Dave Chappelle released the second episode of his “The Midnight Miracle” podcast with co-hosts Talib Kweli and Yasin Bey and faced the backlash that has surrounded him for years over jokes that many consider anti-trans. Last July, Minneapolis’ First Avenue Club canceled a Chappelle comedy show due to backlash. The venue apologized to the community for booking the chapel and pledged to keep the club a “safe space”.
“I think apparently they made a promise to the public that they would make their club a safe place for all people and that they would consider anything transphobic,” Chappell said on the podcast. “It’s a wild location for an artistic venue, especially historically a punk rock venue.”
Chappelle ended up performing at a different venue in Minneapolis, the Varsity Theater, which drew a large crowd of protesters.
“These were big people of different genders and gender identities,” Chappell said. “They threw eggs. They throw eggs [fans] People queuing up to see the show…they were doing all that shit. Throwing eggs and they had this rallying cry: they go: ‘Go home transphobe.’ They kept saying, ‘Go home, transphobe’ and ‘Fuck you, transphobe.’ It was really confusing, but if you substitute the word transphobe for n—-, it makes perfect sense.”
“One woman was so angry with the protesters, she put up a police barricade,” Chappell continued. “Have you ever seen one? They look like bike racks. This bitch picked up that barricade herself and threw it at the crowd. I’ve got to tell you, that’s an amazing feat of strength for a woman.”
Protesters did not cancel the varsity theater show, and Chappell said he received a standing ovation from his fans when his performance began.
“When I walked on stage, it was a huge whoop because suddenly going to a comedy show was this huge act of disobedience,” Chappelle said. “I don’t think anyone had any malicious intent. In fact, one of the things these people, trans and their surrogates, always say is that my jokes are somehow going to be the root cause of the impending violence they see as inevitable for my jokes. But let me tell you, as despicable as they were, the way they were protesting, throwing eggs at people, throwing barricades, cursing and shouting, [none of my fans] When they beat them, the crowd will 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 the transgender community. The special led to a Netflix employee walkout and protests at the time.
“Now I have a belief that the gay community is not exclusive, and I think that about me, maybe there are different opinions across it,” Chappell said. “But they do a thing where they deliberately obscure that I think they believe the purpose of my work is to create a moment that I don’t know that the work necessarily deserves. You know what I mean?”
Chappell sums up the crux of his argument by saying: “I’m not even mad that they take issue with my work. Fahfah. Who cares? The thing I take issue with is that they don’t like it, so I’m not allowed to say it.
“Art is a short endeavor,” he continued. “I believe they’re trying to take the nuance out of speech in American culture, they’re forcing people to talk as if they’re either on the right or on the left. Everything seems perfect, and the opinions I respect are far more nuanced than these binary choices they put before us. I don’t see the world in red or blue.”
“Trying to silence someone like me, I don’t think it has anything to do with love,” Chappelle concluded. “They want to be scared. ‘We will punish you for saying this. We’ll come to First Avenue and put on your show, and we’ll come to the Varsity Theater and put on your show.’ And they just can’t do it.”
“The Midnight Miracle” podcast is now available to stream on Luminary Chappelle is currently touring with Chris Rock.