Dave Chappelle will not be naming the theater at his old high school after himself and has instead chosen a politically-charged name that makes fun of cancel culture.
The comedian revealed during a naming ceremony Monday that the theater at Duke Ellington High School in Washington DC would now be called the Theater for Artistic Freedom and Expression.
Chappelle, 48, faced worldwide criticism after he made jokes about the transgender community during his Netflix special, The Closer, last fall.
The fury fire had also sparked at his alma mater. During a visit last November several Duke Ellington students told Chappelle his remarks were offensive and ‘childish.’
Referencing his encounter with the students, Chapelle said during Monday’s ceremony that he ‘didn’t want any students to see his name on the theater’ and feel badly about it.
‘The idea that my name will be turned into an instrument of someone else’s perceived oppression is untenable to me,’ he told the crowd, adding how the chosen name instead emphasizes ‘the nuance of art’ and ‘freedom of artistic expression.’
Dave Chappelle will not be naming the theater at his old high school after himself and has instead chosen a politically-charged name that makes fun of woke cancel culture
Duke Ellington had planned to name the theater after Chappelle, its most notable alumni, due to his ‘ongoing commitment and service to the school.’
Chappelle had been a generous donor to the school over the years, reportedly donating $100,000 and one of his Emmy awards in 2017.
However, in wake of his heated visit last November, Chappelle issued a challenge on Instagram for those who opposed the school’s plans for a building named after him.
‘If you object to my receiving this honor, I urge you to donate to the school noting your objection,’ he posted. ‘If you are in favor of the theater being named ‘Chappelle,’ I urge you to donate to the school, noting your approval.’
Supporters of the comedian ultimately contributed more funds to the challenge, leaving many to believe the facility would be called the Dave Chappelle Theatre.
But, in a shocking move Monday, Chappelle revealed he opted to ‘defer’ renaming of the building to the Theater for Artistic Freedom and Expression.
Chappelle cited November’s visit, when the renaming ceremony was initially supposed to take place, alleging the outcry from Duke Ellington students ‘sincerely hurt me.’
‘I took a lot of cold shots in business… but that day, they hurt me,’ Chappelle told the crowd, according to USA Today and Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin.
He recalled how ‘a line formed’ of students slamming his behaviors after he questioned what he had done wrong.
‘[While the kids] said everything about gender… they didn’t say anything about art,’ he explained.
The comedian revealed during a naming ceremony Monday that the theater at Duke Ellington High School in Washington DC would now be called the Theater for Artistic Freedom and Expression
Many believed the facility would be called the Dave Chappelle Theatre
The comedian then hit back at the students’ criticisms of The Closer, saying they didn’t know him and were just perpetrating the woke mob’s agenda.
‘These kids didn’t understand that they were instruments of oppression,’ he said.
He also defended the piece, calling it a ‘masterpiece’ that was unfairly portrayed in the media.
‘You cannot report on an artist’s work and remove artistic nuance,’ he said of the press before making an odd comparison to a popular Loony Tunes character.
He argued the way the press discussed his piece would be similar to reporting that a large rabbit shot a man in the face without disclosing the gunman was Bugs Bunny.
‘The more you say I can’t say something, the more urgent it is for me to say it. It has nothing to do with what you are saying I can’t say. It has everything to do with my freedom of artistic expression,’ Chapelle added.
‘I saw in the newspaper that a man who was dressed in women’s clothing threw a pie at the Mona Lisa and tried to deface it. And it made me laugh and I thought, it’s like The Closer.’
He also noted that ‘no matter what they say about The Closer’ it is still one of the ‘most watched specials on Netflix.’
But, in a shocking move Monday, Chappelle revealed he opted to ‘defer’ renaming of the building to the Theater for Artistic Freedom and Expression. Attendees are pictured going through security at the naming ceremony on Monday
Chapelle said during the naming ceremony that he ‘didn’t want any students to see his name on the theater’ and feel badly about it. Attendees are pictured walking into Duke Ellington High School on Monday night
The controversial Netflix special was released last October and prompted hundreds of Netflix employees to walk out of work in protest, as well as public outrage from the LGBTQ+ community.
During the special, Chappelle declared ‘gender is a fact’ and aligned himself with Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, who famously stated transgender women were not real women in 2019.
He also joked about the anatomy of transwomen in the Netflix special, saying that they lacked real female reproductive organs and that they did not have menstrual blood but ‘beet juice’ instead.
He argued women today view transwomen the same way black people might view white women wearing blackface, and remarked that women are entitled to feel anger toward transwomen, since Caitlyn Jenner won Glamour magazine’s 2015 Woman of the Year award.
Chappelle faced criticism from Duke Ellington students after he made jokes about the transgender community during his Netflix special, The Closer, last fall. He is pictured at the school in September 2017
Daphne Dorman, a trans comedian and friend of Chappelle, died in 2019 and is spoken about in Chappelle’s Netflix special ‘The Closer’
Chappelle also spoke about his friend and transwoman Daphne Dorman, who killed herself in 2019 at the age of 44 after defending Chappelle over earlier jokes he’d made.
‘When she did that, the trans community dragged that b**** through Twitter,’ Chappelle said in ‘The Closer.’
‘It’s a true story; my heart was broken,’ he continued. ‘I don’t know what was going on, but I’ll bet dragging her didn’t help.’
The jokes he made resulted in a fiery backlash against the Ohio comedian, who says his documentary was pulled from film festivals and dropped by film distributors.
Organizations like National Black Justice Coalition and GLAAD condemned the jokes told in Chappelle’s special.
Chappelle’s jokes about the transgender community were backed by Netflix, with Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos defending the comedian in an internal email, saying ‘we don’t allow titles on Netflix that are designed to incite hate or violence, and we don’t believe crosses that line.’
Chappelle thanked the co-CEO at a later comedy show, telling the audience ‘thank God for Ted Sarandos at Netflix, he’s the only one that didn’t cancel me yet.’
Dave Chappelle and Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos are seen speaking backstage at the 36th Annual Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse on October 30, 2021 in Cleveland, Ohio
Netflix faced backlash for the defense, including employee resignations and an organized employee walkout last October.
But Sarandos later backtracked on his initial stance, saying ‘I screwed up the internal communication — and I don’t mean just mechanically.’
Sarandos continued: ‘I feel I should’ve made sure to recognize that a group of our employees was hurting very badly from the decision made, and I should’ve recognized upfront before going into a rationalization of anything the pain they were going through.
‘I say that because I respect them deeply, and I love the contribution they have at Netflix. They were hurting, and I should’ve recognized that first.’
Many transgender activists felt Chappelle’s comedy was an example of ‘punching down’ on a community with little power.
In a video posted to his Instagram after the special, Chappelle said he would meet with the transgender community but will not be ‘bending to anybody’s demands.’