similar to how Chris Rock continued to go through with nominee presentations at the Oscars — and thinks that it’s the kind of attitude that other performers and professionals should stick to, so that it might inspire audiences to be more respectful in the future. In his words:

Dave went back after that and finished doing the show. Didn’t let that thing be a big thing. He quickly moved on from it and got back to doing comedy, and that’s what a professional does. Ultimately, these moments of [unprofessionalism] should not break professionals. They shouldn’t shape or mold the world that we’re now being seen or viewed in. So I think it’s time to get back to a place of respect for your live entertainer.

Of course, not everyone is going to agree with Kevin Hart, and Mike Birbiglia himself seemed to be consistently amazed by the things his guest was saying. But I think just about everyone would agree that there’s absolutely no need for random fits of violence and disorder like that, especially where live performances are concerned. 

Following the incident, Isaiah Lee was arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, as he was found with a replica handgun that contained a fold-out knife blade. All felony charges were later dismissed, however, and the L.A. City Attorney’s Office instead filed four misdemeanor charges against Lee, including battery, possession of a weapon with intent to assault, unauthorized access to the stage area during a performance, and commission of an act that delays an event or interferes with a performer. 

Notably, Chris Rock jumped onto the microphone after Dave Chappelle was tackled and asked if the attacker was Will Smith, which is possibly the most direct comment he’s made about the Oscar night hullabaloo, since he’s only referred to it in vague terms during his stand-up act.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.